- Prayer and Worship
- Beliefs and Teachings
- Issues and Action
- Catholic Giving
- About USCCB
Labor Day, 1996 comes in the midst of a national election campaign. Our
country is facing a series of economic issues, choices, and proposals.
It also comes two months before the Tenth Anniversary of the Catholic
Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Economic Justice. In this Labor Day
Statement, I wish to share some of the reflections of the Catholic
Bishops on the continuing challenges of the economic pastoral. Their
statement, "A Decade Alter Economic Justice for All," provides a vital
moral framework for reflection as we celebrate this Labor Day and
prepare for Election Day.
Ten years ago, our pastoral letter insisted that the measure of our economy is not only what it produces, but also how it touches human life, whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person, and how it promotes the common good. Economic decisions have human consequences and moral content; they help or hurt people, strengthen or weaken family life, advance or diminish the quality of justice in our land.
On this Labor Day, in the midst of this growing national debate on economic life, the Catholic community must continue to speak for poor children and working families. The U.S. bishops have pointed out our nation must reduce its deficits, reform welfare, reshape its foreign assistance, and reorder national priorities. However, the fundamental moral measure of these policy choices is how they touch the poor in our midst, especially children and families who struggle against economic, social, and moral pressures that leave them poor and powerless.
In the last few weeks, we've seen welfare legislation adopted and signed which cut resources and reallocated responsibilities, but failed to provide the decent jobs and protect vulnerable children which are at the heart of real welfare reform. The welfare debate was driven more by fiscal and political factors, than by the needs of poor families. The nation desperately needs real welfare reform. Sadly, this measure targeted hungry children and legal immigrants, instead of the economic and moral forces which leave a fifth of the nation's children in poverty. As the bishops have pointed out, poor children, workers, and families may not have the most powerful lobbies, but they have the greatest needs. We welcome a broad debate on economic life, but we cannot support a retreat in the fight against poverty and economic injustice.
All this takes place in an economy marked by paradoxes. Profits and
productivity grow, while many workers' income and sense of security
decline. The younger you are in America the more likely you are to be
poor. One-quarter of our pre-schoolers are growing up poor in one of the
richest nations on earth. It often seems that when the government
reports job increases, the stock market declines on those days. Some
businesses cut jobs and prosper while their workers pay the price for
downsizing. Parents wonder whether their children will live as well as
As the bishops' reflection pointed out, the power and productivity of the United States economy are leading not to one nation, but three nations living side by side:
One economy is prospering and coping well with the challenges of global economy and the information age, growing more powerful and productive. In this economy, people are creating businesses, surfing the web, and managing their investment portfolios;
A second is being squeezed by declining real incomes, frightened by corporate downsizing and fearful about keeping their jobs and health care. In this economy, people wonder whether they can afford a good education for their kids and a decent retirement for themselves;
A third community lives on the margins of our economy. Families, often without fathers, jobs or a living income, are the signs of an economy that leaves millions behind. In this economy, people wonder whether they can pay the rent or afford food at the end of the month.
As people of faith, we believe we are one family, not competing classes. We are sisters and brothers in Christ, not economic units or statistics. We must come together around the values of our faith to shape economic policies that protect human life, promote strong families, create decent jobs, and reduce the level of poverty in our society. A decade alter the pastoral, it remains clear that the moral test of our society is how the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable are faring. And by this standard we are falling far short.
In their Tenth Anniversary statement, the bishops cite a number of key
questions. Several are particularly appropriate for this Labor Day
By accepting this message, you will be leaving the website of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This link is provided
solely for the user's convenience. By providing this link, the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops assumes no responsibility for,
nor does it necessarily endorse, the website, its content, or