In the first place, the worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family.
Over the past 200 years, the Catholic church has consistently held a favorable attitude toward labor unions and the rights of workers to organize. A key step in attaining this position was the action of an American Cardinal, James Gibbons of Baltimore, in pursuading Pope Leo XIII not to condemn the Knights of Labor in 1887. The Knights were an American attempt to organize workers and some bishops argued that the group possessed the characteristics of a secret society. But Cardinal Gibbons saw that it was important to support the recent immigrants to American shores, many of them Catholic, whose work conditions were hard and often unjust. Read more
Pope John Paul II, Laboren Exercens
. . . Worker solidarity, together with a clearer and more committed realization by others of workers’ rights, has in many cases brought about profound changes. . . On the world level, the development of civilization. . . has also revealed other forms of injustice much more extensive than those which in the last century stimulated unity between workers for particular solidarity in the working world. This is true in countries which have completed a certain process of industrial revolution… Read more
Rerum Novarum, often referred to as the Magna Carta of Social Catholicism, was only the first of many encyclicals to be published throughout the twentieth century that continued to articulate specifics of Roman Catholic social teaching. On May 15, 1931, forty years to the date after the publication of Rerum Novarum, Pope Pius XI issued Quadragesimo Anno (“On the Reconstruction of the Social Order”). In the document the pope reinforced the teachings of Leo XIII but then moved forward giving additional specifics on the role of the state in its relations with workers and employers. This is the first papal document to use the term “social justice” to describe the need for the common good, that is, the good of each person. Read more
In December 1922, Pope Pius XI issued Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, an encyclical letter that introduced the terms “Catholic Action” and “lay apostolate” into the literature. Technically, Catholic Action is the work of the laity in support of the hierarchy. However, over the next half century this more restrictive definition would be broadened through the efforts of numerous individuals and groups who in varied ways sought to manifest the social teachings of the church through direct service to the poor and those who lived on the margins of society.
The Grail Movement, the Young Christian Workers, and the Christian Family Movement
Catholic Action groups, especially in the United States, were quite prominent beginning in the interwar years and continuing to the onset of Vatican II. The Grail Movement, originally founded in Holland in 1921 by Jacques van Ginnecken, migrated to the United States in 1940 and was headquartered at Loveland, Ohio. This worldwide spiritual renewal assisted women exclusively in three specific areas. First, participants were encouraged to actively engage ecumenical dialogue. Secondly, women were educated to help them realize their full potential. Lastly, the Grail Movement promoted international and intercultural cooperation. Read more
In his book Living Justice: Catholic Social Teaching in Action, Jesuit priest and scholar Thomas Massaro provides nine basic concepts that have characterized Social Catholicism since the time of Rerum Novarum.
- The dignity of every human person and human rights: Made in the image and likeness of God, humans deserve respect and dignity from conception to natural death. This idea means Catholics reject abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment. This teaching calls for equality on all fronts. Human rights are a way of expressing what belongs to humans by virtue of their dignity. Read more
One of the most significant achievements of Social Catholicism in the twentieth century is the promotion of organized labor, but this support was a departure from a much more wary position toward unions taken by the church in the nineteenth century. At that time, due in large measure to European groups that sought to undermine the church, the Vatican held a general prohibition against all secret societies, including labor unions. In the United States both the Second (1866) and Third (1884) Plenary Councils of Baltimore reiterated the papal condemnation of secret societies, especially the Masons, but a special cautionary provision was made for labor unions. Read more
An Initiative of the Catholic Labor Network
In 2012, a remarkable story in Catholic labor relations reached a happy conclusion after nine years of conflict. Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s health care workers secured their first union contract – and by most accounts what had been a bitter struggle for many years had given way to amicable and cooperative labor relations. How did it happen?
Adam Reich, whose book With God on Our Side traces the story of the long organizing effort, will share the story at the 2013 Catholic Labor Network meeting. Join us Saturday February 9th at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington DC to hear Reich and more: Read more
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2013
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Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose. Today, we celebrate one of our Nation’s first laws to protect that right — the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia legislature by James Madison, the Statute affirmed that “Almighty God hath created the mind free” and “all men shall be free to profess . . . their opinions in matters of religion.” Years later, our Founders looked to the Statute as a model when they enshrined the principle of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights.
Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose. As a free country, our story has been shaped by every language and enriched by every culture. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers. Our patchwork heritage is a strength we owe to our religious freedom. Read more
People on the Move
N° 106 (Suppl.-I), April 2008
A Sign of Hope for the Maritime World
Comdr. Douglas B. Stevenson
The Seamen’s Church Institute of New York & New Jersey
Archbishop Marchetto, let me begin by thanking you for inviting me to be with you and with so many of my friends here in Gdynia, Poland. I am very honored to have the opportunity to have a part in this important Congress and to share the Apostleship of the Sea’s vital ministry to seafarers throughout the world.
I have been asked to speak with you about the new International Labor Organization’s Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, or, more specifically, the MLC as a sign of hope for the maritime world.
I will begin my remarks by repeating some of the words spoken by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi to the International Labor Conference Plenary in Geneva on 23 February 2005 following the Convention’s adoption: Read more