We can’t lose our hearts: We need compassion in dealing with severe budget restraints Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 -- 1:00 AM

editor's view by Mary C. Uhler

On my visits to Rome in previous years, I can remember seeing gypsies sitting on street corners in colorful but ragged clothes. Often women and children with sad faces would beg for us to put some coins in their cups.

I know the Roma or gypsies have been the subject of controversy. I’m sure they are considered nuisances by the citizens of Rome, who have tried to deport them to their countries of origin.

But whatever the situation, we should have compassion for them, especially for the children who have no control over who their parents are or where they are born. That’s why I was particularly disturbed to learn that four gypsy children burned to death on February 6 while sleeping in a makeshift shack on the outskirts of Rome.

Pope laments ‘pitiful case’

Pope Benedict XVI, too, lamented this “pitiful case,” reported Catholic News Service, and emphasized that more solidarity and concern should be shown toward the most vulnerable in society.

Such a tragedy “obliges us to ask ourselves whether a society that showed more solidarity and fraternity, was more consistent with love, namely was more Christian, wouldn’t have been able to prevent such a tragic event," he said during his Angelus address February 13 in St. Peter’s Square.

Every tragedy that unfolds in one’s city and country should compel people to ask themselves the same question and reflect on how more loving concern for others can prevent such “painful events,” the Holy Father said.

Budget debates in United States

I thought about the Holy Father’s comments when hearing about budget debates in our state and national capitals. As lawmakers deal with our country’s economic problems and mounting debt, we hear about drastic measures that might be taken to try to fix our economy.

What worries me is that our lawmakers might be trampling on the poor, the disabled, the sick, and the elderly in their efforts to improve the economy. I’m concerned about a hardening of our hearts and a lack of compassion for those who need our help.

Besides this tough attitude, there also seems to be a dangerous lack of consultation and involvement of the entire nation in solving our problems. Instead, some lawmakers are promoting their agendas without following processes that have been in place for decades.

Ironically we’ve watched the revolution for greater freedom in Egypt happening while in our own country it seems that we may be losing some of the freedoms we’ve cherished. This lack of compassion and due process can be found crossing all party lines: it’s everything from proposals to cut subsidies to help the poor pay for heating to proposals to do away with collective bargaining rights for state and municipal employees.

Upholding Catholic values

We should remain vigilant in making sure that  Catholic values upholding the life and dignity of the human person are upheld in our society today. Catholic bishops and lay leaders around the country have been reminding their legislators and fellow citizens that our nation’s budgetary problems should not be solved on the backs of the poor.

One example is in Massachusetts, where the Catholic bishops issued a statement on February 9 called “Standing in Solidarity With All.” The bishops pledged to do all they can to enable institutions — parishes, Catholic Charities, health care facilities and schools — to extend help to their neighbors in need. They also urged that our elected officials and all citizens to preserve “for the sake of human dignity, a special place and regard for the vulnerable.”

Amen! I encourage citizens to keep a close watch on what is happening in our own communities, in our state legislature, and in Congress to make sure that the poor and vulnerable are not forgotten and that due process is followed in our decision-making.