Governing the democracy of the United States is always a challenging task. It requires not only intelligence, expertise and experience but also a capacity to collaborate, cooperate and the willingness to consider appropriate compromise at decisive moments.
The present moment in our country is clearly decisive: the government is, at best, only partially functioning. This has caused multiple consequences: the safety of the citizenry is compromised and essential services are endangered or not being provided. While not proposing a plan for a viable effective compromise I am taken by the humanitarian impacts of the shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of government employees have had their lives upended. The vast majority of Americans depend on a regular paycheck, failure to receive that as due and expected translates into painful choices: balancing food and fuel; paying for mortgages and rent; restricting necessary transportation; rationing family health care. Imposing these burdens on individuals and families who serve the nation daily violates the social contract in a well-ordered society. It is an injustice and should be named as such.
Determination of the specific elements of a viable compromise rightfully rest with the executive and legislative officials of our government. But two moral imperatives should be preserved in any agreement: first, to end the suffering of our citizenry and second, to not use vulnerable and threatened immigrant families as a pawn in the necessary negotiations citizens rightfully expect of their government.
I am pleased that, as noted in The Pilot this week, the six food pantries of Catholic Charities of Boston will do all they can to serve those affected by the government shutdown.
It is a crowded-but-calm scene on Thursday morning, just before 9 a.m., in the lobby of the James Cardinal Hickey Center in downtown Washington. About 50 people, including a woman with a seven-month-old baby girl, are packed in chairs against the walls, waiting for Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. to officially open for the day.
A little after 9 a.m., people are asked to check in with a receptionist before they are led downstairs to begin meeting with Catholic Charities workers.
Unlike the majority of the people serviced by Catholic Charities, these people are not homeless, or even jobless: they’re furloughed government workers facing a partial government shutdown which has already lasted 26 days.
“We don’t normally serve people who are government workers. That’s not our normal population; (which is) people who are homeless, or have lost their jobs or don’t have the ability to feed their families,” Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington president and CEO Father John Enzler explained to Catholic News Agency.
“So this is a different group, and we want to be there for them as well, because this is a shock to their system to have no income, to have no paycheck.”
This is the first time anyone can recall Catholic Charities of Washington being asked to provide assistance for furloughed workers.