I was on Fox News last week doing an interview with right-wing talking head Stuart Varney. He began what became a very hostile interview by charging that the labor movement is using Pope Benedict's Papal Encyclical for political purposes, part of our effort to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
Given, what the Pope wrote, that charge may be the only defense of the Right against the Pope's clear, unambiguous, and strong language: "Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum (60), for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level."
Sounds like an unambiguous call for the Employee Free Choice Act to me.
Pope Bendict's Encyclical Letter called "Caritas in Veritae" or "In Charity and Truth" seems to be a guide for the social teachings of the Church in a time of profound global economic change.Certainly, as we've shown the Pope is clear about the necessity of unions and workers rights, but he is also critical of the kind of greed and unfettered capitalism that has led the US to yawning inequality and economic crisis:
"Profit is useful if it serves as a means toward an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by an improper means and without the common good as its ultimate ends, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty... The world's wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase. In rich countries, new sectors or society are succumbing to poverty, and new forms of poverty are emerging."
And what does the Pope say about the common good?
"The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbors, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practice this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influences he wields in this polis. This is the institutional path -- we might also call it the political path..."
So he is calling for political action based on his words. On politics and market economics the Pope also says: "Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also takes responsibility.
Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, it detached from political action, conceives as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution."
I'm neither a Roman Catholic scholar nor a Biblical scholar, but I can read and the Pope's language is crisp and clear. He has laid out the moral imperative for all of us to engage political action to bend the market towards the common good, to restrain the greed of the markets, to protect workers and collective bargaining rights, to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, and to see that those rights and other aspects of the common good are not sacrificed on the altar of profit for profit's sake.
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