Most people don’t realize it, but in many states some or all nonprofit organizations can opt out of paying state unemployment insurance – and many do. Unemployment is an insurance fund against job loss, not a welfare program — so if no one is paying your premium, you’re out of luck. A Catholic schoolteacher in St Louis found this out the hard way when he turned up at the unemployment office after a layoff, and was turned away. Tony Messenger in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch describes what happened, and cites a survey that found nearly half the Dioceses had opted out in order to save money, leaving employees unprotected in the case of job loss. What’s the practice in your Diocese or Parish?
You probably know that May 1 is celebrated in many nations as Labor Day. Did you also know that the Church marks this day as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker? As Pope Francis observed on May 1, 2013, in his general audience…
Jesus is born and lives in a family, in the Holy Family, learning the carpenter’s craft from St Joseph in his workshop in Nazareth, sharing with him the commitment, effort, satisfaction and also the difficulties of every day. This reminds us of the dignity and importance of work….Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use a metaphor, “anoints” us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God, who has worked and still works…
To read the Pope’s entire message, CLICK HERE!
Around the world, April 28 is recognized as Workers’ Memorial Day – the day we remember the men and women who have lost their lives at work. You might think that this is a problem confined to tenement garment workers in Bangladesh or coal miners in China — surely with America’s wealth and technology this is not an issue for us? In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 4,821 workplace fatalities in 2014. While the Dickensian conditions afflicting workers in the global South take an even greater toll, occupational fatalities are a worldwide problem. For a good summary of the US situation, check out the AFL-CIO’s Death on the Job report. And heed the advice of legendary Catholic labor agitator Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead… and fight like hell for the living!”
Professors Gerry Beyer (Theology, Villanova) and Donald Carroll (Law, University of San Francisco) argue strongly in the National Catholic Reporter that schools using “freedom of religion” claims to avoid bargaining under the NLRB 1) have a weak legal case, and 2) should negotiate with faculty unions regardless of their legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act because that’s what Catholic teaching demands. They point out that if their concerns about infringement of religious freedom are sincere, they can easily establish bargaining with the faculty unions outside of the NLRA framework altogether. (Many Catholic elementary and high schools already do this.)
by Bill Droel
In 1984 Msgr. Jack Egan (1916-2001), who at that time was director of Human Relations and Ecumenism at the Archdiocese of Chicago, sent a memo about race relations to clergy and lay leaders involved with Chicago’s Northwest Neighborhood Federation and with Southwest Parish and Neighborhood Federation. Egan was reacting to A Declaration of Neighborhood Independence, issued by the two community organizations.
“The language contained in this Declaration is inappropriate, irresponsible and divisive,” Egan wrote. His memo objected to the Declaration’s “name-calling and vituperation” and more particularly to its “race-baiting” and its “tone of violence.”
A newly published book, Vanishing Eden: White Construction of Memory, Meaning and Identity in a Racially Changing City by Michael Maly and Heather Dalmage (Temple University Press), looks back at those days. The authors also report on interviews they conducted among those who were children in those neighborhoods at the time. Read more
Parishes, Part II
by Bill Droel
It is a formula for decline to run a parish, indeed to run any enterprise, for the benefit of insiders rather than outsiders. People move away from a parish for normal reasons: a job relocation, downsizing or upscaling their residence, retirement or illness, and eventually death. Attracting new members always has to outpace the exodus. This no longer can happen by passively waiting for new arrivals to register with a parish. Growth parishes have to be comfortable with a variety of pastoral styles; they have to be proactive with programs that undergo regular evaluation; they have to systematically reach out to new residents and to others who spend time in or around the parish/neighborhood. Growth parishes have to sometimes tailor liturgies for, let’s say, an arriving ethnic group or for young adults. In a growth parish the regular visits to nursing homes and hospitals must be augmented by an effort—no matter how rudimentary—to meet health care workers. The disposition for growth means, for example, that the parish CEO (who may or may not be their pastor) and/or the school’s principal participate in the local chamber of commerce and have regular contact with nearby social service agencies and with administrators in the public schools or the community college and with local government entities. Likewise the leaders of a growth parish (its staff and its members) will schedule dialogue sessions with members from nearby churches (including Catholic parishes) and with those from any nearby synagogue or mosque.
Why don’t parishes adopt the option for growth? Read more
Friedrichs, the Church and the future of labor
In the labor world, the big winter story is the Friedrichs case, which has come before the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs, California teachers, argue that the First Amendment should exempt them from paying union dues or fees. Union members of all stripes are already permitted to opt out of paying for donations to election candidates and similar political spending, but the teachers want more. They argue that since the government is their employer, collective bargaining and grievance handling is also “political” so they shouldn’t have to pay for this either. Of course, they still get all the benefits of the union contract — the raises, the benefits, the protections that ensure fair treatment by their supervisor — Read more
by Bill Droel
The late 1800s and early 1900s were boom years for U.S. Catholicism. Immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Eastern Europe and elsewhere populated urban neighborhoods, building churches and schools. Using Chicago as an example, its Archbishop James Quigley (1854-1915) issued a 1910 decree for the construction of more churches so that no one would need to go more than one mile to worship. “A parish,” he wrote, “should be such a size that the pastor can personally know every man, woman, and child in it.”
In that very year, there was already a square-mile neighborhood in Quigley’s diocese with 11 parishes: four for Irish-Americans, two for German, two for Polish and three for other Eastern Europeans. Over 70% of this Bridgeport neighborhood was Roman Catholic in 1910. Several other Chicago neighborhoods easily surpassed Quigley’s goal of one per square mile.
With some changes in the lineup, Bridgeport maintained 11 parishes into the 1980s. In the 1990s the number was reduced to seven. Today, using the same boundaries, Bridgeport has six Catholic churches. The same downsizing happened in most East Coast and Great Lakes areas. Detroit, for example, lost 30 parishes in 1989. Read more
by Bill Droel
The term intrinsic evil is appropriate in a philosophy or theology classroom where students are presumably acquainted with some Aristotelian distinctions. Used in a presidential campaign, the term asks too much of electoral politics. Our U.S. Catholic bishops employ the term intrinsic evil a dozen times in their 2016 election guide, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The term’s use there is, in the opinion of “The Working Catholic,” one more example of moralizing; one more ingredient in the disenchantment and frustration of our citizenry.
Politics is a “messy, limited [and] muddled activity,” writes Bernard Crick (1929-2008) in Defense of Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1962). Yet it is the most beautiful way of balancing public interests, lifestyle choices, conflicting rights, interwoven responsibilities and changing times. Politics (with its laws or policies) is always imperfect because politics is an exercise in this-worldly approximate justice. Its results at sunset must be renewed through the exercise of public virtues tomorrow morning. Read more
Full of Grace
by Bill Droel
The phrase Godless world is popular with some presidential candidates. In recent months it has also occasionally appeared in Catholic publications and catalogs. Catholics are mistaken to use the phrase or others like it.
Catholics believe in the Incarnation and the Redemption. God, through God’s creation and through Christ’s death and resurrection, is already in our holy world. Encounter with God for a Catholic is thus normally mediated through the world. Catholics experience grace (God’s love) through family, neighbors, co-workers and others. Catholics meet God in the sacraments; the little sacraments of daily life and the liturgical sacraments.
Most Catholics most of the time do not claim a so-called direct or individual relationship with God. The relationship is mediated. God’s love and God’s truth come by way of the world; by way of discovery in the classroom or the lab, inside the ups and downs of home life, through art, music or literature, through conversations and action on the job, through stories about one’s grandparents, and through the worldly accomplishments and setbacks of predecessors in the faith. Read more
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