The Franciscan Action Network (FAN), an organization of Franciscan sisters, friars, lay Franciscans and Franciscan-hearted people across the United States, is calling on Congress to immediately end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. The federal government has now been partially shut down for more than a week. The issues around the shutdown run deeper than politics. It is not partisan. The shutdown has little to do with the Affordable Health Care Act or deficit spending. The real question is; are we truly a moral nation? Every member of Congress claims to be a person of faith with a strong belief in God. They all claim that they are guided by spiritual beliefs. The Bible tells us that government's role is to promote the common good of society. Our faith traditions and Catholic social teachings offer a powerful vision for promoting the common good and caring for all God's creation especially the poor and the most vulnerable.
Congress appears to no longer be concerned about caring for the poor and marginalized as we are taught to do by Jesus. It seems to be just about winning and losing. But the people who will lose the most during a government shutdown are the poor, the hungry, elderly, children, and those who live from paycheck to paycheck - if they even have a paycheck. While children go to bed hungry members of Congress have deemed their private gym to be an essential service so it remains open. Some members of the media laugh and joke about how the sky has not fallen, yet 31 children and many adults have lost their cancer treatments because of the closure of NIH and could die as a result. It is not only 800,000 federal employees who have been furloughed; United Technologies has announced that because of the government shutdown more than 7,000 employees will be furloughed. Many other corporations that provide government services are doing the same.
Faith-based organizations like Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief receive a large portion of their revenue from government grants. They are now in danger of not being able to provide the services to the neediest people in our society. While this is happening, some members of Congress are appearing on talk shows to joke and laugh, with commentators about how they shut the government down and nobody knew. Pope Francis rightfully claims: "Men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is a 'culture of waste.'"
The Biblical books of Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25, and many Psalms say the same thing, that kings and other leaders are responsible for fairness and justice, and especially responsible for protecting the poor and vulnerable. Former President Jimmy Carter recently said: "If you don't want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values, because you don't." I agree and add that: "Our leaders have lost their moral vision of serving the common good."
FAN urges Speaker Boehner to immediately allow a vote on a clean continuing resolution to reopen the government and a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling. We urge all members of Congress to put their egos, their fear and their distrust aside and begin working together to regain our moral vision. We ask all members of Congress to take some time to read and reflect on their respective sacred texts. We ask them to take time to pray about what it means in Matthew 25 when Jesus says: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least of mine, you did for me."
Franciscan Action Network