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. Rob

    Church positions should be ignored since they are tax exempt. Its called seperation of church and state. They want to voice there opinions and help sway public policy go ahead, but then they need to be taxed and taxed alot.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  2. jma58

    The government is corrupt all the way to and including the supreme court. Religions are also a form of government and are also corrupt. Sooner or later one or both will be the downfall of this country.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  3. steward

    John Paul II was more explicit in his support of Solidarnosc (Solidarity.)

    March 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  4. Rich Zubaty

    How come everybody else's comments are being posted and not mine!

    March 1, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Oviously yours are, or at least one of them is, else I wouldn't be able to reply...

      There is not a live moderator. There is a lousy piece of soft-ware that is checking for word fragments that are found in naughty words. Things like s3x, c-um, t!t on about 40 others. You should be able to find a post with many more examples. Once you learn to avoid them (and HeavenScent has not even after numerous replies such as this) your posts should go thru immediately.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  5. chris

    hey bobinator, GOD loves you. No matter how much evil tries to do it, hell will never prevail against the Church. She always stand for the meek and humble . Mother Theresa is a shining beacon on a hill. She represented core values of the Roman Catholic Church. Unions are necessary to protect the core values and repect the dignity of all workers regardless of profession. The Church wants to respect the dignity of all workers.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  6. MikeBell

    When churches take political stances they should lose their tax exemptions. That is when they have established themselves as a political faction rather than a place for 'personal' ethics.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  7. YBP

    The church should be ignored entirely. It is out of date and foolish. It has nothing to do with the imaginary god of the ancient Middle East or any of his so-called sons. It's a conservative politcal force that has zero credibility. It doesn't get an opinion about what goes on in the real world, particularly in the 21st century. Ban religion.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  8. fsmgroupie

    125 is only a start. Imagine how many more child raping priests there are in central and south america where the victims are still too afraid to speak out. This has been going on for too many years. Start protecting the children from these sickos. Stop protecting these priests by moving them around from one parish to another.The pope knows it's happening and the pope before him also knew and did nothing. The extreme nuts are the child rapists Drew and those who protect them!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  9. Jay

    Ahh babylon the great, harlot... Still fornicating with the kings of the earth by emersing yourself in politics at every level. Your hour of destruction is coming.

    March 1, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  10. Evan

    The Catholic Church has long supported labor unions, this is nothing new. If you were to look deeper into Catholic social teaching you would find that our beliefs on social/economic/culture/governance issues cannot be corralled by a single political party.

    March 1, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  11. Steve

    Nice job catholic chuch....spend all your energy on opposing abortion and then shy away from an issue that contributes to abortion...lack of a family wage due to exploitation.

    March 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  12. fsmgroupie

    Untill the church stops protecting those priests who r-a-p-e-d thousands of children they should keep their foul traps shut.

    March 1, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • Drew

      Really, that's what you think. let's see oh yeah over 125 preists have been prosecuted or will be. several are in jail. You my friend need to turn off Bill on HBO and look around you. you are no better than the extreme nuts out there.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Kevin

      That's great, but if you think there are only 125 pedophile priests, you are mistaken. That's probably 5-10% of the true number, if not less. If you can name a case where the church actually outed a pedophile before the police started investigating, I'd love to see it.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Steelrain6

      While we are adding up the numbers, make sure to include all the union teachers/coaches who have been accused and convicted of touching & raping kids

      March 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  13. wwajdblogger

    All Christians should support the Catholic Bishops' position - that is, express an opinion about a "moral issue of justice," but then sit on their hands and don't do anything about it. Like the Catholic Bishops, I think American Jesus would preach in favor of the workers and their right to collective action, but then he would slink away and have dinner at his followers' house and stay out of the fray.


    March 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  14. Rick

    Churches can opine just like you nimwits. Who says they are playing in the political arena? This is a moral issue, they are saying.

    March 1, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  15. the truth

    Churches are immoral

    March 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Truth

      No moron, you're immoral... and THAT'S the Truth!

      March 1, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • The Truth

      FYI... that was not me.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  16. Nskgti

    How about the Catholic church (and all other churches/temples/mosques) start paying taxes? Seems pretty straight forward. If they want a voice in politics, they need to pay taxes also. There is supposed to be a separation of church and state for a reason.

    March 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Luigi Salami

      FIX THE BUDGET. TAX THE CHURCH. I like that idea.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  17. scribe

    US is broke/n and secession is the only solution. Why hasn't any one claim to have a plan for the deficit? Because it is impossible under our current government. Soon or later US is going to default on its debt and all we are doing is forcing the future generation to sign IOUs before they can vote. Wisconsin needs to become an independent nation now, vote for a new government to keep its tax money locally. The federal government needs to face bankrupcy just like any other company that can't compete.

    March 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Rabid Rabbit

      States don't have a right to secede; that question was settled in 1865. Secession is okay, as long as you leave and don't take the land with you. Otherwise it's the Civil War all over again, and I'll be wearing Union blue like my ancestors.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Calvin

      On Wisconsin!

      March 1, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Lee

      Actually Rabid that would be an interesting question. We (the U.S.) seem to support the breaking up of other countries and permitting people to choose their government, so why if people from the south want to form their own govenment, shouldn't they be permitted to?

      March 1, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • El Gordo

      In the last Civil War, my ancestors wore gray, and as Sam Houston predicted they suffered for it. This time my family will fight for the union. I haven't picked up a rifle since Vietnam, but I'm not too old to pick one up again.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  18. sdfghjukil

    Abortion is disgusting and classless,and gay marriage is disgusting and perverse. That's my view,and I have a right to voice it. I will not give into political correctness – its pure evil.

    March 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • SB

      No one is trying to censor you. There's no need for pretense. Now hold your head high for freedom! And also while I punch you in the face for what you just said.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Rabid Rabbit

      Bigotry is disgusting and hateful, and self-righteousness is disgusting and egotistical. That's my view and I have a right to voice it. I will not give in to ignorance - it's pure evil.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • MCdingleberry

      Try giving in to correctness.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Truth

      Hey Rabid Rabbit:

      I take it you're looking into the mirror. You must hate yourself since you are bigoted against Christians and you are the one that's self-righteous, since you do not have the righteousness of Christ. And ignorance, every morning you look at it's manifestation in the mirror.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Luigi Salami

      Yeah, you sound like a really kind and tolerant person, one of the people who use to lynch folks, and burn others at the stake.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Michael

      Just like you dislike blacks because they commit crimes? I like your views, discriminatory with a pinch of a god-complex.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Truth

      Blacks? How did black people get involved in this? The original comment concerned abortion and gays. Let me guess, your philosophy is as follows: when angry or losing a fight, call or insinuate that your opponent hates blacks. (Grow up). I like your views, discriminatory with a pinch of a Godless sarcasm.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • chuck

      Ignorance is pure evil

      March 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Truth

      Sin is pure evil.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Makoto Yogoku

      Gay marriage is not disgusting, and if you think it is disgusting, you need to ignore it and let people do what they want.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • El Gordo

      I asked my drill sargeant in 1970 if he would like to know my opinion. He said, more or less, "Soldier, opinions are like anal orificies. Everybody's got one."

      Your bizarre opinions are the product of your own mind. You are welcome to them. I hope you are never in a position of power.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Michael

      Stereotyping a group based on religious beliefs is just as bad as hating people for the color of their skin. We know magic isn't real, it is no excuse. So Truth stfu 😀

      March 1, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  19. David

    Why does the catholic church feel compelled to open its yapper about anything and everything. Who gives a s**t what they have to say... bunch of shylocks...

    March 1, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Rob

      A bunch of Catholics might

      March 1, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  20. IceT

    This has all the earmarks of a strategic positioning for the inevitable future battle to take away the tax exempt status of religions. Religions love to play in the political arena but yet pay no taxes. How can that be justified while others are being forced to tighten their belts to balance budgets in this economy?

    March 1, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Horvath

      FYI: It's not the religious right that has created this, 'tax exempt' status bit. Being tax exempt goes all the way back to Constantine in the 4th century.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • john/kc

      Many churches are lavish, own much real property and pay huge salaries to the pastors. We, as taxpayers, subsidize these churches by not only paying our own real estate taxes, but must pay the church's tax also. This is wrong. Separation of Church and State should mean no special tax abatements. Real estate tax should be the same for all private homes, businesses, and churches.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • IceT

      Horvath... As true as that may be it still makes no sense to allow tax exempt status to continue .. for anyone. Especially an industry as big as the religion industry. Everyone clammers for businesses and Industry exec's to pay more but yet the religion industry's execs pay none and the business itself pay $0. Absolutely crazy.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:09 am |
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About this blog

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.