Reading the signs of the times

The USSCB’s Labor Day 2013 statement:

The current [income] imbalances are not inevitable, but demand boldness in promoting a just economy that reduces inequality by creating jobs that pay a living wage and share with workers some profits of the company. It also requires ensuring a strong safety net for jobless workers and their families and those who are incapable of work. As individuals and families, as the Church, as community organizations, as businesses, as government, we all have a responsibility to promote the dignity of work and to honor workers’ rights.

Since the end of the Civil War, unions have been an important part of our economy because they provide protections for workers and more importantly a way for workers to participate in company decisions that affect them. Catholic teaching has consistently affirmed the right of workers to choose to form a union. The rise in income inequality has mirrored a decline in union membership. Unions, like all human institutions, are imperfect, and they must continue to reform themselves so they stay focused on the important issues of living wages and appropriate benefits, raising the minimum wage, stopping wage theft, standing up for safe and healthy working conditions, and other issues that promote the common good. The Church, in accord with her principles on the life and dignity of the human person, wishes to collaborate with unions in securing the rights and dignity of workers.

Private enterprises, at their best, create decent jobs, contribute to the common good, and pay just wages. Ethical and moral business leaders know that it is wrong to chase profits and success at the expense of workers’ dignity. They know that they have a vocation to build the kind of solidarity that honors the worker and the least among us. They remember that the economy is “for people.” They know that great harm results when they separate their faith or human values from their work as business leaders.

Full text here.

Pope Francis, yesterday, on the situation in Syria:

[B]rothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us! [Off-script: Let’s all say it together: Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!]

Full text here.

Sr. Megan Rice

Do you know about 82-year-old Sr. Megan Rice, her bold actions on behalf of peace (with two courageous companions, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed), and their criminal conviction for them yesterday? You need to. The New York Times reports:

She has been arrested 40 or 50 times for acts of civil disobedience and once served six months in prison. In the Nevada desert, she and other peace activists knelt down to block a truck rumbling across the government’s nuclear test site, prompting the authorities to take her into custody.

She gained so much attention that the Energy Department, which maintains the nation’s nuclear arsenal, helped pay for an oral history in which she described her upbringing and the development of her antinuclear views.

Now, Sister Megan Rice, 82, a Roman Catholic nun of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and two male accomplices have carried out what nuclear experts call the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex, making their way to the inner sanctum of the site where the United States keeps crucial nuclear bomb parts and fuel.

In addition to the Times article, here are some helpful links:

I expect we’ll be hearing more about her in the weeks and months ahead.

Now in Our Sunday Visitor: my article on Pope John XXIII’s peace and human rights encyclical, Pacem in Terris

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Pope John XXIII’s historic encyclical, Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), published April 11, 1963.

The document is historic for many reasons. Consider the list:

  • It was the first papal encyclical to be addressed not just to Catholic bishops or all Catholics, but to “all people of good will.” (This shift was every bit as significant at the time as some of the changes in style that we currently see Pope Francis offering, and it’s now fairly standard practice for papal encyclicals.)
  • It was written in the months following the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was terrifying moment in 1962 when the world stood on the brink of nuclear war and which Good Pope John had a hand in bringing to peaceful resolution. (Time magazine named him Man of the Year just months later.) His credibility as peacemaker was huge, and he chose to capitalize on this with an encyclical on peace.
  • It was written when the Pope knew (but the world did not) that he was dying of cancer. It was his final statement to the Church and the world. He died less than three months after its publication.
  • It was also published during the Second Vatican Council and had a significant impact on the work and the teaching of that Council.
  • It marked a dramatic shift in Catholic teaching. A century earlier, someone speaking about human rights as Pope John did in this encyclical was likely to be labeled a heretic.
  • Fifty years later, it remains the most complete statement there is by the Catholic Church about human rights. It set the stage for the human rights activism of Pope John Paul II, who became one of the world’s foremost voices of his time in defense of the rights of all people.

Wow, that’s an encyclical that’s worth a second look!

That’s what you’ll find in a new article I’ve written that appears in the new issue of Our Sunday Visitor. The article’s available online only to subscribers. But OSV has kindly provided a .pdf of the article as it appears in the issue and given permission to attach it here.  Click here to open it: Pacem in Terris anniversary, OSV