Monday, September 1, 2014


...we must first of all recall a principle that has always been taught by the Church: the principle of the priority of labor over capital.” -- Pope John Paul II [emphasis in original]

There was not one advertiser’s glossy insert in today’s local paper.  The Monday edition has become the slimmest—but there’s usually at least one insert even as all local dailies seem to diminish size and coverage.

Could it be the lack of flyer is due to the fact that today’s Monday holiday is only Labor Day?  It’s become the poor sister of holidays, the sad end of summer.   Holiday editions almost always have more heft than the usual run of the news mill.  But labor has become less and less profitable in recent years, discounted, certainly not celebrated by mainstream media.  And now since average workers have so little wages to buy with, their day doesn’t even merit a single shiny sheet enticing them to go spend.

The whole situation is shameful in the world’s richest society.  Powerful people paint unions and worker solidarity as the obstacles to success.  They ignore the history of how the vibrant middle class was built in this country.  Now the slow death of our middle class is documented by many observers, such as in the video, Inequality for All.

Doing a job well, work for work’s sake, for the creative good done, is devalued.  The message trickling down from the wealthy top is that fat profit margins are the most important measure.  This way of thinking makes the Gospel story of the generous master who pays all equal regardless of how long they worked that day, an incomprehensible scandal, never to be imitated.

We have some great examples to lead us in the positive spiritual direction, the direction of solidarity with brothers and sisters here and abroad.  Martin Luther King was assassinated as he was in Memphis TN, helping to organize garbage collectors.  Cesar Chavez gave his life organizing farmworkers.   Walter Reuther, after bringing auto workers together here in Michigan, reached out to help the farmworkers union.   Gandhi worked tirelessly for the rights of the untouchables in India.

What we do here has grave impact on societies across the globe.  The Gospel instruction, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” has been turned around—take as much as you can get.   Pope Paul VI’s instruction, “If you want peace, work for justice,” has its covert obverse, which is now active in all earth’s corners:  If you want war, promote injustice.    War, lamentably, is short term very profitable for a select few.

The Church has had something to say on this.  Pope Leo XIII back in 1891, said in his  Rerum Novarum,  “The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable, in the vast expansion of industrial pursuits and the marvelous discoveries of science; in the changed relations between masters and workmen; in the enormous fortunes of some few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses…”   All too familiar a situation.

Then Pope John Paul II in 1981’s Laborem Exercens continues, We should also consider here the prospect of worldwide catastrophe in the case of a nuclear war, which would have almost unimaginable possibilities of destruction.  In view of this situation we must first of all recall a principle that has always been taught by the Church: the principle of the priority of labor over capital.[emphasis in original]  Capital is to serve the interests of labor.  The union makes us strong.  What an about face from the current direction of the corporations of America.

May we all learn to be in solidarity with, and capitalist servants of, the poor, to our best abilities, as our Catholic church teaches, but not yet preached from many pulpits, nor reported by the press.

From Fr. Joe Scott, CSP’s commentary on Laborum Exercens
The Church has sometimes criticized corrupt practices within a particular union, or warned against the practice of fostering division between management and labor. Yet Pope John Paul II in his encyclical on labor, (1981) asserted the fundamental principle of “the priority of labor over capital.” While in actual fact capital has organized itself against labor in our society, John Paul II insists that capital exists to serve labor: “There is a need for ever new movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers…The Church is firmly committed to this cause, for it considers it to be its mission, its service, a proof of its fidelity to Christ…”

Leo XIII: Rerum Novarum -- A Summary Article by Gerald Darring
“The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions.” – U.S. Catholic Bishops 1986 Pastoral Letter, “Economic Justice for All.”

No comments:

Post a Comment