By Jeremy Tobin, O. Praem
Pro-life means all of life, not just the beginning and the end. The church addresses this in its social teaching.
Catholic Social teaching is based on 5 principles:
1 Sanctity of human life and dignity of the person.
2. Call to family, community, and participation and the pursuit of the Common Good.
3. Rights and responsibilities; social justice.
4. Preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.
5. Dignity of work.
Six years ago, Pope Benedict XVI boldly reaffirmed Catholic teaching on labor and labor unions in Caritas in Veritate. Rejecting arguments that labor unions were no longer needed under modern work conditions, the Holy Father contended that in our modern globalized economy “the repeated calls issued within the church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the for the ” promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must be honored today even more than in the past.” (U.S. Catholic)
There is more in recent papal and episcopal teaching.
Pope John Paul II, On Human Work, #49, 1981
“Workers have the right to form associations for the purpose of defending their vital interests . . . The experience of history teaches that the organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies.
“Catholic social teaching . . . hold that unions are . . . indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people in accordance with their individual professions . . . It is characteristic of work that it first and foremost unites people.
“In this consists its social power: the power to build a community . . . It is clear that, even if it is because of their work needs that people unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.”
Pope John Paul II Centesimus Annus, 1992
“ . . . The freedom to join trade unions and the effective action of unions . . . are meant to deliver work from the mere condition of ‘a commodity’ and to guarantee its dignity.”
“ . . . The right of association is a natural right of the human being . . . Indeed, the formation of unions cannot . . . be prohibited by the state because the state is bound to protect natural rights . . .”
Bishops of Appalachia, This Land is Home to Me, 1973
“The real power of the labor movement . . . is the vision that an injury to one is an injury to all . . . We know, also, that as they grow stronger, they will be attacked; that other forces will try to crush them . . .”
Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 1963, #18ff
“It is clear that (the human person) has a right by the natural law not only to an opportunity to work, but also to go about (that) work without coercion. To these rights is certainly joined the right to demand working conditions in which physical health is not endangered, and young people’s normal development is not impaired. Women have the right to working conditions in accordance with their requirements.
“Furthermore, and this must be especially emphasized, the worker has a right to a wage determined according to criterions of justice and sufficient therefore . . . to give (workers and their) families a standard of living in keeping with the dignity of the human person.”
I quote these papal teachings on labor unions to illustrate that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with the labor movement.
Workers have a right to vote to have a union. They also have a right, not to be intimidated in any way to carry out what is legally permitted.
As has been reported there will be a march in Canton Mississippi Saturday, March 4, to demand a vote by the workers of Nissan whether or not to choose to have a union. What we are demanding is not more or less than what has been cited in papal teaching.
(Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem, lives at the Priory of St. Moses the Black, Jackson.)