As Minnesota legislators met to begin debating the state's budget, Bishop Peter Rogness of the St. Paul Area Synod and his Roman Catholic counterpart, Archbishop Harry Flynn, invited the 201 leaders to join them at a clinic, soup kitchen and day-care facility in St. Paul. But not one showed up.
The day before, "hundreds of these same empty suits had traveled to Rochester to applaud Gov. Tim Pawlenty as he promised ... to balance a deficit on the backs of the disadvantaged ...," wrote Nick Coleman in his Star Tribune (Twin Cities) column. "If I were a bishop, I'd read the windbags' names from the pulpit."
Days earlier, Rogness' op-ed piece on poverty as a moral issue appeared in the Star Tribune: "We ought not to decide first on whether to raise or lower taxes, but rather consider what we want to be and do (the moral deliberation)," Rogness wrote. "Taxes ... are the means we use to pool our resources to be who we wish to be ... I want our legislators who make decisions on my behalf to recognize the moral dimension of those decisions."
At the day-care site, Rogness said: "We want to re-frame the political debate. The debate shouldn't just be how to juggle numbers. We also have to decide what kind of people we want to be and what kind of place we want this to be.... And I will state to anyone who'll listen: The care of the poor — how we take care of those who are on the margins — is the barometer of a people's faithfulness."
Wrote Coleman: "If the politicians think they got away with something, they're wrong. They've got the bishops on their tail.... Let the pols yammer on about the State of the State. The bishops are talking about the State of Our Soul."
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