Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Catholics & the Unions

As public employee union's struggle with state governments continues to dominate the news, the response of American Catholic leadership is instructive, as this article from the Catholic Register reveals.

An excerpt.

“MADISON, Wis. — Union protests in the Midwest have prompted a muted response from local Catholic bishops, signaling that the once close bonds of Church and labor leaders have loosened in recent decades. But it also indicates that a new generation of bishops approach hot-button economic issues in a more nuanced way.

“Last week, as throngs of public employees converged on the Madison statehouse to protest legislative efforts to curb their right to collective bargaining and cut benefits in Wisconsin, Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee issued a carefully worded statement that acknowledged the rights of workers, but included a pointed caveat: “It does not follow from this that every claim made by workers or their representatives is valid.”

“Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities,” said Archbishop Listecki, president of the Wisconsin Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“This week, as union protests spread from Wisconsin to Ohio and Indiana — and, possibly, Oklahoma and Tennessee — Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, also issued a statement of “support for and solidarity” with the Wisconsin bishops’ statement on the rights of workers.

“Bishop Blaire’s letter, released on Feb. 23, seemed to give additional weight to the rights of workers, within the framework of Catholic social teaching.

“But the day after his letter was released, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison also issued a statement that made a point to describe the Wisconsin bishops’ position as “neutral.”

“Should one support or oppose the legislation which regulates union procedures? The Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC) has chosen a neutral stance because the present dilemma comes down to either a choice for the common good, of sacrifice on the part of all, at times that pose immense economic threats, both present and future on the one hand, and on the other hand, a choice for the rights of workers to a just compensation for services rendered, and to the upholding of contracts legally made,” wrote Bishop Morlino in a Feb. 24 column in his diocesan paper, The Catholic Herald.

“As Catholics, we see both of these horns of the dilemma as good, and yet the current situation calls many of us to choose between these two goods. Thus the WCC [Wisconsin Catholic Conference] has taken a neutral stance, and this is the point of Archbishop Listecki’s recent statement, which I have echoed,” said Bishop Morlino.”