As you may know, Pope Francis has put the Church in “listening mode” in preparation for a worldwide gathering or “synod” of Bishops in 2023. Perhaps your parish has held a “listening session” about the challenges facing the Church and about how the Spirit is moving among us today. At the invitation of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, national Catholic organizations like the Catholic Labor Network were also invited to participate in this process.
We answered the call by organizing five synod listening sessions conducted via zoom – including one special listening session exclusively for Catholic union members, and another specifically for priests and religious active in ministering to workers. Facilitated by Jeff Korgen of Korgen Associates, the listening sessions sought to discern how the Church is responding to workers in the current day.
A number of common themes emerged from the discussions.
Participants were enthusiastic about the social teaching of the Church regarding workers, and many could point to examples in the past of pastors or religious who had shown their support for workers by visiting workers’ homes, union halls and picket lines. However, they found it harder to identify contemporary examples of Church leaders preaching on worker justice from the pulpit, much less inserting themselves in recent worker struggles. Many believed that today’s bishops and priests had lost interest in Catholic Social Teaching, focusing on other issues. As one participant observed, “the principles are there, but the Church’s teaching on workers is not talked about—we have a rich social doctrine that should be discussed widely.” They suspected that seminaries were failing to instruct on Encyclicals like Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno and Laborem Exercens.
Perhaps most concerning, participants in every group pointed to instances where the Church as employer failed to live up to Catholic Social Teaching. Some in parish ministry indicated that they earned less than a living wage; construction workers pointed to wage and hour violations on Church construction projects. Others noted how often Catholic schools, colleges, hospitals and nursing homes resisted workers trying to organize unions. “We willfully ignore our own teaching because it’s easier or more convenient. It’s frustrating because that hypocrisy is what pushes people away from the Church,” one participant stated.
The results of the Catholic Labor Network synod listening sessions have been submitted to the USCCB. There they will be synthesized with the results of other listening sessions around the United States and submitted to Rome in preparation for the 2023 Synod of Bishops.
For the full report from the Catholic Labor Network synod listening sessions, CLICK HERE.