Catholic Social Teaching, Work, and a Jobless Recovery | Fr. Father George E. Schultze, SJ | CWR
Catholic social doctrine supports both justice for workers and the promotion of marriage and the family; they are not separate concerns.
Two years ago, Dr. Rupert J. Ederer wrote in Inside the Vatican that while Karl Marx’s economic theory proposed inevitable class conflict, Father Heinrich Pesch, SJ’s (1854-1926) theory focused on social justice (giving what is due to others) and social charity (giving what is yours to others) as the surest means to promote the common good. When one reads solidarity in Catholic social encyclicals, then one must remember Pesch. He argued for a solidaristic system of human work, drawing from Scripture and Church tradition. Work is not just what happens at one’s job; it encompasses the interdependence of our lives in the family, community, nation, and world. On the one hand, our individual interests, according to Pesch, could either support or detract from the common good; on the other hand, the state—while playing a valid role in society—is neither the sole judge of the common good nor the best administrator of private property. He believed that society prospers when workers and their employers organize with each other rather than against each other.
Pesch’s understanding of the moral theology of St. Thomas Aquinas was central to his use of solidarity, which is grounded in Christian neighbor love, the Beatitudes, and the Church Fathers’ social teaching. His use of solidarism rejected both the injustice of Marxist collectivism that would deny freedom, and a capitalist, self-interested individualism that could lead to greed. The upholding of justice and the self-giving in charity of solidarism remain vital to the common good. Pesch’s contribution to Catholic social teaching is useful for reflecting upon the present state of unions and the national work force.
The current situation
The United States is experiencing a jobless recovery with 10.2 million unemployed workers that account for 6.6 percent of the work force. Each month thousands of jobs are created, while at the same time thousands of new workers enter the work force; the economy, unfortunately, is creating too few jobs for the growth in the working population.