Bishops Urge New Focus on Youth Concerns

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WASHINGTON--The nation's Roman Catholic bishops last week adopted a statement that calls on parents, church leaders, and government officials to put a renewed emphasis on the needs of children, both here and abroad.

"Our nation is failing many of our children," says the statement adopted by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops at its semiannual meeting here. "This message is a call for conversion and action--a spiritual and social reawakening to the moral and human costs of neglecting our children and families."

The statement, "Putting Children and Families First: A Challenge for Our Church, Nation, and World," was adopted by a 221-to-4 vote on Nov. 14. It is to be read as a pastoral letter to Catholic parishioners on Jan. 6, the Christian feast of the Epiphany.

The message ties together church teaching and past bishops' statements on a variety of social issues, including abortion, economic justice, and education. Last year, the bishops' conference adopted an extensive statement of support for Catholic schools. (See Education Week, Nov. 21, 1990.) Aid for 'Poor Working Families'

"Despite all our efforts and our past statements on social justice, human life, and the family, we have not yet offered a comprehensive articulation of our concern for children," said Bishop James W. Malone of Youngstown, Ohio, the chairman of the bishops' domestic-policy committee, which helped draft the statement.

Citing statistics about children in poverty and the ill effects of divorce, discrimination, and other social factors, the document offers several specific recommendations for policymakers, including support for an expanded earned-income tax credit to assist "poor working families."

Successful social and educational programs, such as Head Start, "must be made available to every child who needs them," the document asserts.

The statement reiterates Catholic leaders' support for educational vouchers or tuition tax credits for parents who send their children to Catholic schools, and it endorses greater parental involvement in all schools.

Vol. 11, Issue 12, Page 10

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