The Catholic bishops and other leading Church groups have criticised recent Budgets for deepening social divisions.

The Church has called for a halt to the growing polarisation before it becomes more embedded.

The groups, which include the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and Trócaire, are urging the Government not to impose further cuts on social welfare and Child Benefit payments and on Overseas Aid in next week's Budget.

Seven Catholic organisations say the recession has been accompanied by public service and welfare cuts along with increased taxes and charges.

The groups say these have had a devastating impact on the ability of many people to maintain an acceptable standard of living.

They remark, the economic crisis has had a proportionately less significant impact on the better off.

The seven groups call for deficit-reduction with a greater emphasis on taxation and less on spending cuts.

They also urge the Government to recognise that we should not attempt to resolve a budgetary crisis by deepening the social crisis.

They criticise recent Budgets for further eroding hope and deepening social divisions.

The church bodies also say the consequences of austerity measures have not been limited to Ireland.

They express concern that the achievements of recent years in addressing global poverty are threatened by reductions in Overseas Development Aid.

The organisations which issued the appeal are the Bishops' Councils for Justice and Peace and for Research and Development, Crosscare, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Trócaire and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice.

They say their work has brought home to them that the consequences of austerity measures can last a lifetime and harm the well-being and life chances of future generations.