Alaska bishops issue statement “In Defense of the Poor and Vulnerable”


Editor’s note: The Catholic bishops of Alaska released the following statement on July 26.

The first principle of Catholic Social Teaching is to support the Life and Dignity of the Human Person.

The recent budget cuts are having a direct negative impact on the most poor and vulnerable in our State. Our Catholic social services agencies, along with other faith-based denominations and private nonprofits, can barely keep up with the current needs of people who live on the margins. Across Alaska, thousands of low-income families now face new struggles through funding cuts to agencies that operate food pantries, shelter programs, and early childhood education. The millions of dollars cut statewide to homeless services will force the most vulnerable onto the streets. Cuts to senior housing grants and to the senior benefits program adversely affect our elders.

In Anchorage, Brother Francis Shelter will be forced to reduce its capacity from 240 beds to 100. Where will the other 140+ homeless go? The Shelter has now closed during the day to cut costs, forcing more people to wander the streets. Clare House, which provides shelter to 90 at-risk women with children and to expectant mothers, 24/7, will be forced to reduce services to nighttime only. Where will these moms and their children go? Currently the shelter also provides day-care for their children allowing these women to work.

We must not forget the many dedicated employees and volunteers working at all our social service agencies throughout Alaska. They are an important part of the solution in assisting people to move out of poverty. We need to support these dedicated servants of the poor, not penalize them by laying them off from their jobs. After all, they work on our behalf. They assist those who are clinging to the last rung of the ladder in our society, many of whom, without assistance, have only to look forward to destitution and despair.

As the Catholic Bishops of Alaska, we are called to advocate and defend or speak against government policies and programs that directly affect the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable. We call upon all our elected officials to restore funds to agencies and services that provide for the needs of our children, our elders, the poor, the vulnerable, and the homeless. We ask Alaskans to reach out and contact their elected officials in support of restoring funds for services to the poor and vulnerable in our State. We will continue to do our part to fund our agencies as best we can with our resources, our time and our talent, together with all those willing to support us. We will continue to collaborate with our local and state governments because we realize it is all of us, working together, who contribute to the solution of taking care of the most vulnerable in our State.

— Most Reverend Andrew Bellisario, C.M.
Bishop of Juneau
Apostolic Administrator of Anchorage

— Most Reverend Chad Zielinski, Bishop of Fairbanks

— Most Reverend Roger L. Schwietz, OMI, Archbishop Emeritus of Anchorage

'Alaska bishops issue statement “In Defense of the Poor and Vulnerable”' have 5 comments

  1. July 2019 @ 1:31 pm Shirleen

    Dear Bishops,
    I strongly suggest that the Church is responsible for Brother Francis Shelter.
    Why not take up a monthly collection specified for them?
    Ask protestant churches to take up a collection for them regularly.
    Leave government out of charities.
    Just a suggestion.
    Thank you for your dedication and service.
    God Bless,
    Shirleen Rannals


  2. July 2019 @ 9:34 am Rudy Poglitsh

    In addition to standing up for the poor and the homeless in the budget process, how about advocating for the utterly dependent and defenseless among us: the unborn? In 2010, 45% of abortions in Alaska were paid for by tax dollars through Medicaid. It would be great if the bishops forcefully insisted that not one penny of taxpayer money go towards the ending of unborn Alaskan lives.


  3. July 2019 @ 8:46 am Elyce Santerre

    “We ask Alaskans to reach out and contact their elected officials in support of restoring funds for services to the poor and vulnerable in our State.” I don’t have any objection to the Bishops asking people to lobby, but where is the call to the faithful to reach into their own wallets and put their money where their mouth is? I don’t want to hear the excuse that experts say we “can’t” make up all the cuts through charitable giving. Why aren’t we even ASKING to make up some of it? People don’t give when they aren’t asked. Period.


  4. July 2019 @ 6:29 am Donna Steinfort

    Thank you for speaking up for our most vulnerable citizens of Alaska. I find it disturbing that many of our elected officials, including the Governor, profess to be Catholic. We all must continue to write our officials and urge common sense government.


  5. July 2019 @ 2:42 am Barbara Reitzig

    Dear Bishops of Alaska,

    Thank you for your social justice insight. You bring many important points to light.

    However where were you during the fight to safe the unborn? Where were you in defense of the defenseless in the horrific sexual misconduct from the clergy? Where were you when the bishops decided to monitor their own? Where were you with the debate on euthanasia? The list goes on and on.

    Balancing the budget is mandatory. Instead of asking the government to over-reach their budget, why not ask the faithful to give directly to these organizations?
    Why not come up with suggestions such as before going to Costco calling one of the agencies you mentioned to see why they need, buy what you can, and drop it off. Or setting up a fund to pay the elective bills via direct donations. Isn’t that more “Catholic” than asking the government to pay?

    God bless you,
    Barbara Reitzig


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