Readers of the CV blog likely will be interested in reading this letter released today by Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison, WI. His letter is an important supplement to the statement released by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki last week.
In sum, contrary to several media reports, the Church is not “backing” the union position. Neither is it backing Gov. Walker. Instead, the Church begins with the question of what will ultimately serve the common good, and recognizes that there are good arguments on both sides that must be weighed.
The official position of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference is: “Neutral”
As for the obligations of the faithful, Morlino explains:
The teaching of the Church allows for persons of good will to disagree as to which horn of this dilemma should be chosen, because there would be reasonable justification available for either alternative.
The question to which the dilemma boils down is rather simple on its face: is the sacrifice which union members, including school teachers, are called upon to make, proportionate to the relative sacrifice called for from all in difficult economic times? In other words, is the sacrifice fair in the overall context of our present situation?
At a time when all are called to sacrifice, this question requires a weighing of the relative sacrifice which all are called upon to make, so that a judgment about just proportions can be made by each one of us.
At the end of his letter, he quotes from the John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens:
“Just efforts to secure the rights of workers who are united by the same profession should always take into account the limitations imposed by the general economic situation of the country. Union demands cannot be turned into a kind of group or class ‘egoism,’ although they can and should also aim at correcting — with a view to the common good of the whole of society — everything defective in the system of ownership of the means of production or in the way these are managed. Social and socioeconomic life is certainly like a system of ‘connected vessels,’ and every social activity directed towards safeguarding the rights of particular groups should adapt itself to this system.
“In this sense, union activity undoubtedly enters the field of politics, understood as prudent concern for the common good. However, the role of unions is not to ‘play politics’ in the sense that the expression is commonly understood today. Unions do not have the character of political parties struggling for power; they should not be subjected to the decision of political parties or have too close links with them. In fact, in such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes.”
As Bishop Morlino says, definite “food for thought”