Monday, September 3, 2007

On Labor Day, Why Faith Matters

This is a section of the USCCB's document for this Labor Day, entitled Labor Day 2007: A Time to Remember; A Time to Recommit. The entire document is well worth reading and pondering. In too many places Labor Day, like Memorial Day, is just another day off to have fun. We must remember that even the time-off we enjoy, especially for workers/employees, which most of us are, are the hard won fruits of this country's labor movement.

Recalling Catholic Teaching

"Just as we need to remind ourselves as Americans that Labor Day is about workers and their unions, it is also important to remember as Catholics that the dignity of work and the rights of workers are central elements of Church teaching that continue to challenge all Catholics. For more than a century, the Church has insisted that 'human work is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question (Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 3). Our tradition has defended the right of workers to join together to secure decent work, wages, and a voice in economic life.

"This year is the 40th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s powerful encyclical, Populorum Progressio– On the Development of Peoples. He called Catholics to defend the lives and dignity of poor and vulnerable workers in our own societies and around the world. Paul VI called us to be in solidarity with those who seek to 'escape from hunger, misery, endemic disease, and ignorance' (Populorum Progressio, 1).

"This message of solidarity and the pursuit of the global common good builds on the tradition begun by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum in 1891 and extends through the Twentieth Century in a powerful series of papal encyclicals. It was embraced and expanded by the prophetic words and witness of Pope John Paul II, an apostle of solidarity, who constantly stood with workers and the poor. His writings called for a society of 'work, of enterprise, and of participation' (Centesimus Annus, 35) and insisted that unions and other worker associations are an 'indispensable element of social life.'(Laborem Exercens, 20)

"Our present Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, has placed the Church’s social doctrine in the context of God’s love for us and our duty to love the 'least of these.' '[W]ithin the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life.' (Deus Caritas Est, 20)

"Our Bishops’ Conference has outlined A Catholic Framework for Economic Life that seeks to
summarize this essential part of Church teaching as 'principles for reflection, criteria for judgment, and directions for action.' Among the key principles, these are especially appropriate for Labor Day:

· The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.
· A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are
· All people have a right to life and to secure the basic necessities of life (e.g.
food, clothing, shelter,
education, health care, safe environment, economic security).
· All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just
wages and benefit, to decent working conditions, as well as to organize and join
union or other associations.

"These principles and related moral criteria outlined in the framework ought to guide our actions and choices in economic and public life."

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