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Catholic Church voices support for unions, to a point
Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome L. Listecki says there's “moral obligation… to respect the legitimate rights of workers.”
March 1st, 2011
01:40 PM ET

Catholic Church voices support for unions, to a point

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

With the Roman Catholic Church in the United States mostly identifying with conservative political causes these days - think abortion or gay marriage - seeing the American bishops come out for union workers battling Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came as something of a surprise, a throwback to an era when the church was pretty well aligned with the American left.

“These are not just political conflicts or economic choices; they are moral choices with enormous human dimensions,” Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in a public letter last week.

“The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining are not simply matters of ideology or power, but involve principles of justice, participation and how workers can have a voice in the workplace and economy,” his letter said.

At the same time, the bishops are not actively lobbying on behalf of labor in Wisconsin or in other states where union/statehouse battles are playing out.

“We’re not preparing anything else,” U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spokeswoman Mar Munoz-Visoso said Monday.

“The bishops of each state have the opportunity to participate in the dialogue and to bring Catholic teaching to that dialogue,” she said.

It’s a sharp contrast to how the church approaches some other issues, like abortion and immigration reform, on which the bishops have staked out a liberal line. On those issues, the bishops have used their political muscle to lobby Congress and other public officials.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin issued a statement (PDF) on Walker’s call for curbing collective bargaining rights that sounded sympathetic to unions, but he is refraining from further activism, a spokesman says.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome L. Listecki weighed in on the unions’ battle with the governor in February, saying that “hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.”

It is a “mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth,” Listecki’s statement said.

He quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote in 2009 that “the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend (workers’) rights must … be honored today even more than in the past.”

But a spokesman for Listecki said Monday that the archbishop and the broader church would refrain from further activism in the fight between workers and Walker.

“The role of the church is not to be partisan or to take sides; it’s always to teach,” said Jerry Topczewski, Listecki’s chief of staff.

The archbishop has turned down many requests to appear at rallies for and against Walker’s plan, Topczewski said.

He said Listecki’s statement last week has been cited by both supporters and opponents of Walker’s proposal and noted that the statement did not offer unqualified support for unions.

“Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities,” the archbishop’s statement said.

“Depending on who you talk to, you would think the archbishop is the biggest union supporter or the biggest union buster in Wisconsin,” Topczewski said.

Either way, the Catholic Church is staying on the sidelines of the nation's current labor battles for now, letting its public statements speak for themselves.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Politics • United States

soundoff (251 Responses)
  1. Rich

    Solution for budget crisis and get out of the RED = TAX THE CATHOLIC CHURCH !!!!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  2. Andre

    The Catholic Church used to be aligned with the American left? How about the American left used to be aligned with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church hasn't changed...

    March 1, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Andre

      You asked: "The Catholic Church used to be aligned with the American left? How about the American left used to be aligned with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church hasn't changed..."

      Mostly due to right to life issues.

      Cheers!

      March 2, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  3. AIC

    tax the catholic church !!

    March 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  4. jimmy

    support for swaping boys, has been part of the catholic chruch for a long time .....evil ,,,,

    March 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  5. jean hollis

    Support for workers' rights to organize is part of Catholic Social Justice Theory and has been for a long time

    March 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  6. jimmy

    how they survive so misguided is a mystery -molesting innocent children for centuries......

    March 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  7. Tool

    creepy mother fu*ke*rs !! evil fu*kS

    March 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  8. scarmadella

    make these pedophiles pay taxes then there will be plenty of money for the unions !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  9. josh wilson

    well lets see,this would be heresy back in the days.has God changed his views or did man?

    March 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  10. scarmadella

    make this corrupt organization pay taxes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  11. scarmadella

    The church was created for pedophiles and you simple minded people keep supporting them and there lawsuits ...... let alone all the blood spilled in the name of this insidious religion !

    March 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  12. MIKE

    THE CATHOLIC CHURCH NEEDS TO KEEP ITS NOSE OUT OF WISCONSIN

    March 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • ???

      Are you OK when they oppose abortion and gay marriage? I sort of want to know if you hold the belief they should be quiet on a consistent basis or only when they disagree with you.

      March 1, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @MIKE

      You said: "THE CATHOLIC CHURCH NEEDS TO KEEP ITS NOSE OUT OF WISCONSIN"

      I am very happy the Church is helping to protect collective bargaining. The poor and middle class need to wake up, and expel the Republicans who would enslave them.

      Cheers!

      March 2, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  13. Reality

    Wisconsin Christians should stop supporting their outdated religion monetarily and send said support to the state thereby solving the budget crises. Ditto for all other religions.

    March 1, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  14. GSA

    @gerald and @The Bobinator – so many posts wasted. You guys disagree and nothing you say here will change the others mind, both of you have your opinions and don't care about what anyone else says. If you take a good, hard look both of you will see that you are both right. Why not praise the fact that the Catholic Church does a lot of good in the world with respect to charity and good will and try to further this good deed yet also accept that the Catholic Church has many ppl in it that need to be removed and are evil and others at the top and all fellow members have to take responsibility, step-up, speak out and help weed these ppl out.

    March 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • gerald

      The CC is a hospital for sinners more than a hotel for saints. Granted.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @gerald

      Hmmm... Physician heal thyself, comes to mind.

      Cheers!

      March 2, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  15. brad

    This is old stuff. Pope Leo XIII was a champion of working peoples' rights in the late 1800's. Read Rerum Novarum. Ninety years later, Pope John Paul II wrote Laborem Exercens. Tough reading but worth it. John Paul II was also a great light to the Polish Solidarity movement which touched off the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

    March 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  16. Luigi Enrico Pietra d'Oro

    Religion is nothing but politics and Jesus is a brand based on myth and manipulation. Take these religious pundits, remove their costumes of power and put them all in a hot tub and who would take them seriously? Jesus never came to save anyone. The new book, The Second Coming, The Last Parable of Jesus will settle all the prophesies and debates about the second coming and the ned of days. Read it and finally relax in the truth instead of the anxiety that comes from elitist propaganda. Get the BOOK from http://www.revolvingdoorbooks.com

    March 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • brad

      Luigi, I'm guessing you already agreed with the book before you read it.

      March 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  17. The Bobinator

    > The Church does not have legal authority to prosecute anyone.

    You are correct. However, it thinks that it has the right to obscure the facts from law enforcement as they have publically stated not too long ago (in the past two years). Tell me, by what right does the church not report incidents of se-xual abuse?

    Perhaps you should take your blinders off. If you're tired of hearing about pe-doph-ile priests, perhaps you should stop supporting the organization that hides them from law enforcement.

    March 1, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  18. pitung

    The church should not intervene with politics. Their duties are to convert sinners to come to God and repent. Like cardinal Mahoney who is compassionate for immigrants – which is good , but notlove for illegals! He also should not get involved in immigration matters – he should prosecute the pedophile priests – which he did not do!

    March 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • gerald

      Every time the Church speaks someone wants to silence it. Ah yes pedophile priests. That is the easy comeback for those who don't agree. It's gotten rather mindless. The Church does not have legal authority to prosecute anyone.

      March 1, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • AIC

      the catholic church should continue to do what they do best, hurting innocent children – they are from Satan the Devil evil !!!!!!!!! they should be shut down ! atleast tax these evil fu*ks

      March 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • gerald

      Then schools should shut down and there should be no sports either. There are a higher percentage of teachers and coaches who prey on children than priests. Fact.

      March 1, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • gerald

      AIC clearly you have no clue what the Catholic Church does. They provide more shelter, food, hospitals, schools etc. for those in need than any other organization. And a very small percentage of priests have been even accused of these crimes, let alone convicted. All people like you do is vent prejudice without facts.

      March 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @gerald

      You are using a narrow definition of prosecution to protect the rcc. The rcc should have applied every rule and penalty available within their cult *and* they should have turned the criminals offer to the civil authorities. In other words, they should have prosecuted a war on child abusers within the rcc and they did not. As a result, they have lost whatever high moral ground they might have once had, and really should shut up until they repair their reputation which has been damaged solely by their own actions, not the media's, or non-believer's, or anyone else.

      March 1, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Please add abortion to the wish list of things the Catholic Church should stay out of.

      Cheers!

      March 2, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  19. The Bobinator

    Umm, who cares what the Catholic Church says. When they start showing that they're more interested in the public good then their own good, then they might have a point worth evaluating.

    March 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • gerald

      Clearly you pay little attention to the great amount of public good that the Catholic Church does. Schools, Hospitals, shelters, food, etc. etc. The Catholic Church provides more support around the world for the underprivledged than any other organization.

      March 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > Clearly you pay little attention to the great amount of public good that the Catholic Church does.

      Clearly you pay little attention to the overall percentage of funds that go out of the church coffers vs the total amount. Clearly you ignore the fact that the church encourages myth such as "Condoms spread aids" in Africa. Clearly you are apathetic to the fact that the church hides pedophile claims from the authorities.

      You choose to focus in on the good and only the good. You choose to ignore the evil.

      The evil acts far outweigh the good my friend. A millionaire giving a thousand dollars is not as great as a poor man giving a dollar.

      March 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • geraldh

      I don't ignore the evil. All you are showing is your prejudice. What you ignore about all that money going in is that a HIGH percentage of it goes out to the needy. I've seen the work done by places like the Dorthy Day Center and Sharing and Carin hands. You clearly don't have a clue about that. I know the programs that go on in my local parish. I know the money that goes to the people of hati. I've been in Catholic hopitals and schools and seen the great amount of activity. You seem to think all this is happening for free while the Pope and Bishops sit in a pile of coins. Again you look with disdain at what you have no real understanding of and simply hate because it disagrees with the all great and knowing you.

      March 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • geraldh

      by the way condoms fail 15% of the time according to CDC statistics. So that's kind of like russian roulette if you ask me. Do you play russian roulette often?

      March 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      by the way condoms fail 15% of the time according to CDC statistics. So that's kind of like russian roulette if you ask me. Do you play russian roulette often?

      Seatbelts fail to save the lives of a 15% of people who are in serious accidents. That sounds like russian roulette if you ask me. Do you play russian roulette often?

      I wrote that to show you how absolutely moronic your reply is. If you don't wear a condom, you have close to a 100% to catch the disease. If you do, you have a 15% chance to catch it according to your statistics.

      Which is better for the overall population.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > I don't ignore the evil. All you are showing is your prejudice.

      Yes, because prejudice is defined as making a conclusion based on acts and fact.

      > What you ignore about all that money going in is that a HIGH percentage of it goes out to the needy.

      4% is a high percentage? It's not even more then the interest they accrue on the funds they have.

      > I've seen the work done by places like the Dorthy Day Center and Sharing and Carin hands. You clearly don't have a clue about that.

      So, you seeing two care programs qualifies you to make commentary on the entire organization. That's a rather silly statement.

      > I know the programs that go on in my local parish. I know the money that goes to the people of hati. I've been in Catholic hopitals and schools and seen the great amount of activity.

      So what? Despite "Seeing" all this occur, it certainly hasn't given you perspective on what's going on.

      > You seem to think all this is happening for free while the Pope and Bishops sit in a pile of coins.

      The vatican is worth trillions. TRILLIONS. If not more. Why is it that they are not giving out more cash then they accure in interest?

      > Again you look with disdain at what you have no real understanding of and simply hate because it disagrees with the all great and knowing you.

      Yes, because I've never been a Catholic. Oh wait. I have. You're blinded by your own bias. Much how like I was. You lack any real information on the subject and therefore postulate what you want to hear rather then what is.

      Time to wake up. Do a bit of research on your own from non-biased sources.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • gerald

      I am not the moron I am afraid. You think like a fool. First of all you compare apples to oranges. If it were 15% of all drivers you might have a point except that driving is a neccessary activity to live in the world today. Further, driving does not increase with the use of seat belts, increasing the problem. Sx is addictive and the frequency of it greatly increases with condom use, thus removing some of the benefit of preventing disease. See if your mind can wrap around that. I doudt it. Thirdly it is really quite stupid to blame the CC for the lack of use of condoms. You see, Catholic teaching is against sx outside of marriage. So violating Catholic teaching is hardly the deterent you think it is and the cause of anything. Once again you have only shown ignorance. But please try again. I enjoy this.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • gerald

      "4% is a high percentage? It's not even more then the interest they accrue on the funds they have."

      4% of what? This makes no sense. How much do they have an how much goes to the good? You don't have a clue and can't give me the numbers because you don't have them or if you do there are some clueless calculation you think you are doing. Man for dumb.

      "So, you seeing two care programs qualifies you to make commentary on the entire organization. That's a rather silly statement."

      I gave examples. Not a complete list. Why don't you open a phonebook and you can find hundreds more. How stupid.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • ???

      I think 2 > 0

      March 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @geraldh

      Like seat belts, condoms have to be used correctly.

      Wikipedia:
      The primary effectiveness issue with using condoms to prevent STDs, however, is inconsistent use.

      Some studies have associated larger penises and smaller condoms with increased breakage.
      This is why I always buy the magnums. For most, the snug or pee wee size will be more than adequate.

      Cheers!

      March 2, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • David Johnson

      @gerald

      “When priests preach against using contraception, they are committing a serious mistake which is costing human lives.” With this distinctly undiplomatic language, Peter Piot, head of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), voiced the international community’s continuing distress over the Catholic church’s policy on condoms. “We do not ask the church to promote contraception, but merely to stop banning its use,” Piot told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper following the United Nations’ conference on AIDS this past summer.

      The three-day special UN session stressed the need for nations to begin to talk plainly about AIDS in response to a catastrophic pandemic that has taken 22 million lives in less than 20 years. The final conference doc ument specifically noted the need for countries to expand access to condoms within five years.

      Apparently the Catholic church was not listening to the unprecedented statement that many took as a sign that the world was finally ready to deal with the AIDS epidemic in a serious way.

      Archbishop Javier Lozano, who headed the Vatican delegation to the meeting, called for a prevention strategy revolving around “matrimonial fidelity” and “chast ity and abstinence,” while excluding “campaigns associated with models of behavior which destroy life and promote the spread of the evil in question”—a clear reference to the safe $ex and condom education campaigns that the meeting delegates had affirmed as essential to halting AIDS.
      Source: By Patricia Miller, former editor of Conscience and director of writing and research at Catholics for a Free Choice

      Cheers!

      March 2, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  20. Nonimus

    But!....?!?
    "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord." (Col 3:22)

    March 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      Haven't you heard? With attendence numbers dropping, the Roman Catholic Church has been dropping the less "crazy" nonsense from the bible and trying to become more modern and hip. Heck, didn't they say that evolution should be considered valid at one time?

      I mean, look at what happens to the fundies when they continue to spout that nonsense. They're laughed at and proven to be wrong in the realm of science and law.

      March 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > Haven't you heard?

      A-well-a, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
      A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
      A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, well, the bird is the word
      A-well-a, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
      A-well-a, don't you know about the bird
      Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word
      A-well-a, bird, bird, b-bird's the word

      March 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Bobinator
      Surfin Bird?
      If that indeed is your postulated theory, then I'm afraid logic dictates but one valid response.

      Poppa ooo mow mow
      Poppa ooo mow ma mow

      March 1, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • scarmadella

      This coming from a church created from PEDOPHILES ! keep supporting the pedophiles !!

      March 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Frank S

      " 1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you."

      March 1, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Frank S

      The above verse is from James 5.

      March 1, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Frank S,
      Good to know... I guess.

      March 2, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.