America’s Catholic Bishops issued this “Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy” to help our nation’s faithful think through the implications of Catholic Social Teaching for our social and economic life. While the world measures economic success in the number of goods produced, the Bishops remind us that Catholic teaching would hold instead “the most urgent priority for domestic economic policy is the creation of new jobs with adequate pay and decent working conditions (136).” They noted that although “Catholic social teaching does not require absolute equality in the distribution of income and wealth” it entailed “a strong presumption against extreme inequality of income and wealth as long as there are poor, hungry, and homeless people in our midst (185).” The Bishops defended the right to organize in the strongest terms, and called for labor law reform to better protect that right. “The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions…. No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing. Migrant agricultural workers today are particularly in need of protection, including the right to organize and bargain collectively. U.S. labor law reform is needed to meet these problems as well as to provide more timely and effective remedies for unfair labor practices (105).” Nor did the bishops exempt the Church from these obligations of social justice. “On the parish and diocesan level, through its agencies and institutions, the Church employs many people; it has investments; it has extensive properties for worship and mission. All the moral principles that govern the just operation of any economic endeavor apply to the Church and its agencies and institutions; indeed the Church should be exemplary… We bishops commit ourselves to the principle that those who serve the Church—laity, clergy, and religious—should receive a sufficient livelihood and the social benefits provided by responsible employers in our nation…. All church institutions must also fully recognize the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively with the institution through whatever association or organization they freely choose. (347, 351, 353)”
USCCB Labor Day Statements, 1986-present
Each Labor Day the USCCB issues a statement reflecting on Catholic Social Teaching regarding labor and work in light of contemporary events. These letters constitute an important resource for Catholics reflecting on their faith in modern America.
This two-sided flyer prepared by the USCCB is an excellent bulletin insert for Labor Day weekend or the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1).
— Clayton Sinyai, Catholic Labor Network