BY DENNIS SADOWSKI
A GROUP OF Catholic scholars has argued that efforts to break trades unions are a grave breach of the Church’s social doctrine and tantamount to committing mortal sin.
The Massachusetts-based Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice offered a detailed argument that actions to thwart union organising campaigns, stifle contract talks, unilaterally roll back wages and benefits and break existing agreements are a “grave violation of Catholic social doctrine on labour unions”.
“This violation of Catholic doctrine constitutes material grounds for mortal sin because it stands in grave violation of both the letter and spirit of Catholic social doctrine,” said the document, called Union Busting Is a Mortal Sin.
In laying out their argument the scholars said efforts to deny workers the right to organise violate the First, Fifth and Seventh Commandments regarding idolatry, scandal and theft, respectively.
Joseph Fahey, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College in New York City and chairman of the group, said that the statement analyses the criteria for mortal sin much like a priest would during the sacrament of Reconciliation.
“We said: ‘What commandments does (breaking a union) violate? What specific matters of Catholic teaching does it go against? Is it a grave matter? If it is, is there an objective case for mortal sin?’” he said.
“We do make a case that if you work to violate Catholic teaching to the extent that you violate a worker’s right to free assembly, you are involved in the grave matter of mortal sin,” he said.
The statement was signed by 13 scholars, clergy and women religious.
Founded in 2008, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice works to develop Catholic teaching on worker rights and to support workers. It has 250 members around the world.
The statement arose out of a concern that the scholars have had regarding anti-union efforts they say have been carried out by some Catholic dioceses and organisations.
“There are many Catholic institutions that live up to Catholic teachings,” Prof Fahey said. “But there are some, either by ignorance or by design, that ignore Catholic teaching and we as scholars feel we have a role to play by pointing that out.”