One hundred and twenty-nine years ago this Sept. 5, the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City, according to the Department of Labor’s Web site. One hundred and twenty years ago, Pope Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum, the preeminent encyclical on labor and the church. And seven months ago, Catholics learned or relearned what the church says about labor and unions.
Peace & Justice
WASHINGTON -- The chairmen of the U.S. bishops' international and domestic policy committees urged the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- popularly known as the "supercommittee" -- to remember the poor and vulnerable as they come up with a plan to deal with the nation's financial deficit.
"In this effort, you will examine endless data, charts and alternative budgets," said Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in their Aug. 31 letter.
"Behind all those numbers are people we serve every day in our parishes, schools, hospitals, shelters and soup kitchens. The poorest and most vulnerable do not have powerful lobbyists, but they have the most compelling needs and a special claim on our individual consciences and national choices, especially in these times of massive joblessness, increasing poverty and growing hunger," they said.
Times are tough and the “street talk” at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen shows it: “I can’t pay the rent. I’m back on the streets tomorrow cuz they cut $40 bucks off my check ... Hey, they took my psych meds, they cut me off Medi-Cal, and now I heard that checks won’t be sent next month ...” Recent vitriolic debates in Congress and the denigration of voices calling for mutual responsibility all reflect the degree to which the values of the marketplace have displaced our sense of the common good.
The questions began in June, almost immediately after the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky announced a three-way merger that would bring it under the umbrella of a Catholic health system. If the hospital is to follow Catholic directives on medical care, citizens and media organizations asked, how would the community maintain access to reproductive services previously offered? How would end-of-life decisions be affected? And what impact would these changes have on the city’s poor?
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear weighed in on the issue in July, saying in a statement that the hospital will have to explain how it will continue its “public mission” to the community before the state would approve the merger. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway echoed these concerns while Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz stated his commitment to preserving Catholic moral and social teaching, inviting those with questions to study closely the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” (ERDs), which are guidelines prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hoping to quash a push by activists for a citywide vote on the construction of a major new nuclear weapons facility, the city council here voted yesterday to block placement on a fall ballot of a petition that could halt nuclear work at the site.
WASHINGTON -- The head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in an annual Labor Day statement, likened today's workers and the difficulties they face to those who inspired Pope Leo XIII's landmark encyclical of 120 years ago, "Rerum Novarum", ("On New Things").
The encyclical on capital and labor ushered in the era of Catholic social teaching.
"Over 9 percent of Americans are looking for work and cannot find it. Other workers fear they could lose their jobs. Joblessness is higher among African-American and Hispanic workers. Wages are not keeping up with expenses for many," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., committee chairman, in the statement.
"Countless families have lost their homes, and others owe more on their homes than they are worth. Union workers are part of a smaller labor movement and experience new efforts to restrict collective bargaining rights," he continued. "Hunger and homelessness are a part of life for too many children.
WASHINGTON -- As Florida's Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution for Manuel Valle, clearing the path for him to be put to death Sept. 6, the state's Catholic bishops urged Gov. Rick Scott to stop it.
The unanimous court lifted the stay Aug. 23, upholding a lower court finding that a new drug to be used for execution meets constitutional standards. Florida, like other states, has had executions put on hold over the last couple of years while new drugs were sought to replace one that has become unavailable for executions.
In their letter to the governor, Florida's bishops urged Scott to stay Valle's execution on the grounds that: "Killing someone because they killed diminishes respect for life and promotes a culture of violence and vengeance."
The letter, which was dated Aug. 3 and released publicly Aug. 23 by the Florida Catholic Conference, conceded the state's right to impose the death penalty "when absolutely necessary, that is when it is otherwise impossible to defend society. However, given the ability of Florida to protect its residents by incarcerating inmates for life without possibility of parole, we pray you will exercise that option."
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN -- The air seemed still as a large iron bell was struck once, then again, then six more times, totaling eight. Each sound was allowed to drift and echo through the crowd, which numbered some 50,000. The clock read 8:15 a.m. -- 66 years to the minute from humankind’s first dropping of an atomic bomb with intent to kill.
Gathering from around the world, people came here Aug. 6 to commemorate the anniversary with a solemn dedication to recalling the names of the more than 200,000 killed in the 1945 bombing.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Discipleship and service were two key issues addressed during the Aug. 3-6 assembly of the Congregation of Major Superiors of Men in Orlando.
"Jesus' celebration of the Last Supper in the Gospel of John becomes the occasion for Jesus to explain and to present the life of discipleship as participation and identification with the life of Jesus," said Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in his keynote address at the CMSM assembly.
Cardinal Turkson outlined how leaders of men's religious orders, and the priests and brothers under their care, can better exercise discipleship.
WASHINGTON -- Now that the so-called debt ceiling crisis is over for the time being (no one except a few tea party Republicans were actually willing to cast the United States into a political and economic quagmire that could have thrown this country and the entire world into a new Great Depression), the real work on future U.S. social/tax policies begins.