Restoring the Covenant: A pastoral letter on society’s responsibility to the poor and vulnerable

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Restoring the Covenant: A pastoral letter on society’s responsibility to the poor and vulnerable

March 8, 2005

By the Bishops of New York State

Introduction: Why We Are Writing This Pastoral Letter Now
This is a challenging and crucial time for the people and leaders of New York State. Many people are struggling while escalating demands, and claims on both our private and public resources create painful and difficult choices for us as we set our social, economic and fiscal priorities for this year. We know that sacrifices will be required from all. We also believe that a commitment to the common good requires that the benefits and burdens, the gains and sacrifices be shared equitably, with special attention to how these decisions impact our poorest and most vulnerable people. We are writing this pastoral letter because our faith calls us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to express our deep conviction that New York State’s historical covenant with people who are in need and struggling, must be maintained, not weakened, and even strengthened where necessary as we set these priorities.


We are writing to our sister and brother Catholics and to all of the people of New York to share our experience, recall our social teaching, recommit our resources to the service of this covenant, and to urge vigilance and action by all New Yorkers as we undertake these challenges, to safeguard the vitality of the common good, the protection of our poorest and most vulnerable members, and the solidarity of all our people with each other. This pastoral letter is grounded, as is all of our social teaching, on our belief in the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person made manifest in relationships with family and community.

We are writing because as pastors we know the people of our state. From Montauk to Buffalo, from Syracuse to Plattsburgh, we have been present at their weddings and their funerals, at their baptisms and confirmations. We have worked together with the leaders and peoples of other faiths, both locally and statewide. We have talked with families who are prospering and able to maximize society’s opportunities for themselves and their children. We have also talked with people who are homeless or out of work, the undocumented, people who come to our parish food pantries, who sleep in our parish shelters. We know the people who come to our hospitals, seek help at our social service agencies, and enroll their children in our schools. Together with our parishioners and social service and health