As I minister within the immigrant community here in Long Island I am becoming more aware of how important it is for us as ministers of charity and justice to pronounce on social principles that some of us have taken for granted. The rhetoric that is used to lambaste labor unions, critique the living wage campaign, and redefine the right to work as simply providing cheap labor opportunities (think of the so called “right to work laws” recently passed in Indiana and Michigan) demonstrates that we have forgotten the painful historical lessons of the Great Depression and unregulated capitalism. Catholic social teaching’s very first document, Rerum Novarum, was critical of this profit focused market economy and this led our Church to support the organized labor movement.
In the midst of talking about economic justice and the nation’s financial struggles we tend to ignore the plight of those who now suffer from the hardship of a growing cheap labor market. While the immigrant community continue to be subjected to these struggles we discuss economic and labor policies while averting our eyes to their reality. Fortunately the Catholic Church has not forgotten its original social message. Catholic News Service quoted Pope Francis offering this reflection during his May 1st early morning Mass:
“Today many social, political and economic systems have chosen to exploit the human person” in the workplace, by “not paying a just (wage), not offering work, focusing solely on the balance sheets, the company’s balance sheets, only looking at how much I can profit. This goes against God!”
Please reflect on this statement and the video below where Pope Francis shares his concern for workers on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.