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. Liz

    Unions are a good thing, but not when they protect bad teachers, bankrupt a company or even a State!

    March 2, 2011 at 5:02 am |
    • tattoo

      Ur right about that truely

      March 2, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  2. Pax

    Think gay marriage and abortion?? Nice try Dan, you almost had me brain washed there. LOL! It's surprising that the Church is supporting union workers and US Catholics being open to other issues is not surprising? Like abortion and gay marriage?? Really? You had a quote there that the pope seems to support the unions workers and you were still surprised? When did you hear the pope said he now thinks abortion and gay marriage is okay or any reason for saying that the most US Catholics now identify with issues like... think abortion and gay marriage? (It's a lie of course.) Nice try though, for inserting your "other" issues not related to the Church support for union workers, and made it seem that the Church is bad that it's surprising that the Church supports what the Church thinks is good for the people and make the Church's followers good for not following the Church's position in issues like – think gay marriage and abortion – by telling a lie by saying that the most US Catholics identify themselves with gay marriage and abortion LOL! You made a poll to get your fact? And they are still considered Christian Catholics?? The Lutherans and the Anglican Protestants are gradually going back to the Catholic Church for those reasons so I'm not sure how you arrived at that statement that US Catholics mostly identify themselves with gay marriage and abortion when US Protestants have started to convert to Catholicsm because they identify themselves with the Catholic teachings which is strongly against abortion and gay marriage, which TRULY is not surprising at all. Heck, it was even published here on CNN, don't you read your own news?

    March 2, 2011 at 4:55 am |
  3. ObjectiveOpinion

    Isn't that a yamaka he's wearing?

    March 2, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  4. tim daring

    Its time for american people to stand together without goverment who steals from the people! who brains washes us and makes us belive in things that arent true. wants to take are taxes dollars and do what they want! this is america school teachers should never worry about if they have a job we pay taxes for that! we should put are taxes dollars to work to bring george w. bush justice! for the way he has srewed the people of america but we want to blame obma who now is the true fall guy for george w. bush crimes!

    March 2, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  5. Damn Fools

    The church needs to worry about thier priest making moral decisions and how they are going to get rid of all the Pedophiles in there ranks not whether union workers should have collective bargaining rights.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  6. Joe Public

    With this said the Catholic Church is supporting the slavery of workers to union bosses !! The Catholic Church would do better to look into itself and expose and help prosecute all the child molesters in it's midst. It is time we take away all tax breaks and advantages given to churches.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  7. Dave

    The Republican party on worker's rights issues is like a Catholic Priest on child right's issues. You distrust the usual crooks because their true intentions are always worse than you think.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • jojo beats

      so true ,so true

      March 2, 2011 at 5:09 am |
  8. brown

    Is this the pedophile church talking about morality again?

    March 2, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  9. jen

    If u are RIGHT, then she has nothing to lose! But, if u are WRONG, then u lose everything! God bless!

    March 2, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  10. AskBrad

    If the church wants to play government games, they should immediately have their tax exempt status revoked "for the good of the people (taxpayers)". By the church paying taxes, they would be helping those they are lobbying with. Billion$... Think about it. God doesn't want our country to be in debt. Barry Sotello doesn't have the balls to do it, anyway.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  11. Blue

    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.

    I was ok until I read this. I know what sin he will be confessing. Starts with an L ends with a G rhymes with crying.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  12. Patrick

    It is easier for a camel to pass through the Eye of the Needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. The Koch Brothers are rich, the teachers and other union members, by and large, are not.

    March 2, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Justina

      Patrick, the passage means no human can be saved on their own merit. The greedy gets more severe punishment but the impossibility is just the same for both, rich or poor. Everyone needs to have faith in Jesus for salvation and change life from its foundation by God's Spirit. That's what it means.

      March 2, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  13. valwayne

    The Catholic church should support fairness for workers, but the public employee unions in Wisconsin have been treated so fairly that they are driving the state deep into debt and possible fiscal collapse. And the Catholic church should be completely opposed to corruption in all its forms, which means it should be opposed to the corrupt deal between the public employee unions and the democrats in which the unions bribe the democrats with billions to elect them and then the democrats pay them off with wage and benefits beyond what is reasonable and what the state can afford. Supporting that corruption benefits the public employee unions, but horribly damages everyone else.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • passing thru

      it is interesting that last week as Governor Walker was decrying Democrat participation and planning on sending undercover agents into the protesters, he was signing legislation to subsidize dairy farms. But in your world, the Wisconsin budget deficit is only due to government workers.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • jojo beats


      March 2, 2011 at 5:06 am |
  14. YouRWrong1

    Who cares what the catholic church has to say? I was born and raised in a catholic household. Confirmed in the Catholic church. They are centuries behind the rest of the world in social evolution. The official stance of the Catholic church is that the planet is only 4000 or so years old. What a joke. Religion is the bane of human existence. Only when we devoid ourselves of this pathetic dependence on these false gods will we truly evolve as a race.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Paul

      You are exactly right but the reality is our fellow humans for the most part are too lazy to think as individuals and WEAK they need to believe in childish things to give their lives meaning and hope to carry on

      March 2, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • Brian

      You say that "The official stance of the Catholic church is that the planet is only 4000 or so years old." This is false. The Catholic Church supports both the Big Bang Theory and Evolution. The Big Bang Theory was in fact first developed by a Catholic Priest, Georges Lemaitre.




      March 2, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Justina

      Catholic Church teaches God created the universe. Interpretation on the actual length of Hebrew word "day" in Genesis may differ according to individual Christians, though the time lapse is no issue to our Almighty God. Also, the number of 6,000 years has some meaning so far. I think God created the billions-year-old looking universe in 6 solar-days. Atheists can never explain why there is something instead of nothing in this world. The Bible answered it in the first line: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

      March 2, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Liz

      The Churches position on Creationism does not at all teach that the Earth was created 4000 years ago...this person is making this up! They follow science and know that the Earth is 4.5 Billion years old. The Churches job is to protect and teach the Truth's of Jesus Christ and how to get to Heaven, our true home.

      Your false god is materialism. Repent.

      You are ignorant of your birth Church and should not be spouting off this ignorance to convince others of falsehoods.

      March 2, 2011 at 4:58 am |
    • Pax

      How funny how ex Catholics start with
      "Oh I'm born and raised a Catholic so I know what I'm talking about and been there done that and so I have more authority to bash the Catholics and the Church than those of you who haven't been a Catholic so listen to me." LOL.

      Yeah, I was born and raised a Catholic too, and I'm STILL a Catholic so shut the fck up

      March 2, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  15. 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 11:42 pm |
    • Justina

      Wisconsin Christians will never give up Christianity because it alone has salvation, no other religions especially atheism.

      March 2, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Daws

      That's funny Justine, I just heard a Muslim and a Jew say the same thing about their own respective religions...

      March 2, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  16. Ryan

    The church has zero moral authority, no intellectual authority, and no spiritual authority. A bunch of gold clad, pointy hatted, walking tombstones.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Justina

      The Church rescued mankind for 2,000 years all over the world by feeding the hungry, visiting the most neglected, healing the sick, educating illiterates and providing the life-giving Gospel. You guys would have been dead bodies if there weren't Church's help. God will bless Church until the end of the age until she finishes all her good works on earth.

      March 2, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Blue

      Ryan that was a very nice way to describe the lack of credibility the Vatican earned. They are only hear to teach and opress the world with their BS. Where did your precious relics come from? Ripped out of the hands of dying , bleeding hands in the name of the Pope and greed.

      March 2, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  17. BionicBub

    If churches paid taxes, it would be a different story, but since the government stays out of churches, then it would behoove the churches to stay out of government. Period.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • DudeMan

      Churches do pay taxes, payroll, property, locality and state taxes. Their employees also pay taxes on wages.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • margot707

      Dudeman – Educate yourself. Payroll "taxes" withheld from employees have nothing to do with income or property tax from which churches are exempt. Churches DO NOT pay property tax to local governments or income tax to the IRS or any state or local government.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  18. tenspeed

    I have not and will not support unions or their actions. I can always find another job, besides, their usefulness has gone to the wayside. Their time has expired.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • john

      you are and idiot

      March 2, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • munkirench

      You have forgotten your labor history. In order to maintain the hard won rights we now see under attack we must have Unions.

      March 2, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Daws

      I guess someone doesn't like things they got us in the past such as say, a weekend >.<

      March 2, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Joe Public

      Well said, the unions of today are a version of slavery to the working man.

      March 2, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • IBB

      The ONLY thing that keeps the working man from being completely screwed by "The Man" are UNIONS. Take away the unions, and watch the rich get even richer.

      March 2, 2011 at 4:33 am |
  19. Rich Zubaty

    The guy sounds like Obama. He’s all in favor of whatever is good and right and makes people happy, but he doesn't really want to commit himself to anything at this time.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  20. dsallen

    His pink hat really completes the look.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
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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.