A PARTIAL CRITIQUE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORM
As a layman, a practicing Roman Catholic, and a Union leader, let me start by saying that I respect and adhere to all that the Roman Catholic Church believes and teaches. In fact, my Roman Catholic faith and the teachings of the Church are the underpinnings of my involvement in the labor movement, and continue to inform and inspire my work. Further, I am a Board Member of the Catholic Labor Network as a result of my commitment to both my Faith and my work.
That said, I must admit that I am somewhat confused of late, particularly when well-respected Catholic Church leaders say things like “I have read the Republican Party platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin.”[i] With all due respect, I thought that the Catholic Bishops had clearly defined their role in politics, at least in part, when they said, “…we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth.”[ii] The United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) most correctly noted that “In fulfilling these responsibilities, the Church’s leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote.”[iii] I would rather that Catholic leaders point out to me what there is in the Republican Party Platform that supports and promotes the teaching of the Catholic Church, as well as social justice in our country and world.
So, while I certainly have plenty of concerns over the Democratic Party Platform, particularly the areas that would rightfully be considered intrinsically evil, my experiences have taught me that the Democrats generally stand with working men and women, whereas today’s Republican Party appears to stand more with the rich and ultra-rich, against the common good, as well as against issues of importance to working men and women, such as just wages. I have the sense that some Catholic leaders are trying to tell Catholics that they cannot vote Democratic because of certain platform issues that are considered intrinsically evil. Whereas because these same Catholic leaders do not find anything in the Republican Party platform that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin, apparently Catholics should vote Republican? I respectfully disagree, and will try to elucidate my concerns with the Republican Party Platform and why I believe it supports serious sin, from the perspective of a Catholic layman involved in the labor movement.
Republican Party Platform
So, with that in mind, let’s take a quick look at what is bothersome in the Republican Party Platform to a union leader like me. Quite frankly, I have found several items that are objectionable and that should be considered not only against Church teaching, but perhaps of a grave or serious nature, whether they are intrinsically evil or not. Let’s take a quick look at just one of them found at Freedom in the Workplace.[iv] In this section, the Republican Party intends to:
- “…demand an end to the Project Labor Agreements; and … call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, …”.
- “…support the right of States to enact Right-to-Work laws and encourage them to do so to promote greater economic liberty.”
- “…support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law to promote worker freedom and to promote greater economic liberty.”
However, before I discuss why I believe the above points within the Republican Party Platform are morally abhorrent, it would be useful to briefly mention the concept of common good in Catholic thought and where that might lead us in our discussion of the Republican Party Platform. Let’s start with the Church’s definition of the common good as “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily”.[v] Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.[vi]
St. Thomas Aquinas expressly taught the following: When one man has excess wealth (that is, property and wealth which are beyond his legitimate needs) while another is in poverty, the rich man is a thief. The excess he possesses belongs to the poor man and, if he refuses to distribute his wealth accordingly, he plays the part of the “rich fool” in the Gospel parable.[vii]
And as Pope Leo XIII states in Rerum Novarum, again summarizing that longstanding tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas: For every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own. … But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? — the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.[viii]
And as the bishops of the Catholic Church stated under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at Vatican II: Therefore, although rightful differences exist between men, the equal dignity of persons demands that a more humane and just condition of life be brought about. For excessive economic and social differences between the members of the one human family or population groups cause scandal, and militate against social justice, equity, the dignity of the human person, as well as social and international peace.[ix]Further, the Council Fathers stated that “God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should be in abundance for all in like manner….In using them, therefore, man should regard the external things that he legitimately possesses not only as his own but also as common in the sense that they should be able to benefit not only him but also others. On the other hand, the right of having a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one’s family belongs to everyone. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church held this opinion, teaching that men are obliged to come to the relief of the poor and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods. If one is in extreme necessity, he has the right to procure for himself what he needs out of the riches of others.… to remember the aphorism of the Fathers, “Feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him,” and really to share and employ their earthly goods, according to the ability of each, especially by supporting individuals or peoples with the aid by which they may be able to help and develop themselves.[x]
Pope Paul VI writes in Populorum Progressio, in line with the venerable, longstanding tradition about private property that St. Thomas Aquinas summarized: Private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditional right. No one is justified in keeping for one’s exclusive use what one does not need, when others lack necessities…The right to property must never be exercised to the detriment of the common good.[xi]
These papal statements and the inspired teachings of Vatican II echo St. Ambrose, who wrote: You are not making a gift of your possessions to poor persons. You are handing over to them what is theirs. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.[xii] And they also echo the teaching of St. John Chrysostom: Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.[xiii] And finally, they echo the teaching of St. Gregory the Great: When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.[xiv]
There is a 2,000 year old tradition of social justice and the concern for the common good in our Catholic Faith that must be considered when evaluating political parties and platforms. In fact, the USCCB pointed out two temptations in public life that can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity: The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.
I agree whole-heartedly that abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia are always intrinsically evil. However, the Bishops go on to state that: “The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty,[xv] resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues….”[xvi]
All too often I read about or hear Catholics speaking about capitalism as if the Catholic Church has endorsed it as “the” economic system. Unfortunately, this is often in the context of justifying a company’s or corporation’s “right” to set wages based upon prevailing market forces; wages that would most likely be unjust from a Catholic point of view.
First of all, it is true that the Church has clearly rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with communism and socialism. However, that rejection of communism and socialism is not an endorsement of unregulated capitalism, which can so easily lead to avarice.[xvii] Rather, the Church has refused to accept, in the practice of capitalism, individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy … solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.… Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.[xviii]
The Church does not, in fact, teach or promote a particular economic system. What the Church does teach is the principle of subsidiarity, which “…protects people from abuses by higher-level social authority and calls on these same authorities to help individuals and intermediate groups to fulfill their duties.” The Church teaches us that: “This principle is imperative because every person, family and intermediate group has something original to offer to the community. … The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to certain forms of centralization, bureaucratization, and welfare assistance and to the unjustified and excessive presence of the State in public mechanisms. …In other words, the principle of subsidiarity should protect society from the totalitarian, even overly-bureaucratic state, but does not endorse unregulated capitalism.
In fact, the Church has added the caveat that: Various circumstances may make it advisable that the State step in to supply certain functions. … One may also envision the reality of serious social imbalance or injustice where only the intervention of the public authority can create conditions of greater equality, justice and peace. … the common good correctly understood, the demands of which will never in any way be contrary to the defense and promotion of the primacy of the person and the way this is expressed in society, must remain the criteria for making decisions concerning the application of the principle of subsidiarity.[xix]
So, what the Church does teach is that: “…Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community.”[xx] The Church also teaches us that: “A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice…”[xxi] So, to a practicing Catholic involved deeply in the labor movement, the statement by Church leaders that there is “nothing” in the Republican Party platform that “supports an intrinsic evil or a serious sin” appears simply to be an overly zealous way to direct Catholic voters to vote for the Republican Party over the Democratic Party, due to the presumed absence of an intrinsic evil or a serious sin.
Fortunately, the USCCB has defined that the role of Roman Catholic Bishops is to: “…to hand on the Church’s moral and social teaching… and to teach fundamental moral principles that help Catholics form their consciences correctly, to provide guidance on the moral dimensions of public decisions, and to encourage the faithful to carry out their responsibilities in political life.” [xxii] Church leaders are not to create or impose an imaginary dilemma or situation upon Catholic voters in order to direct them to choose one party over another because of the presumed absence of intrinsic evil or serious sin. Quite frankly, neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party has it “right” from a Catholic point of view.
A Just Wage
So, what does the Catholic Church teach us about a just wage? Pope Pius XI stated that: “… the worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family.[xxiii] Pope John XXIII stated that: “We consider it our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful. It must be determined in accordance with justice and equity; which means that workers must be paid a wage which allows them to live a truly human life and to fulfill their family obligations in a worthy manner. [xxiv] Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, stated that: “…workers’ rights cannot be doomed to be the mere result of economic systems aimed at maximum profits. The thing that must shape the whole economy is respect for the workers’ rights within each country and all through the world’s economy.”[xxv]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states among other things, that: “A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice.” It goes on to state that: In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account … Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good …”[xxvi] Finally, with respect to the market being the determinant of wage, the Church clearly teaches us that: “…agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.”[xxvii] So, whether we are talking about an employee working under a labor agreement or an “at-will” employee, the teaching is clear: It must be a just wage that is a living wage for the worker and her or his family. It should be intuitively obvious to the casual observer that a “Right-to-Work (for less)” wage is not a living wage…not the kind of wage that would support a family. If it were a just wage, Wal-Mart workers would not need food stamps in order to survive.
What’s The Problem?
Well, one could argue that the Republican Party Platform does not support or propose an intrinsic evil (such as abortion). One could also argue that the Republican Party Platform does not specifically contain any language that would directly deny a worker her or his just wage. However, one can easily show by experience and fact that “Right-to-Work (for less)” laws are attempts to maximize profits at the expense of working men and women, and an attempt to bring wages in line with “market forces,” leading to unjust wages, among other things.
On average, workers in states with “Right to Work” law earn $5,538 a year less than workers in states without these laws. Right-to-Work states spend $2,671 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than free-bargaining states. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 52.9% higher in states with Right-to-Work laws. When “right to work” laws weaken unions and drive down wages and benefits, workers have less to spend and the entire economy – particularly small business – suffers.[xxviii]
The Church teaches us that: “In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account…” The Church goes on to teach us that: “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.” [xxix]
My position is that a “Right-to-Work (for less)” wage does not take into account…the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.”[xxx], nor is it a living wage, nor the kind of wage that would support a family. All one really has to do is talk to a Wal-Mart employee, that is, if they are not too afraid of being fired by management for talking “union.” It would appear then, at least with respect to a dignified livelihood and a just wage, that the Republican Party Platform does not conform to the Church’s teaching that a “just wage is the legitimate fruit of work.”[xxxi] As the USCCB has stated, “…If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected, the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions …”[xxxii]
Now, the Church also teaches that “They commit grave injustice who refuse to pay a just wage or who do not give it in due time and in proportion to the work done (cf. Lv 19:13; Dt 24:14-15; Jas 5:4).”[xxxiii] If it is a grave injustice to refuse to pay a just wage, then I argue that the Republican Party Platform, in the points noted, supports or promotes a serious sin, by promoting positions that favor the marketplace over the person and profits over just wages.
If the Republican Party prevails in November, it should be clear that they will carry out the intent of its anti-union Platform, which will lead to unjust wages. It will also lead to intense union busting. Let me be clear, I believe that the goal and intent of the Republican Party Platform, whether stated openly or not, is to bust unions and to thereby deny workers their just wage. What I would consider a grave matter … a serious sin. Please keep reading. I’ll try to explain why.
Sin and Evil
Okay, would the Republican Party Platform issues pointed out above be considered a serious sin, an intrinsic evil or could we honestly say that we find nothing in the Republican Party Platform that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin? Let’s start by talking a little about good and evil. We should start by asking “What is a morally good act?” and then discuss a morally evil act, as well as what is an intrinsic evil, along with its importance in this discussion.
Simply put, a morally good act requires three things, the goodness: (1) of the object; (2) of the end; and (3) of the circumstances together.[xxxiv] From a Thomistic perspective, evil can generally be understood as the absence or lacking of a good, i.e., the absence of some trait that perfects or completes a thing’s being. The greater the absence of perfection or completion, the greater the evil. In other words, the more the act fails to correspond to the will of God or proper human fulfillment, the more evil it is.
So, what is an evil act? It is one that in the end corrupts an action, even if the object is good in itself; for example praying and fasting “in order to be seen by men”. The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are, in fact, some concrete acts for which it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.[xxxv] There are also acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as abortion, adultery, blasphemy, murder and perjury[xxxvi]. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.[xxxvii] For example, it is not licit to strategically misrepresent the truth, in order to obtain what is thought to be a good end.[xxxviii]
However, let us all remember in charity, that it would be an error to judge the morality of a human act by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context.[xxxix]
Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture, has become part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.[xl] For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is (1) grave matter and which is also (2) committed with full knowledge and (3) deliberate consent.”[xli] But what is a grave matter? The Church teaches that a Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother.[xlii] The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.”[xliii]
But what about an intrinsic evil, so often mention by Catholic leaders during election seasons. And what is its’ importance? For an appropriate understanding of the concept of intrinsic evil, one must appreciate the Catholic understanding of goodness. From the perspective of the Catholic moral tradition, in order for a human act to be morally good, it must be good in all three of its aspects: (1) in its deliberately chosen object, (2) in the agent’s circumstantial intention and (3) in the circumstances of the act. In order for a human act to be considered morally evil it need be defective in only one of these three aspects.
However, intrinsic evil refers to actions that are morally evil in such a way that is essentially opposed to the will of God or proper human fulfillment. The key consideration here is that intrinsically evil actions are judged to be so solely by their object, independently of the intention that inspires them or the circumstances that surround them.[xliv] In this sense, “intrinsic” does not convey the notion of a particularly heinous act (although all heinous acts are intrinsically evil); but that the act is wrong no matter what its circumstances, e.g. strategic misrepresentation.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that the goodness of the will is derived from the fact that a person wills that which is good.[xlv] In other words, the object of the act must be good in itself (essentially ordered to the will of God or proper human fulfillment) in order for the will that intends that object to be good.[xlvi]
According to this understanding, while a morally good action may be made more or less good by the circumstances in which it occurs, the circumstances of an act or the good intentions of the agent may never make an intrinsically evil action good. Actions that are intrinsically evil, then, may never licitly be performed. Indeed, the term itself is commonly used in a more general way to refer to actions that are never morally permissible. However, it must be emphasized that “intrinsic” is not a word that denotes gravity. An “intrinsic evil” is simply an evil that cannot be justified in any circumstance; it’s not a category of the most socially harmful actions.
But how important is the concept of intrinsic evil to this discussion, and what does it really mean? In a nutshell, the fact that an act is called an intrinsic evil tells us two and only two things. First, it tells us why an action is wrong—because of the “object” of the acting agent’s will. To identify the object of an action, one has to put oneself in the shoes of the one acting, and to describe the action from her perspective. The object is the immediate goal for which that person is acting; it is “the proximate end of a deliberate decision”[xlvii]
Second, the fact that an act is intrinsically evil tells us that it is always wrong to perform that type of act, no matter what the other circumstances are. A good motive cannot make an act with a bad object morally permissible. In other words, we may never do evil so that good may come of it. For example, a modern-day Robin Hood should not hold up a convenience store at gunpoint in order to give the money to a nearby homeless center. Robin Hood’s good motive (altruistic giving) does not wash away the bad object or immediate purpose of his action (robbery).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clarifies this matter by stating: A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).[xlviii]
But to say that an act is intrinsically evil does not by itself say anything about the comparative gravity of the act. Some acts that are not intrinsically evil (driving while intoxicated) can on occasion be worse both objectively and subjectively than acts that are intrinsically evil (telling a jocose lie). Some homicides that are not intrinsically evil are worse than intrinsically evil homicides. Furthermore, the fact that an act is intrinsically evil does not by itself tell third parties anything at all about their duty to prevent that act from occurring.[xlix]
But here is the caveat in all of this brief discussion: Although we can judge that an act is in itself a serious sin or intrinsically evil, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God. In other words, we are not the Judge; we are sinners – not God.
Sins That Cry Out to Heaven
Whereas the Republican Party Platform may not contain a statement that is intrinsically evil, in and of itself, it would be helpful to discuss another category of sins listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven.” One of the five such sins is “injustice to the wage earner.”[l] This teaching is solidly based, of course, on Sacred Scripture. For example: “I will draw near to you for judgment, and I will be swift to bear witness -against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, those who deprive a laborer of wages, Oppress a widow or an orphan, or turn aside a resident alien, without fearing me, says the LORD of hosts.” [li] and “To take away a neighbor’s living is to commit murder; (27) to deny a laborer wages is to shed blood.”[lii][liii],
The above quotes appear very clear to me that denying a worker’s pay should be considered a grave matter (i.e., do not kill, do not steal, etc.). Consider the quote from the Book of Sirach, “To take away a neighbor’s living is to commit murder; to deny a laborer wages is to shed blood.”[liv] Remember, some of our Catholic leaders are telling us that there is nothing in the Republican Party Platform that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin. Maybe there is nothing in that Platform that supports an intrinsic evil such as abortion, but it does appear that the Republican Party Platform may in fact, support and promote serious sin.
Platform vs Person
Now, the Platform is one thing … the person the Republican Party has nominated for President will interpret and carry out the platform. As the Republican Party platform states in the preamble, “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand these great truths.… They will provide it.”[lv] Where the Republican Party may not be totally transparent in their platform regarding their dislike, perhaps even hatred for unions, Mr. Romney is very transparent: as it is said, “By their fruits, you shall know them.”[lvi] Mr. Romney’s own words are most telling: if elected, Mr. Romney states he would:
- End preference for unionized companies in government contracting;
- End project labor agreements;
- Fight to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act;
- Make sure that workers have a “secret ballot” (Something they already have, of course, but this is coded language for opposing the Employee Free Choice Act);
- Fight for right-to-work (for less) laws;
- Oppose card check;
- Undercut the ability of the National Labor Relations Board to do its job; and,
- Prevent unions from being able to spend member dues on political activity without the express approval of the individual members (this is already disallowed by Statute).[lvii]
Mr. Romney indicates that he will do most of these things on “Day One” via Executive Order. If anyone is still wondering why unions are lining up behind Barack Obama despite the fact that they’ve had some disagreements and friction with him, look no further than Mitt Romney’s own words as to why. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JepSVdOaGMI
Pope John Paul II explained the importance of being true to fundamental Church teachings: Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.[lviii] I am sure that all practicing Catholics would agree that the right to life is the most basic and fundamental right and condition for all other personal rights. However, they also need to be aware that there are so many politicians, more so in the Republican Party, that in order to gain the Catholic vote, are simply “pro-birth” not “pro-life” … what I would call wolves in sheep’s clothing. In other words, they appear to openly oppose abortion, an intrinsic evil, but once the child is born, he or she is on his or her own with respect to the right to health, home, work (i.e., just wages), family and culture.
The following, however, is a big point: The USCCB, quoting the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated: …The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good.[lix]
The Catholic Bishops went on to state that: “The economy must serve people, not the other way around. … Employers contribute to the common good through the services or products they provide and by creating jobs that uphold the dignity and rights of workers—to productive work, to decent and just wages, to adequate benefits and security in their old age, to the choice of whether to organize and join unions …”[lx]
Finally, I would like to point out that the Bishops said that “Economic decisions and institutions should be assessed according to whether they protect or undermine the dignity of the human person. Social and economic policies should foster the creation of jobs for all who can work with decent working conditions and just wages. … Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal. … ”[lxi] I do believe that the Republican Party as an institution, by its Platform and leaders, seeks to undermine the dignity of the human person in the name of profit and capitalism.
Finally, as the Catholic Church teaches: “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.”[lxii] Such a perverse attachment might be to profits in an unregulated capitalist economy. I believe the rationale that companies use to deny workers their just wage is to maximize profits and thereby increase stock values, while ensuring obscene salaries and management bonuses. So, if a grave matter or a serious sin is measured by intent and deed, then I would state that the intent to weaken or minimize unions, will in fact, destroy unions through the actions outlined by the Republican Party.[lxiii] Since the Church teaches that unions should be “encouraged” in the workplace, it appears that the Republican Party Platform is gravely wrong in blocking card check, passing the Raise Act[lxiv], ending Project Labor Agreements[lxv], repealing the Davis-Bacon Act[lxvi], and enacting Right-to-Work (for less) laws on a state and National level.
The actions being promoted by the Republican Party appear to directly contradict the Catholic Church’s teaching on unions and would, therefore, constitute material evidence of sin…serious sin. In addition, the Republican Party Platform should be considered as supporting and promoting grave matters or serious sins, since they are aimed at destroying labor unions and undermining the concept of a just wage. How could this portion of the Republican Party Platform possibly be considered in line with Catholic Social Teaching? How could this effort to destroy labor unions possibly be considered in-line with Catholic teaching? Why do some of our Catholic leaders seemingly go against the positions of the USCCB, let alone the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding labor unions and just wages, but not condemning this portion of the Republican Party Platform as a sin crying out for justice to God? .
Whether or not the individuals who advocate “Right-to-Work (for less)” laws or those who condone their actions by their support or silence, are in sin, is, of course, a matter between them and their confessor. Simply put – “Right-to-Work (for less)” laws do not support a just and living wage. Just ask a Wal-Mart worker, most of who have to use food stamps to survive.
Feast of the Most Holy Rosary
Respect Life Sunday
October 7, 2012
John J. O’Grady is the President of Local 704 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) representing 1,000 employees at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Region 5 Office in Chicago. In addition, Mr. O’Grady serves as the Treasurer for AFGE Council 238 which represents over 10,000 highly dedicated employees working within the U.S. EPA nationwide. Mr. O’Grady has been a Lay Carmelite (member of the 3rd Order of Carmelites) for over 24 years, and practicing Roman Catholic. He resides with his wife and two children in Naperville, Illinois.
[i] The American Catholic, Thursday, September 27, 2012; http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/09/27/bishop-john-paprocki-democrat-party-and-intrisic-evil/
[ii] Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship – Part I – The U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life, No. 5
[iii] Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States; ISBN: 978-1-60137-235-2; Revised edition, first printing, October 2011
[v] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section One Man’s Vocation Life in the Spirit, Chapter Two The Human Communion, Article 2 Participation In Social Life, II. The Common Good, No. 1906
[vi] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life In Christ, Section One Man’s Vocation Life In The Spirit, Chapter Two The Human Communion, Article 3 Social Justice, No.1928
[vii] See Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 66
[viii] Rerum Novarum, On Capital and Labor, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, May 15, 1891, Nos. 6 & 22
[ix] Gaudium Et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church In the Modern World, Promulgated By His Holiness, Pope Paul VI on December 7, 1965, No. 29
[x] Gaudium Et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church In the Modern World, Promulgated By His Holiness, Pope Paul VI on December 7, 1965, No. 69
[xi] Populorum Progressio, On the Development of Peoples Pope Paul VI, 1967, No. 23
[xii] St. Ambrose, De Nabuthe, c. 12, n. 53; (PL 14, 747)
[xiii] St. John Chrysostom, Hom. In Lazaro 2, 5: PG 48, 992.
[xiv] St. Gregory the Great, Regula Pastoralis 3,21:PL 77, 87
[xv] See Justice for All: Safe Neighborhoods and Prison Reform (Courts should have the option of imposing the death penalty in capital murder cases.) http://www.gop.com/2012-republican-platform_Renewing/#Item18
[xvi] Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States; ISBN: 978-1-60137-235-2; Revised edition, first printing, October 2011, No. 29
[xvii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section Two The Ten Commandments, Chapter Two You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Article 10 The Tenth Commandment, I. The Disorder of Covetous Desires, Nos. 2536-2537
[xviii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life In Christ, Section Two The Ten Commandments, Chapter Two You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself; Article 7 The Seventh Commandment; Iii. The Social Doctrine Of The Church, No. 2425
[xx] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section Two: The Ten Commandments, Chapter Two: You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, Article 7: The Seventh Commandment, IV. Economic Activity and Social Justice No. 2428
[xxi] Ibid, No. 2434
[xxii] Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States; ISBN: 978-1-60137-235-2; Revised edition, first printing, October 2011, No. 15
[xxiii] Quadragesimo Anno (The Fortieth Year) #71; On Reconstruction of the Social Order, Pope Pius XI, 1931
[xxiv] Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher) #71, Pope John XXIII, 1961
[xxv] Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) #17, Pope John Paul II, 1981
[xxvi] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section Two: The Ten Commandments, Chapter Two: You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, Article 7: The Seventh Commandment, IV. Economic Activity and Social Justice, No.2434
[xxvii] Ibid., No. 2434
[xxviii] “Right to Work” Laws: Get the Facts, MN AFL-CIO, http://www.mnaflcio.org/news/right-work-laws-get-facts
[xxix] Ibid, No. 2434
[xxx] Ibid, No. 2434
[xxxi] Ibid., No. 2434
[xxxii] Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions, Reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, The Summary Report of the Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education, http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/sharing-catholic-social-teaching-challenges-and-directions.cfm
[xxxiii] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Section V. The Rights of Workers, b. The right to fair remuneration and income distribution, No. 302
[xxxiv] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section One Man’s Vocation Life in the Spirit, Chapter One The Dignity Of The Human Person, Article 4 The Morality Of Human Acts, II. Good Acts And Evil Acts, 1755
[xxxvi] See Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section Two The Ten Commandments, Chapter Two You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Article 8 The Eighth Commandment, III. Offenses Against Truth, No. 2476
[xxxvii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section One Man’s Vocation Life in the Spirit, Chapter One The Dignity Of The Human Person, Article 4 The Morality Of Human Acts, II. Good Acts And Evil Acts, 1756
[xxxviii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section Two The Ten Commandments, Chapter Two You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Article 8 The Eighth Commandment, III. Offenses Against Truth, Nos. 2482-2487
[xl] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three Life in Christ, Section One Man’s Vocation Life in the Spirit, Chapter One The Dignity Of The Human Person, Article 8 Sin, IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin, 1854
[xli] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three Life in Christ, Section One Man’s Vocation Life in the Spirit, Chapter One The Dignity Of The Human Person, Article 8 Sin, IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin, 1857
[xlii] Ibid., No. 1854; See also Mark 10:19
[xliii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three Life in Christ, Section One Man’s Vocation Life in the Spirit, Chapter One The Dignity Of The Human Person, Article 8 Sin, IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin, 1858
[xlvii] Veritatis Splenor, The Splenor of Truth, August 6, 1993, Pope John Paul II, No. 78
[xlviii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Chapter One, Part Three: Life In Christ, Section One Man’s Vocation Life In The Spirit, Chapter One The Dignity Of The Human Person, Article 4 The Morality Of Human Acts, No. 1753
[xlix] Intrinsic Evil and Political Responsibility, Is the concept of intrinsic evil helpful to the Catholic voter? M. Cathleen Kaveny, October 27, 2008, America Magazine http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=11166
[l] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section Man’s Vocation Life in the Spirit, Chapter One, The Dignity of the Human Person, Article 8 Sin, V. The Proliferation of Sin, No. 1867
[li] Malachi 3:5
[lii] Sirach 34: 26-27
[liii] See also Deuteronomy 24:14-15; James 5:4; and Jeremiah 22:13.
[liv] Sirach 34:26
[lv] Preamble to the Republican Party Platform 2012
[lvi] See Matthew 7:16, “By their fruits you will know them.”
[lvii] 2 U.S.C. § 441b (a) specifically prohibits the use of union dues by labor organizations for political purposes.
[lviii] Christifideles Laici, His Holiness John Paul II, December 30, 1988, No. 38
[lix] Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States; ISBN: 978-1-60137-235-2; Revised edition, first printing, October 2011, Nos. 26-30
[lx] Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship – Part I – The U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life, No. 52
[lxi] Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship – Part I – The U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life, No. 76
[lxii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, Section One: Man’s Vocation, Life in the Spirit, Chapter One: The Dignity of the Human Person, Article 8 SIN, II. The Definition of Sin, No. 1849
[lxiii] Ibid, IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin, See Nos. 1854-1864
[lxv] Executive Order 13502 — Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects, February 6, 2009 http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/executive-order-use-project-labor-agreements-federal-construction-projects
[lxvi] The Davis–Bacon Act of 1931 (40 U.S.C. §3141) is a United States federal law which established the requirement for paying prevailing wages on public works projects. All federal government construction contracts, and most contracts for federally assisted construction over $2,000, must include provisions for paying workers on-site no less than the locally prevailing wages and benefits paid on similar projects. The Davis-Bacon act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Herbert Hoover on March 3, 1931.