By Douglas Hyde
TWO May Day processions left
London's Thames Embankment last Sunday afternoon and ended in great rallies. The first was supported by many of the great trade unions. Then, half an hour later, a second one followed it. This was composed of several thousand serious-looking, disciplined Communists. But some of the most down-to-earth suggestions were made at Catholic rallies.
A few hours later preaching at the Industrial Sunday Mass in Westminster Cathedral Cardinal Godfrey had some very practical things to say about the responsibility of Catholics in the unions and the need for them to "take example from the zeal, enthusiasm and sincerity" of the Communists.
In a particularly striking phrase he called for "a flight from apathy."
At Palmers Green, Bishop Petit of Menevia, addressing a provincial rally of the Knights of St. Columba warned against the danger of Catholics "taking their standards of thought and conduct from materialism, of swimming along with the crowd instead of giving standards to them, of accepting these standards of materialism as normal and respectable."
A reminder of the revolutionary character of the Church's social teaching came, at the same rally, from W. J. Carron, President of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. " If Leo XIII were living today and re-issued Rerun Novarum," he declared, "he would be called a Communist Pope." He deplored the fact that, faced with technical changes such as automation, there was no concerted effort by employers, no statement on how they would deal with the human beings involved in these circumstances.
And in Rome, the Holy Father told some 40,000 Italian workers that the solution of labour and other problems lay not in hate. but in the application of the principles of the Gospel.
Cardinal Godfrey's sermon came after the annual rally of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists. And for these men from the factories, offices and shipyards he had some sound advice—and for their employers, too.
" It should be clear to all," he said, " that as long as employers and employed are regarded as armies in grapple there will not be given to us the industrial peace which would be of such benefit to us all. For we know well that there have been given to us, particularly in the post-war years. only short periods when the clouds of industrial strife have not darkened the horizon.
"Strikes, and threats of strikes, are a common experience. Official and unofficial strikes are the cause of suffering to the nation."
Voicing a doubt which is it) the minds of many people associated with industry today the Cardinal said: " One wonders whether the machinery of negotiation in disputes that was set up after long and painstaking effort, is now adequate to its purpose. So often does it appear to have broken down in recent years that we might suggest that the time has come to review the procedure in the hope that when disputes arise they may find a speedy settlement.
" What happens is that in some unions there are so many disputes awaiting settlement that there is the danger of a strike being called on a trivial issue, in order that attention may be drawn to some larger question the solution of which has been, in the view of the employed, unreasonably delayed."
The Cardinal paid tribute to the fact that the better conditions in industry which now obtain are one of the fruits of the work of the unions. But he went on to stress that rights and obligations " are correlative terms touching both the employer and employee."
He made a striking call to Catholics to set an example in the unions, as responsible trade unionists. " What we need is a flight from apathy so that our Catholic members should give an example of constancy and loyalty in their attendance at the meetings of their unions."
Important issues can be imperilled, the Cardinal warned. by absence from meetings. "Irresponsible absence from such meetings is blameworthy in the highest degree," he declared.
He deplored the current practice of "sending to Coventry " persons who have not obeyed an instruction given by their union and described it as "a childish exhibition " which is unworthy of these engaged in the pursuit of social justice because it takes no account of the rights of the individual conscience.
" How can social justice be achieved," he asked, " where Christian charity has lost the mastery and feelings of revenge and spite have taken charge of a situation?"
He went on to urge officials within the ranks of the employers to realise their responsibility to strike also for good moral conditions.
The flagrantly indecent initiation ceremonies which are often a feature of paganised factory life came in for special condemnation. "Older and experienced men," the Cardinal said, " should try to suppress any pressure on a young newcomer to submit himself to what is called initiation but which can have a very sordid aspect. Social justice can never thrive where moral conditions are lacking."
Another problem facing young workers which he mentioned was that of unemployment which has been aggravated by the " bulge ". It is alleged, he said, that in certain parts of the country only 25 per cent. of school leavers can find jobs; and for this he had a practical suggestion to make.
"The nation, as we are often reminded, is in great need of tech
nicians and yet 56 per cent. of school-leavers have perforce to take unskilled or semi-skilled work. More opportunities for apprenticeship are needed.” He asked whether it might not be possible to have a scheme whereby the pupils in technical schools would remain until 18 years of age, with the additional years counted as part of the period of apprenticeship. The strain on the accommodation in technical schools might be eased if the Ministry of Education were able to take over disuled military establishments.
The Cardinal concluded his very practical sermon with a call to dedication which is " the most powerful weapon against the menace now threatening the world."
Tremendous applause from 500,000 Berliners greeted Herr Willy Brandt, Chief Burgomaster of West Berlin, when he appealed for complete freedom of conscience and religion in Eastern Germany. He was addressing Berlin's May Day rally held in the Plaiz der Republik close to the Brandenburg Gate. The rally had as its theme: "Berlin stays free."
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