blaireThe following comes from a December 24 story on

Presiding over the Diocese of Stockton, one of the poorest areas of the country, Catholic Bishop Stephen Blaire sees the human costs of poverty every day. Long lines at food banks. Homeless folks on the streets. Recently, as he does before Christmas every year, Blaire blessed thousands of food baskets to be given to needy local families.

But translating the church’s outreach to the poor into a political statement on poverty has proven more difficult. As Congress ponders cuts in safety-net programs from food stamps to Medicare to help balance the budget and avoid the “fiscal cliff,” the politically influential U.S. Conference of Bishops has been unable to reach agreement on a statement representing one of its core values: caring for the poor.

Such statements usually pass easily, and the bishops use them as a political cudgel to highlight the moral authority of the nation’s largest denomination.

“I was disappointed that we couldn’t produce that document,” said Blaire, who has become the bishops’ point person on poverty issues in his role as chairman of its Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “But our committee is going to take a different approach” and create smaller statements on poverty issues over the next few months, he said….

“The bishops are very divided right now,” said the Rev. Gerald Coleman, an adjunct professor of ethics at Santa Clara University who has advised California’s Catholic bishops on ethical matters.

“Some are very focused on same-sex marriage, some are very focused on the contraception issue,” Coleman said.

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