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Jesus H. Christ, why aren't we making a huge deal out of the Pope's pronouncement this week that God Himself supports labor unions?!

God wants unions to expand their influence into all aspects of society, according to Pope Benedict.

Maybe we all missed it, due to the (lack of) media coverage, but this should be a huge boost to the Employee Free Choice Act!  As a union leader myself, I'm thrilled to have the support of the Creator of the Universe, Jesus, the Pope, and the Catholic Church!

Take that, conservative "religious" leaders who preach against unions in general, and specifically against EFCA.

Angelic trumpet-blast details below the fold!

This week, Pope Benedict released the third encyclical letter of his papacy, "Charity in Truth."  This is a big deal, years in preparation.  An encyclical letter is the highest form of papal teaching.

This one is about the economy.  Media coverage has focused on the fact that the Pope blames banks and big business for the current meltdown.  But to me the real news is how strongly he supports labor unions!

Wow, thanks Pope, you rock!

Here's a link to the official Vatican site of the complete text, if you want to read all 144 pages:

It's worth reading, because it's scholarly, thoughtful, well-written, and based in love.  Sometimes, due mostly to the Catholic Church's anti-abortion focus, we forget that the Church can be surprisingly liberal.

If you want just a couple of quotes from the encyclical on labor unions, here you go:
"Budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers' associations. 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 labour 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 honoured 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."

"While reflecting on the theme of work, it is appropriate to recall how important it is that labour unions — which have always been encouraged and supported by the Church — should be open to the new perspectives that are emerging in the world of work. Looking to wider concerns than the specific category of labour for which they were formed, union organizations are called to address some of the new questions arising in our society: I am thinking, for example, of the complex of issues that social scientists describe in terms of a conflict between worker and consumer. Without necessarily endorsing the thesis that the central focus on the worker has given way to a central focus on the consumer, this would still appear to constitute new ground for unions to explore creatively. The global context in which work takes place also demands that national labour unions, which tend to limit themselves to defending the interests of their registered members, should turn their attention to those outside their membership, and in particular to workers in developing countries where social rights are often violated. The protection of these workers, partly achieved through appropriate initiatives aimed at their countries of origin, will enable trade unions to demonstrate the authentic ethical and cultural motivations that made it possible for them, in a different social and labour context, to play a decisive role in development."

Update: Many people who have commented on this diary have missed my point, and instead have used this as a place for anti-Catholic views, or to proclaim that this is "nothing new" because the Church has supported labor unions for over a hundred years.

The point I was trying to make, and I guess didn't do very well, was this: Right now is a key moment for the union movement, with the potential to unionize lots and lots of workplaces, IF we can get the Employee Free Choice Act passed into law.

Unions are the key to a better life for hundreds of thousands of workers who are currently underpaid and have little or no benefits. And at this key moment, the Pope issues a rare encyclical setting church law holding up labor unions as the answer to most of society's problems.  Wow!

Regardless of whether you love or hate the Church, regardless of whether you think this is nothing new, you must see this is great support for the union movement from a world leader who is followed by a billion people, right when we need it most!

In my line of work, this is going to be a huge help.  With Wal-mart and other adamantly anti-union companies spending millions to defeat the labor movement, it's going to be great to tell workers who are on the fence about this issue: OK, Wal-mart is against unionization, but the Pope is for it.  Who do you trust?

It's a tool, and I'm going to use it. I'd appreciate any help I can get.

Originally posted to itsnotbutter on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 02:26 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Excellent diary! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob B, Dirtandiron

      I'm too beset with office emergencies to have read it yet, but that's one encyclical I will read and cite.

      Good catch.

    •  The Right to Form and Join Unions... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, h bridges a right long recognized by the Catholic Church for years and many popes, so that aspect, while very much always welcome to hear is not really anything new, The Same goes for the skepticism directed at the worship of the free market

      Other aspects such as Bendect's call for an international body to regulated the economy and his call for governments to do more to regulate the economy put him firmly to the left of President Obama and the Democratic party.  Those who buy into this absurd notion that President Obama is a "socialist" are in for quite an eye opening.  That is if the media will give it any coverage.

  •  This could be used as a wedge... (11+ / 0-)

    To pressure Catholic Republicans.  We have got to try and get the media to pay attention to this.  I agree with you that this isn't insignificant, and if we work at this we can make this work for a card-check EFCA.

    •  I heard... (12+ / 0-)

      Carville was on today talking about this (side note: I didn't know he was Catholic).  He said that he had always been accused of being a 'pick and choose' Catholic by his conservative Catholic friends.  And then he said, "Well my friends, welcome to the cafeteria!'

      [Journalism] is media agnostic. - Kos

      by RichM on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 02:40:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  nearly all Catholics are "cafeteria Catholics" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        How many of 'em actually obey the law against birth control?  1%?  2%?

        It's just that the conservative Catholics pick the stuff that screws over people, instead of stuff that helps people.

    •  Powerful stuff (8+ / 0-)

      He challenges the whole notion of some amoral "invisible hand" thery of how economics should work.

      The Church's social doctrine holds that authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity can also be conducted within economic activity, and not only outside it or "after" it. The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner.
      The great challenge before us, accentuated by the problems of development in this global era and made even more urgent by the economic and financial crisis, is to demonstrate, in thinking and behaviour, not only that traditional principles of social ethics like transparency, honesty and responsibility cannot be ignored or attenuated, but also that in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity. This is a human demand at the present time, but it is also demanded by economic logic. It is a demand both of charity and of truth.

      The Church's social doctrine has always maintained that justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity, because this is always concerned with man and his needs. Locating resources, financing, production, consumption and all the other phases in the economic cycle inevitably have moral implications. Thus every economic decision has a moral consequence

      This really powerful.  Imagine... applying moral principles to the question of all economic decisions instead of being a slave to the "open market."

      Too bad that the GOPers will point to the few paragraphs where he mentions the continued opposition to contraception and abortion.

      "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing glove." P.G. Wodehouse

      by gsbadj on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 02:51:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As another diary on this pointed out (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RoIn, gsbadj, Dirtandiron

        yesterday, the Pope emphasizes the need for economic and government policy to focus on the "common good."

        I commented that focus on the common good, like the virtue of empathy, are things that fundamentally distinguish Democrats from Republicans.

        I have a feeling this is going to end up being a very famous and influential encyclical.

        It amounts to a damning of Wall Street, among other great features.

      •  The Economy Exists to Serve the People (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gsbadj, Dirtandiron

        The notion that the economy exists to serve the people, and that the people do not exist to serve the economy has been a staple and a mainstay of Catholic Social Teaching for many, many years.

        On the other hand, Catholic Social teaching has often been called the church's "best kept secret" and given that the media would rather cover other stories than this encyclical suggests that won't change any time soon.

        •  It's hardly surprising (0+ / 0-)

          Abortion and contraception are easy issues to cover and the Church's teachings are especially easy, i.e. they're always wrong.

          The social teachings require a lot more more explanation.

          As for the economy existing to serve the people and not the other way around, I remember Pope JP II giving an amazing sermon in Detroit at the Silverdome to that effect after reading the Gospel of the parable of the workers and the owners of the vineyard.  Here it is.

          "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing glove." P.G. Wodehouse

          by gsbadj on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 04:16:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  How did I miss that one... (0+ / 0-)

    I am always so attentive to him.

  •  Now I'm worried. (0+ / 0-)

    I believe in the separation of church and work.

    This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

    by itzik shpitzik on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 02:35:11 PM PDT

  •  Tipped and recced (6+ / 0-)

    This could make a real difference. Or it could not, if anti-Catholic sentiment is still seen as acceptable in the areas represented by Blue Dogs.

    They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

    by Ponder Stibbons on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 02:35:55 PM PDT

  •  come read Populorum Progressio (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Timaeus, RoIn, gsbadj, Dirtandiron

    From Paul VI

    or a few handy one liners

    While i'm polish american and therefore have a softspot for JPII, I really like the works of Paul VI


    •  Argh. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, h bridges

      Paul VI was a tormented conservative soul who slowly took a sledgehammer to the spirit of Vatican II. His tortured logic and endless waffling on contraception leading up to his final formal rejection of it led Catholics to flee the Church by the millions.

      And don't get me started on John Paul II. He sure dug the rock star part of being Pope, and happily stood in front of cheering throngs around the world. Yet he was so uninterested in actually running the Church that he nearly destroyed it. Day to day management tasks were left to a small clique of Polish priests in far over their heads, with disastrous results. From the Vatican's near-bankruptcy by the Banco Ambrosiano scandal to its torpid non-response to the pedophile crisis, no one was in charge. John Paul II at the wheel, but nobody driving.

      The few active achievements of John Paul II included the willful destruction of Latin America's vibrant populist "liberation theology" movement and the intentional stacking of the College of Cardinals with reactionary incompetents. And the response of the Church to the exploding pedophile priest scandal defies belief.

  •  As much as it pains me to say it, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Timaeus, dirkster42, Dirtandiron, firemage

    this is good work from the pope.  I am not a fan of his but this one is good.  Your observation about the Church being liberal is true, at least when it comes to issues of social justice.  That's what has so many Catholics on the fence.  Ordinarily, our beliefs would make us Democrats.  Abortion puts us in a position of having to choose between it and all the other real issues of life.  I'm guessing I won't be hearing much about this in church, either, now that so many bishops, priests and lay people have bought into the whole GOP agenda.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 03:07:45 PM PDT

    •  And the right thing to do, I believe, is to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      luckylizard, Dirtandiron, firemage

      go to Mass every Sunday...and vote in every election as a Yellow Dog Democrat. I regard myself as pro-life AND pro-choice; it's a respectable position.

      U.S. Catholics have voted Democratic in 8 of the last 12 presidential elections, including the last one. They're natural Democrats.

      •  The U.S. Bishops' Statement (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Timaeus, Dirtandiron, firemage

        last fall was a surprise to me.  It was very clear that abortion, while still considered wrong, could not be the only yardstick by which to measure candidates.  pdf

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 03:23:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  US Conference of Catholic Bishops (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Timaeus, luckylizard, Dirtandiron

          The U.S. Bishops' Statement (1+ / 0-)
          last fall was a surprise to me.  It was very clear that abortion, while still considered wrong, could not be the only yardstick by which to measure candidates.

          The wording was changed from previous years, but the message in this statement was the same as it has been ever since the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has been issuing such statements.

          A handful of hard right bishops have been attempting to hand the American church over to the Republican party, but they are in the minority -- an extremely vocal minority to be sure and one that the media wants to pander to, but a minority nonetheless.  

          •  I'm finding this out, more and more. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Timaeus, RoIn, Dirtandiron

            We have some really vocal whack jobs in our parish and I really hadn't been hanging out with Catholics from other churches.  Now that I'm teaching at a different Catholic school, I was pleased and surprised by the number of Obama supporters.  None of us was terribly vocal at work but we managed to find each other :-)

            -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

            by luckylizard on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 04:04:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Possibly (5+ / 0-)

    Because it's not particularly novel. The Catholic Church's support for unions has been around for a while, since Rerum novarum in 1891.

    Don't get me wrong, it's good that he said it. But it doesn't constitute a big change in church doctrine.

    •  It is a change, though (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RoIn, dirkster42, Dirtandiron, firemage

      The change is the Pope's emphasis that unions are needed now "even more than in the past."  

      Also new: his charge to unions to expand beyond their own industry and country of origin.

      I'm sure a lot of conservatives will be surprised to learn that the Pope says God is on the side of the workers.  Let's get EFCA passed, and get that card sign-up going!

  •  idiotic Pope (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Why do we even care what the pointy hatted old fool thinks? I couldn't give a ratsass what the head of an organization that has tortured and murdered millions has to say. You shouldn't either. It's high time we stop giving the old goat coverage and it's time that politicians stop going over and kissing his ass.

    Remember St. Bartholamuews massacre!

    •  eh? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RoIn, dirkster42, Dirtandiron

      Well first there are 1 billion catholics in the world. There are few groups more than 100 years old that don't have the blood of millions on their hands from some method or another, take out own nation for example.

      Why are you trolling something that will help the case of the progressives? Also dragging out the French Wars of Religion which where not directly linked to the vatican, what about when the French turned on the catholics hunting us and chasing us from the country. (while i'm half polish my dad's side is french catholic)


      •  The french (0+ / 0-)

        . . .turned upon the catholics BECAUSE of the atrocities they committed. And the notion the french wars were not directly attributed to the vatican is revisionist history: the pope at the time was so proud of the carnage that he minted a medallion to commemorate the vicious act. prized by numismatic collectors, one side has a graphic depiction of the slaughter and though the vatican would love for it to go away, you can google it for yourself. The fact is, the vatican was complicit in the crimes and also fought valliantly for centuries against science and medicine. That is simply fact.

        I am sorry if you are decended from french catholics. I am decended from Hugonauts and the stories still run fresh in my family.

  •  I'll believe it when Pope says "Dorothy Day". (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, Dirtandiron

    The day the Vatican and the Pope openly embrace the life and legacy of Dorothy Day is the day I'll believe the Church is serious about progressive social ministry.

    It's all well and good to champion workers rights and progressive causes in the abstract. It's a whole 'nuther thing to embrace, support, and build a true progressive Catholic workers movement, openly supporting and building up the power of labor unions. We haven't seen anything like that since the 1960s. And I'll eat my hat if we see it now.

    •  here's the problem (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Not too many liberal Catholics really want to remain in the church, or do much with it, because of all the bullshit you have to endure before you even get to Dorothy Day's vision of Catholicism.

      So what the Church is left with - at least in America - are a bunch of right-wing loons who don't bother to learn about most of the social teachings.

  •  Spare me. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    h bridges

    The church is only liberal in ways that don't affect their business of collecting money from people who were indoctrinated as children.

    If priests were trying to unionize to get higher pay from the church, I guarantee you the Vatican would be just as slimy, corrupt, and backwards on the union issue as they are when it comes to human sexuality.

    •  Damn that's a great comment (0+ / 0-)

      That reminds me of how, about 20 years ago, the Catholic Diocese in Los Angeles crapped all over the union movement amongst the workers at the Catholic cemeteries.  It really exposed the church leadership as hypocrites.

    •  Actually, the U.S. Conference of Bishops (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, Dirtandiron

      just released a document about protecting workers rights and unions within Catholic health care providers.

      "The heart of this unusual consensus," he said, "is that it is up to workers -- not bishops, hospital managers or union leaders -- to decide ‘through a fair process’ whether or not to be represented by a union and, if so, which union, in the workplace."

      Fahey said that although the document is addressed to the health care field, it could mark a major watershed for all labor relations in the U.S. church -- in Catholic schools, colleges and universities and even diocesan and parish employment.

      "It’s firmly rooted in Catholic social teaching" on workers’ rights, he said.

      "Never separate the life you live from the words you speak" -Paul Wellstone

      by WellstoneDem on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 05:18:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "God" wants more money in those collection plates (0+ / 0-)

    The decline in Catholic membership and the decline ofenrollment in private and parochial Catholic schools have been attributed to an ailing economy.
    I think these fiscal conservative religious institutions have finally preached themselves out of a job. Stagnant and declining wages, over the years, have put less disposable income in the pockets of their "customers". Now they're finally beginning to care about the general economy, of which the working class is the backbone(too little too late).
    It's all about money. The Pope would never be promoting organized labor(which pisses off corporate contributors) if those collection plates haven't drying up.

  •  Why didn't this make the rec list? (0+ / 0-)

    When you see the SEIU ad, do a shot!

    by djtyg on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 10:37:49 PM PDT

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