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Rights and Duties of Catholic Employers

April 20, 2013

In the United States,  there is a lot of emphasis on the rights of Catholic employers to be exempt from any mandate to provide health insurance plans including contraception. But of course, we know that the Catholic understanding of right differs from the standard liberal one – in the former, you have a right to something so you can discharge a corresponding duty, whereas in the latter, you have a right not be coerced as long as it doesn’t bump up against the corresponding rights of others.

So perhaps we should shift the focus a bit from the “rights” of Catholic employers to the “duties” that underpin these rights. And this is clear – they have a duty to provide a just wage (which is not the same thing as the market wage); to provide decent employment conditions, including adequate leave and benefits; and to support the role of unions. This is by far the most important thing. So important, in fact, that then-cardinal Bergoglio singled it out as an instance of whether it would be appropriate to receive communion or not. From John Allen:

“Francis does not address the question of whether bishops should administer communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians, but he hints at how he might handle it in the context of talking about Catholic business leaders who refuse to pay employees a just wage.

“In certain situations, I do not give communion myself; I stay back and I let the ministers give it because I do not want those people to come to me for the photo op,” he says.

This is the first issue Francis picks, not whether or not a public figure supports legal abortion or not. Funny how you never hear this example being used in the United States, isn’t it?

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6 Comments
  1. Thomas Hostomsky permalink
    April 20, 2013 1:47 pm

    Such is my hope

  2. Chris Sullivan permalink
    April 20, 2013 4:27 pm

    Excellent post ! Establishes the correct priorities.

    “This is by far the most important thing” is exactly correct.

    God Bless

    • T J Hostek permalink
      April 20, 2013 10:29 pm

      Fully agree. Absolutely.

  3. Jordan permalink
    April 20, 2013 4:44 pm

    John Allen, NCRegister: On the sex abuse front, Francis endorses a “zero tolerance” policy and describes the earlier practice in the United States of shuffling problem priests from parish to parish as “stupid.”

    Right on, Pope Francis!

    When did Pope Benedict keep it real and say that the criminal behavior of bishops was “stupid”? Yeah, never.

    I also like that Pope Francis is willing to open up the Vatican archives for research on Pius XII. Francis’s fearlessness is wonderful.

    I may be “high church”, and Pope Francis “low church”. On charity and clarity, Pope Francis takes the high road.

  4. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    April 20, 2013 6:18 pm

    Serious question: would Ave Maria University, started by the pizza king, ever had been built if “just wages” had been involved or invoked?? Would that situation ever have been possible if the entire “tip economy” didn’t exist?? As I see it one of the only reasons the Catholic realm has been able to get by with all these contradictions is because it makes certain Catholics a lot richer. In theory CST says their are rights and responsibilities. But the responsibility part is related to the right part, and I take this as your point, and agree btw. It is just that it turns out that making a go of it in business has always involved accepting “things as they are” with a wink and a prayer. But the right part is always portrayed as a self-evident deduction from Natural Law cryptically evident in the US Founders. here’s hoping Francis’ election will encourage Catholics in the US to be more upfront about how they really conduct business, and the collateral issue that they are no more virtuous than the average. Once you admit what is actually going on, you can improve. The massive pretense involved in the high dudgeon over contraception and abortion, is not a farce because there is no right to hold one’s moral views on such matters. There is every right to hold such views. It is only non-farcical though if it is of a piece with a coherent approach generally. And funding right wing Universities on the basis of the basis of the US tip economy, which we all fund, is purest farce. The cherry on that cake is the lecturing then by those training at such places.

    I realize that I am speaking here to people who don’t like those reactionaries much. Yet the conundrum enters still, I would argue, and can best be shone by anecdote. A few monts back I watched a bit of the coverage of the “Right to Life March” here in DC. At one point some law students from Ave Maria University were interviewed, and their law school dean was present. When asked how they want their legal work to go in the future, one of the students piped up and said this (paraphrasing) : “What we are learning at Ave Maria is that we need to go into the different parts of the US government and tell them ‘this is over’. We don’t need to argue we just need to tell them ‘this is over’.”

    And the law school dean was there chiming with words of approval. This was a great example of the detached-from-reality attitude that is somehow being inculcated in many parts of the Roman Church nowadays. A student at a right-wing Catholic University, funded initially unfair wages and the inchoate tip economy, is producing professors and graduates that further fuel the attitude that all you need to to and tell people “it is over’. Translated, because your view doesn’t count, because you are obviously wrong to us, and so much so, that we will label you de facto murderer of infants. How much further is it to not being able to understand that other people feel differently (even famously Catholics themselves) about birth control in our commonweal. Thus, until the whole “racket” aspect in the genesis of this whole attitude is assessed, there is not chance ironically that anyone is going to take them seriously.

    As I said, it starts with actually assessing reality non-delusionally. Francis seem more realistic, hopefully. What that will look like is actually talking more to Catholic businesses than posturing politically. Because like everything it is based on actual credibility and rep. The fact that the US Bishops don’t have much in our society is always chalked up to anti-Catholicism. Yet in a society where Catholics are the largest religious group that has always made little sense. I think the complex web I have sketched here is a more likely scenario.

  5. April 22, 2013 7:49 pm

    Incredible! Superbly high quality position. I am book-marking this weblog at once. Cheers!

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