Gaudium et Spes 68

Gaudium et Spes continues on an economic theme:

In economic enterprises it is persons who are joined together, that is, free and independent human beings created in the image of God. Therefore, with attention to the functions of each-owners or employers, management or labor-and without doing harm to the necessary unity of management, the active sharing of all in the administration and profits of these enterprises in ways to be properly determined is to be promoted.(Cf. John XXIII, encyclical letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), pp. 408, 424, 427; however, the word “curatione” has been taken from the Latin text of the encyclical letter Quadragesimo Anno: AAS 23 (1931) p. 199. Under the aspect of the evolution of the question cf. also: Pius XII, allocution of June 3, 1950: AAS 42 (1950) pp. 485-488; Paul VI, allocution of June 8, 1964: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 573-579.)

A radical kind of corporate democracy is hinted at: the strange notion that worker might have something positive to contribute to the policies and direction of the business for which they work.

Since more often, however, decisions concerning economic and social conditions, on which the future lot of the workers and of their children depends, are made not within the business itself but by institutions on a higher level, the workers themselves should have a share also in determining these conditions-in person or through freely elected delegates.

As we know, investors often usurp this preference.

Among the basic rights of the human person is to be numbered the right of freely founding unions for working people. These should be able truly to represent them and to contribute to the organizing of economic life in the right way. Included is the right of freely taking part in the activity of these unions without risk of reprisal. Through this orderly participation joined to progressive economic and social formation, all will grow day by day in the awareness of their own function and responsibility, and thus they will be brought to feel that they are comrades in the whole task of economic development and in the attainment of the universal common good according to their capacities and aptitudes.

And in speaking of unions, the Church is speaking of the ideal groupings of workers who actively promote both the rights and responsibilities of employees and cultivate good relations with management.

When, however, socio-economic disputes arise, efforts must be made to come to a peaceful settlement. Although recourse must always be had first to a sincere dialogue between the parties, a strike, nevertheless, can remain even in present day circumstances a necessary, though ultimate, aid for the defense of the workers’ own rights and the fulfillment of their just desires. As soon as possible, however, ways should be sought to resume negotiation and the discussion of reconciliation.

Comments? Are some troubled by church teaching on unions? Or on a more democratic participation of workers in business policy?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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