I had submitted a letter simultaneously to both the The Sun-Herald and the Gulf Pine Catholic. Each paper edited the original letter for publication.

The following letter (the title "Tax-funded..." was added by the paper) was published in the September 6, 1996 edition of The Sun-Herald on page A11:

Tax-funded welfare is not compassion


A recent letter to The Sun-Herald that said "Jesus would qualify for 'liberal Democrat' label" because he clothed the poor and fed the hungry is only the most recent manifestation of the barrage of rhetoric equating welfare reform and balanced federal budgets with meanness and lack of compassion.
The rhetoric conveniently substitutes sinister motives for the true goals of the efforts: increasing local control, reducing long-term dependency upon welfare, and reducing incentives to remain on welfare. Also forgotten is that these programs are funded by the forced confiscation of the earnings of others by government.
Christ invites us to help the poor - does not force us. Christ never lobbied government authorities for welfare programs.
In one instance Christ fed people by multiplying the loaves and fishes which required voluntary (albeit probably in the face of apostolic pressure) contributions and some divine intervention.
As omnipresent as government is, it cannot create wealth or resources. It can only skim some off the top and distribute what's left.
I found comfort and reinforcement in former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's memoirs, "Path to Power" in which she quotes Pope John Paul II:
"By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibilities, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase in public agencies... dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than concern for serving clients, and ...accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbours to those in need."
Welfare reform is a challenge and an opportunity to reclaim what was once an important role for the church (private organizations and the individual) - providing for the material needs of the poor through their calls (and as direct successors to the apostles, some apostolic pressure) to follow the example fo Christ willingly.
Richard H. Bouchard
The following version of the letter appeared in the Gulf Pine Catholic on September 6, 1996 on page 5:
It was with considerable dismay that I read, in the August 9, 1996, edition of the Gulf Pine Catholic, a half page report that the bishops decried President Clinton's decision to veto the welfare reform legislation and that an official [of] Catholic Charities USA predicted terrible consequences. Nowhere in the article did it contain an analysis of the legislation to substantiate the claims made by boldfaced headlines. That report is one of equating welfare reform and balanced federal budgets with meanness and lack of compassion.
The rhetoric has conveniently substituted sinister motives for the true goals of the efforts: increase in local control, reducing long-term dependency upon welfare by placing limits on welfare and reducing incentives to remain on welfare. Also forgotten is that these programs are ultimately funded by the forced confiscation of the earnings of others in [by] government. As with any government program, it is encumbered with impersonal regulation, bureaucratic inefficiencies and client abuse of the system.
Christ invites us to help the poor; he does not force us. Witness the case of the man who could not give up all he had and follow Christ. Jesus did not browbeat him. Jesus simply let him go. Christ never lobbied government authorities for welfare programs ("My kingdom is not of this world.." and "Render to Caesar.."), in fact His brushes with the government were not very positive, they tried to kill Him as an infant and succeeded in killing His cousin, John, and eventually Himself.
In once instance, He fed the people by multiplying the loaves and fishes which required voluntary (albeit probably in the face of apostolic pressure) contributions and some divine intervention.
The only time He resorted to force was to drive the tax collectors and vendors out of His Father's house. As omnipresent as government is, it cannot create wealth or resources. It can only skim some off the top and redistribute what's left.
The bishops and Catholic Charities (and liberal Democrats for that matter) should see welfare reform as a challenge and an opportunity to reclaim what once was an important role for the Church (private organizations and the individual) - providing for the material needs of the poor through their calls ( and as direct successors to the apostles, applying some apostolic pressure) to follow the example of Christ willingly.
Richard H. Bouchard

Links:

Margaret Thatcher's quote is from Path to Power
She quotes from Pope John Paul II's Encyclical Letter CENTESIMUS ANNUS (file size is 161K).
Catholic Charities USA
Catholic News Service
National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference
The Democratic National Committee
The Republican National Committee
The Libertarian Party
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