Fr. Sinclair Oubre, JCL
The Archdiocese of Washington has recognized the Catholic Labor Network as an Association of the Faithful under Church law. So, what does that mean?
The Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, was the product of the document of Vatican II. The theology contained in the concilliar documents like the Lumen Gentium, Guadium et Spes, and Sacrosanctum Concilium formed the foundation for the norms and prescripts of the new code.
One of the lesser known, but no less important Vatican II documents was Apostolicam Actuositatem, the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. In paragraph 2, the Council Fathers wrote:
They (the laity) exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.
Recognizing that laity had a share in the evangelization and sanctification of the world, Saint Pope John Paul II promulgated canons that recognized and promoted the laity’s apostolic work in the world.
Canon 298 §1 defines the duty of these associations of Catholics who have been recognized by a competent ecclesiastical authority, “In the Church there are associations… in these associations the Christian faithful…strive in a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life, to promote public worship or Christian doctrine, or to exercise other works of the apostolate such as initiatives of evangelization, works of piety or charity, and those which animate the temporal order with a Christian spirit.”
By Archbishop Wilton Gregory establishing the Catholic Labor Network as a Private Association of the Christian Faithful, he recognized that the CLN has a role in “the penetrating and perfecting the temporal order, in promoting a more perfect life, in promoting the Catholic Social Teaching related to worker and workers, in promoting initiatives of evangelization, and in performing works of piety and charity.
Now, when the Catholic Labor Network promotes Catholic Social Teaching relating to work, the cause of sainthood for Servants of God Dorothy Day and Brother Marinus, and collective bargaining among workers, it is doing so no long as a collection of Catholics committed to these activities, but as a recognized Private Association of the Faithful, who have an explicit place in the mission of our Catholic Church.