In our times the Church contributes an immense service to society through its social service, health care and educational ministries, and especially the spiritual offerings of members of the Body of Christ for the whole world. Multiply it all by 200 (the years since the founding of the Philadelphia Diocese) and this gift to all God’s children in the Philadelphia region becomes immeasurable.

The lesson to remember is that the Church extends corporal and spiritual mercy to anyone in need regardless of background or belief. We do this in good times and in bad. Unfortunately, it appears bad times may soon return in the form of an economic recession.

As of press time, members of the U.S. Congress failed to agree on a measure that would have added stability to financial markets in turmoil. Regardless of the debatable details of the legislative bills, some compromise must be struck for the greater good of staving off a worse economic outcome in which people, not merely investment values, suffer. Members of Congress must work together to achieve a solution, something which both presidential candidates are urging.

The Bishops of the United States stand as an example of engagement with policy, not politics. Bishops frame crucial issues of public policy in a broad moral framework as an aid to lawmakers. Politicians then use political tactics outside the Bishops’ purview to forge compromises and ultimately laws that ought to work toward the good of the inspanidual and the wider society. That is how it is supposed to work and how it can work on this important issue.

The Bishops reminded Congress and the Bush Administration in a letter sent Sept. 26 (see of their responsibility for the poorest people who will suffer the most in an economic downturn. Since the very system underlying our economy appears to be teetering, this moral framework guides lawmakers to place politics at the service of people in America and beyond.

The Church will always be present to serve human needs. The Congress faces a challenge to prevent human suffering due to a crippled economy before it happens, by passing legislation that restores faith in the credit system with meaningful regulatory teeth. Details may be debated, but Congress must pass a bill through compromise that shores up confidence in the markets, bolsters the economy and protects ordinary people from falling on hard times.

Our times are uncertain, and without action by government now, they could certainly get much worse.