Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Right to Work

THE CHURCH HONORS HUMAN WORK, and sees it as a fundamental good of man. She recognizes it as both a duty and a right. The reason work is both a duty and a right stems from the fact that work is necessary and that it affirms the human person.

Work is necessary for a variety of reasons. It is needed to form and support a family. It is a necessity to support one's right to property. It is needful because it contributes to the common good and to civil peace. The relationship between work and the common good is so intrinsic that the Church views unemployment as a "real social disaster." (Compendium, No. 287) (quoting John Paul II, Laborem exercens)

The Church therefore urges governments to aim, as part of a mandatory objective required by both justice and the common good, to the "full employment" of their citizens. Governments ought to avoid economic policies which frustrate this goal and which result in the denial of, or thwarting of, employment. (Compendium, No. 288)

Governments should also aim to assuring that there be adequate access to education and training. The role of education becomes even more important as the society becomes technologically mature. Also, with the "fluid economic context that is often unpredictable in the way that it evolves," retraining or on-going education is an essential requirement. (Compendium, No. 289, 290)

Finally, there ought to be special solicitude to those who have difficulty in obtaining employment and yet who have both the duty and the right to work: the young, women, less-specialized workers, those with disabilities, immigrants, ex-convicts, the illiterate. (Compendium, No. 289) Special concern should be women, whose "feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society." (Compendium, No. 295). Also, there is frequent exploitation of foreign or immigrant workers to which the State ought to be vigilant to prevent. (Compendium, No. 298) Finally, the exploitation of children and child-labor is a blight that needs to be overcome. (Compendium, 296)

The Church therefore puts a large responsibility upon the shoulders of the State in the area of the employment of its citizens. But her social doctrine ought in no way to be interpreted in a manner suggestive of socialism or Soviet-style central planning. The Church is not advocating by any means politburo-employment. "The duty of the State does not consist so much in directly guaranteeing the right to work of every citizen, making the whole of economic life very rigid and restricting individual free initiative." (Compendium, No. 291)

Rather, the duty upon the State is one of sustaining "business activities by creating conditions which will ensure job opportunities, by stimulating those activities where they are lacking or by supporting them in times of crisis." The principle of subsidiarity is here of critical importance. (Compendium, No. 291) Employment is to be the result of "an open process" and not government dictates, a process essentially free yet responsible, which does not forget the solidarity among men. There is room here for private, for-profit initiative, and for non-profit, volunteer-type arrangements, the so-called "third sector" between private enterprise and public authority.

With the increased globalization of the world's economy, there is a role also to promote international cooperation among the several nation States "by means of treaties, agreements,and common plans of action that safeguard the right to work." International organizations and labor unions also "must strive first of all to create 'an ever more tightly knit fabric of juridical norms that protect the work of men, women, and youth, ensuring its proper remuneration." (Compendium, No. 292) Whether chronic unemployment is in Yuma, Arizona, or in Harare, Zimbabwe, or in Madrid, Spain, all of us are in some manner hurt.

There is an intrinsic connection between work and family life. Indeed, the Church sees that work is "a foundation for the formation of family life." (Compendium, No. 294) (quoting JP II, Laborem exercens) This is one reason why the Church is so concerned in assuring employment. Work allows marriage and family to flourish. It is needed to sustain the family and to allow for its principle end: the raising and education of children.

It is this intrinsic connection between work and family life, that ought to cause a re-appraisal of the relationship between employer and employee. The employment relationship cannot only be thought of in economic terms or in terms of a private contract, though it has those dimensions. But every employment decision has a familial dimension that ought not to be forgotten. So the Church asks everyone involved in the employment process, "businesses, professional organizations, labor unions, and the State," to "promote policies that, from an employment point of view, do not penalize but rather support the family nucleus." (Compendium, No. 294)

The Compendium also addresses the issue of agricultural labor, which requires a specialized or individualized treatment. In many countries, agricultural labor is particularly important to the national economy. In some countries, particularly in Latin America, land ownership is excessively centralized in what are known as latifundia or huge landed estates. The latifundia system is an inefficient, unproductive, unjust system, repeatedly condemned by the Church as immoral. It is closed to the free market, to wide-spread ownership of private property, to ready alienation of property. It requires attention and, in some countries, "a redistribution of land as part of sound policies of agrarian reform" is a moral imperative. (Compendium, No. 300)

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