Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued the annual Labor Day statement on rebuilding after the devastation of the global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.
“This Labor Day is a somber one,” Archbishop Coakley noted. “The COVID-19 pandemic goes on. Economic circumstances for so many families are stressful or even dire. Anxiety is high. Millions are out of work and wondering how they will pay the bills. And for workers deemed ‘essential’ who continue to work outside the home, there is the heightened danger of exposure to the virus.”
Yet, drawing on a new book of reflections on the pandemic by Pope Francis, Archbishop Coakley focused on the messages of the prophet Isaiah and the book of Revelation, that in the midst of this suffering and distress, God is “doing something new.” As Archbishop Coakley wrote, “[t]he good news is that injustice does not need to have the last word. The Lord came to free us from sin, including the sins by which we diminish workers and ourselves.”
Archbishop Coakley asked readers to examine their own purchasing choices, to ensure that the workers are “treated with dignity and respect,” are afforded safe working conditions, and “receive a just wage.” He also proclaimed the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to be a “sign of great hope springing up at the roots,” and lifted up the work of Catholic Charities and Catholic health care providers during the pandemic.
Archbishop Coakley concluded by calling for solidarity and asking all to respond to the Psalm this Labor Day, “Lead me in your justice, Lord.” (Ps 5:9).