Volume > Issue > The Right to Unionize & Defense of the Poor

The Right to Unionize & Defense of the Poor


By John J. O’Connor | November 1984
John J. O’Connor is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York.

Ed. Note: The following constitutes a slightly abridged version of the 1984 Labor Day message is­sued by the U.S. Catholic Conference, written this year by Archbishop John J. O’Connor. The mes­sage was written before — but with an eye toward — the publication of the U.S. Roman Catholic bish­ops’ pastoral letter “Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy,” the first draft of which is to be released this month.


A committee of bishops chaired by Archbish­op Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee has been at work for about three years on the preparation of the first draft of a pastoral letter that will deal with “Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy.”

I consider it appropriate to offer some reflec­tions on the significance of this pastoral letter and the discussions that it will undoubtedly generate within the Catholic community and society at large.

One of the first and most important needs to be served by the pastoral letter is that of educating Catholics about the long tradition of Catholic so­cial teaching. This teaching is an integral part of our religious faith, yet it is neither widely known nor understood. The encyclical documents that have embodied this teaching during the past centu­ry are like a treasure buried in a field. They are a rich source of teaching and values that relate to many of the problems, issues, and decisions that face us in the everyday working world, yet they have often been overlooked or forgotten. The pas­toral letter on the economy will provide the oppor­tunity to raise up this buried treasure and dust off its many valuable contents.

Some observers have suggested that the bish­ops’ discussion of economic concerns will some­how put them in a new and different role. It is im­portant to correct that misperception. There is, in fact, a long tradition of Catholic teaching on eco­nomic matters. The upcoming pastoral letter will take its place in this ongoing tradition of social teaching — a teaching that has its roots in Abra­ham, Moses, the prophets, and in the very life and message of Jesus himself.

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