By Barb Arland-Fye
The U.S. Secular Franciscans — with 13,500 members nationwide — has issued a statement to the “Super Committee” appointed by Congress to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. Kent Ferris, social action director for the Diocese of Davenport, serves on a national committee of the U.S. Secular Franciscans. The statement, approved during the Secular Franciscans’ national meeting last month in California, reads:
“Do not further oppress and penalize those who are poor and those who are already most vulnerable, here and around the world. We realize the moment of decision is rapidly approaching, and in this critical time it is essential that you understand the impact each decision may have. Justice for all requires that we pursue the common good. It is essential that the Super Committee reach a decision by Nov. 23. It is morally irresponsible for this committee to delay a decision and default to the automatic cuts that are applied at a fixed percentage, doing further injustice to the poor here and abroad.”
The statement is based on the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, chapter 2, article 13 that they “place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.”
Ferris, a Secular Franciscan for 20 years, thinks some people have a mistaken perception of St. Francis of Assisi and his concept of poverty. “The focal point of Franciscan tradition is that poverty itself can never be a value. It’s the relinquishment of wealth, status and domination over others that the incarnation teaches Francis and Clare in their pursuit of the ‘holy poverty of Jesus,’” Ferris said, quoting Brother William Short, OFM, in “Poverty and Joy: the Franciscan Tradition.”
Secular Franciscans believe “the lives of the poor here and abroad hang in the balance” with the Super Committee’s decision – or lack thereof. “The cuts will disproportionately affect the poor.”
He noted that the Secular Franciscans deliberately demanded the Super Committee to act responsibly on behalf of the poor and marginalized. If the committee goes into default mode, the impact would be even more devastating because cuts to programs that benefit the poor and marginalized would be even more indiscriminate, he noted.