Part 5: Poverty, Health care, Migration, and Criminal Justice

The following is part four of a seven-part series summarizing Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, a document originally issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2015. Part four addressed human life, promoting peace, marriage and family life, and religious freedom. This article, part five, goes on to address more specific policy issues. 

Preferential Option for the Poor and Economic Justice

With decent working conditions and just wages, social and economic policies should foster job creation for all who can work. Catholic social teaching supports labor unions and affirms economic freedom and the right to own private property. 

“Welfare policy should reduce poverty and dependency, strengthen family life, and help families leave poverty through work, training, and assistance with child care, health care, housing, and transportation” (75). We also ought to have safety nets for those unable to work, including social security. Faith-based groups ought to work with the government to help impoverished communities, and Catholic institutions should not have to “compromise their moral or religious convictions to participate in government health or human service programs” (76). 

The USCCB also supports programs like the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps)” (79). Also, farmers deserve a just return for their labor. We need to be good stewards of our natural resources and support policies advocating for sustainable agriculture. 

Health Care

“Affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right” (80). Millions of Americans still lack health care coverage. Employers should be able to provide health care without compromising their moral or religious convictions. The USCCB supports measures to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid and compassionate healthcare for those with addictions. 


“The Gospel mandate to welcome the stranger requires Catholics to care for and stand with newcomers, authorized and unauthorized, including unaccompanied immigrant children, refugees and asylum-seekers, those unnecessarily detained, and victims of human trafficking” (81). 

We need to advocate for an easier path to citizenship, family reunification policies, and refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence. “The right and responsibility of nations to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law should be recognized but pursued in a just and humane manner" (81). We also need to address human trafficking, which “should be eradicated from the earth” (81). 

Catholic Education

Parents have a right to choose the education best suited for their children, whether it be public, private, or religious schools. “Government, through such means as tax credits and publicly funded scholarships, should help provide resources for parents, especially those of modest means, to exercise this basic right without discrimination” (82). 

The USCCB says that everyone has a right to receive a quality education and “strongly supports adequate funding, including scholarships, tax credits, and other means, to educate all persons no matter what their personal condition or what school they attend — public, private, or religious” (83).

Promoting Justice and Countering Violence

In addition to addressing violent crime, we ought to curb violence in media, have reasonable restrictions on accessing weapons, and as mentioned previously, we ought to oppose the death penalty.

“An ethic of responsibility, rehabilitation, and restoration should be a foundation for the reform of our broken criminal justice system. A humane and remedial rather than a strictly punitive approach to offenders should be developed” (84). 

In part six we address: discrimination, environmental stewardship, media, and global solidarity. 

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