When the National Conference of Catholic Bishops completed a statement on Marxism four years ago, critics said they had tackled an easy problem because none of them lived under a Marxist government. The bishops accepted the challenge, and last month released the first draft of their pastoral letter on the U.S. economy.

Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee, chairman of the committee that prepared the document, said the members “find it a disgrace that 35 million Americans live below the poverty level and millions more hover just above it.”

In addition to Weakland, the committee consists of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, of Atlanta; Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Rosazza, of Hartford, Connecticut; Bishop George H. Speltz, of St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Bishop William R. Weigand, of Salt Lake City. The pastoral letter will undergo at least two major revisions before it is adopted in November 1985 as the official position of the Catholic church.

None of the committee members has formal training in economics, but they have all handled the administration of a wide variety of parishes in a wide range of economic areas. In preparing the document, the committee consulted some 150 experts in the fields of economics, business, and labor.

Critics, including former U.S. Treasury Secretary William Simon, former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and members of a Catholic lay group led by Michael Novak, said the bishops adopted a version of the Democratic party platform.

In the document, the bishops write, “We have often been asked what possible connection there could be between Christian morality and the technical questions of economic policy.… We believe that the level of inequality in income and wealth in our society and even more ...

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