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Physician, Heal Thyself

CHRIST & NEIGHBOR

By John C. Cort | July-August 1985

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypo­crites!”

I have been rereading Reinhold Niebuhr, and I commend unto you a great little book of his en­titled Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cyn­ic. As I get ready to lay a bit of “guilt” on certain Catholic institutions for anti-unionism, it seems ap­propriate to ward off self-righteousness with a cou­ple of quotes from Niebuhr:

“Conscience, Goethe has observed, belongs to the observer rather than the doer, and it would be well for every preacher [and columnist] to realize that he is morally sensitive partly because he is ob­serving and not acting.” Or this:

“It is not a good thing to convict sin only by implication. Sometimes the cruel word of censure must be uttered. ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Phari­sees, hypocrites!’ was spoken by one who incarnat­ed tenderness. The language of aspiration is always in danger of becoming soft; but it is possible to avoid that pitfall and yet not sink into a habit of cheap scolding.”

The National Conference of Catholic Charities has avoided both the pitfall and the habit by print­ing in the Spring 1984 issue of its periodical, So­cial Thought, an article entitled “Ethical Guide­lines for a Religious Institution Confronted by a Union” by Ed Marciniak. The National Center for the Laity has now reprinted this article in handy pamphlet for­mat and I commend it to all administrators of reli­gious institutions, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, but especially those who are Catholic. Union members, actual or potential, should also read it.

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