US Bishops Call for Good Jobs, Wages for All

Address New Social Contract in Labor Day Message

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WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 24, 2010 ( The U.S. bishops are calling for a new social contract to meet the challenges of today’s economy, to help workers and the unemployed and affirm the human person.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement titled «A New ‘Social Contract’ for Today’s ‘New Things'» on the occasion of Labor Day, which will be celebrated this year on Sept. 6.

The statement, written by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the conference’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, acknowledged that «this year has been difficult for many workers.»

The prelate recalled the workers who lost their lives in a mining accident in West Virginia and the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

He also acknowledged the suffering of those who are jobless «or have a family member or friend who is among the fifteen million unemployed or the additional eleven million workers who only can find part time work.»

«This is a pervasive failure of our economy today,» the bishop asserted. «Despite many efforts, our country and our economy have not recovered from the financial and economic failures that overwhelmed us three years ago.»

He acknowledged that «we cannot create many new jobs unless there are new investments, initiatives, and creativity in the economy.»

«Many are calling for a new ‘social contract,'» Bishop Murphy observed. «They suggest that this is a crucial moment in American history in which America is undergoing a rare economic transformation, shedding jobs and testing safety nets as the nation searches for new ways to govern and grow our economy.»

Church social teaching

In the search for these new methods, he noted, the Church has much to offer, as «more than 100 years of Papal ‘social encyclicals’ have given the Church a number of principles based on the Gospels and the lived experience.»

«To all these Pope Benedict has added a new theological vision expressed by the very title of his letter: ‘Caritas in Veritate,’ or Charity in Truth,» the prelate affirmed.
He noted that «one of the principal ‘new things’ addressed by Pope Benedict is globalization.»

The bishop continued: «As a Church with a long tradition of bringing the light of the Gospel to the concrete social, economic, political, and cultural questions of the day, Pope Benedict reminds us this Labor Day that we as a nation and people do not live in isolation, we influence and are influenced by our brothers and sisters in all the nations, economies, and cultures that make up this globalized world.

«More than ever, the dignity of the worker is a foundation upon which we should measure much of what is good, and not so good, in the financial, industrial, and service sectors of our economy and our world.»

Bishop Murphy affirmed that «people without work retain their innate dignity as a human person; they lack, however, one of the major avenues for self-expression and self-fulfillment.»

«Work is that aspect of life that allows us to care for ourselves and those we love and to contribute to the wider society,» he added.

The prelate acknowledged that «it is not the role of the Church to propose a concrete economic blueprint for the future,» but he added that «the words of Pope Benedict should remind us that a key, perhaps the key, to overcoming the current economic situation is to unleash the creative forces of men and women.»

Person centered

He continued, «People, not things, must be the center — and the ultimate measure — of new initiatives for our nations’ economy, as well as the economies in which we are in competitive and cooperative relationships around the world.»

«Placing the human person at the center of economic life advances the cause of justice,» the bishop stated.

He affirmed, «A good job at good wages for everyone who is willing and able to work should be our national goal and a moral priority.»

«In light of this and similar issues,» he noted, «perhaps the call for a new ‘social contract’ should be cast in the context of a globalized economy and seek a renewed development of the relations among the three sectors of market, state, and civil society.»

The chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development offered six criteria «to evaluate policies and institutions» and to move forward «at a time of economic distress and uncertainty.»

These criteria included: respect for human life and dignity, subsidiarity and solidarity, respect for marriage and family life, priority for the poor and vulnerable, recognition of cultural diversity, and the right to economic initiative and productive work.

«This Labor Day we must seek to protect the life and dignity of each worker in a renewed and robust economy,» Bishop Murphy said.

He urged, «A new social contract, which begins by honoring work and workers, must be forged that ultimately focuses on the common good of the entire human family.»

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