A little birdy gave this illustration to me.
Last Wednesday, Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin gave Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns On a Bus fame a dose of his Tea Party “charm”.
During a House budget committee hearing on poverty, Representative Reid Ribble of Wisconsin asked Sister Campbell what the church is doing wrong that it needed to reach out to the government to “do something that is so directly their nature,” because after all, Christianity is about serving the poor.”
She calmly replied that,
“Justice comes before charity… Everyone has a right to eat, and therefore there is a governmental responsibility to ensure everyone’s capacity to eat. Love and care makes a difference, but the issues are so big there isn’t sufficient charitable dollars there.”
As for Ribble’s question, taking it seriously is nigh impossible. Still, I’ll toss a few brain cells at the task.
First, Ribble is apparently assuming that there should be zero gov’t money involved in churches helping the poor, so that requires dispensing with the billions in faith-based money that the feds give to churches.
(In 2003 it was $1.17 billion).
I, for one, would prefer that public monies for “faith-based” initiatives would disappear. That’s awfully unlikely in the short term given that Obama just extended the Faith-Based Advisory Council’s life for 2 more years in April.
But let’s set that aside. If we assume Catholics [or maybe even just “Christians”] will feed all of America’s poor, we need to ponder their dwindling numbers.
From a Pew summary of a 2008 survey:
“While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic”
Also, younger Americans are becoming/staying less religious overall.
From the same study:
“People not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions. Among the unaffiliated, 31% are under age 30 and 71% are under age 50. Comparable numbers for the overall adult population are 20% and 59%, respectively.” (Perhaps this explains why Wisconsin Catholic churches are lobbying so hard to route public dollars to their parochial schools.)
Meanwhile the number of Americans living in poverty right now – or near poverty – is alarming.
AP says 80% face ‘near poverty’.
Paul Buchheit at Alternet says 50% are in or near poverty.
In conclusion, Ribble was on no fact-finding mission back there.
He was being an inconsiderate and uncaring jerk.
NETWORK’s web site has the full PDF of Sister Campbell’s testimony + a video of her testimony: The War On Poverty: A Progress Report
Full USHR17 Committee on the Budget video – almost 3 hours. At about 1 hour, 27 minutes, and 30 seconds into it you can see Ribble and Campbell talking.
I’ve been having some trouble finding exact and current #’s on faith-based initiative spending domestic and foreign.
I can say that in 2004 the U.S. gave $625,928,212 to FBOs [Faith Based Organizations] according to this Pew Charitable Trusts report.
FYI – I do have a post in draft form on what Ryan and his P.I.D.G.* have planned for the S.N.A.P. [food stamps] program.
*Partners In Drowning Government