Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell,Esq.

1/25/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Think of how the world would differ if the employment relationships were seen as Christ employing Christ and Christ working for Christ

The Church therefore sees human work from three dimensions: the objective, the subjective, and the social.  The first looks first at the work and not necessarily the person doing the work.  The second looks at the person doing the work and not necessarily the work done.  The third looks at the social aspect of work: how it affects others.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell,Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/25/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: work, labor, employers, employees, unions, workers, Catholic social teaching, Andrew M. greenwell, Esq.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) -  The Industrial Revolution was something like the opening of Pandora's box.  With all the unquestionable increase in human economic development, the increase in wealth, and efficiency in productivity and technical progress that the Industrial Revolution ushered in, there also came a variety of moral plagues and social evils, particularly for the factory worker, the miner, the child laborer, the family in overcrowded tenement, the disregarded poor, all of whom seemed to suffer from exploitation.

For many of these workers, these were"" hard times.  The moneyed capitalist and the bourgeoisie who prospered from this gospel of wealth seemed fat enough.  Greed has its own financial rewards.  But for the poor worker, it seemed like hope remained bottled up, hidden somewhere.

Then, to make matters worse, all sorts of human, even Satanic, devices were thought up as solutions for the moral and social problems: socialism, communism, anarchism.  These seemed to pit class against class, brother against brother, and suggested injustice as an answer for injustice, as if two wrongs to make a right.  Frequently, these were Godless, materialistic recipes to counter a Godless, heartless capitalism.  They were but salt in the wound of class warfare.

This Industrial Revolution and the "social question" it raised, presented the Church with a new challenge.  When she saw the crowds, she had compassion on them, because they were distressed and troubled, wandering around like sheep without a shepherd.  So she looked into her reservoir of knowledge to see what she could offer to alleviate the problem and counter the spurious solutions.  Drawing forth from the natural law and evangelical principles, she brought forth the salve of her social doctrine.

The Church's first sally into this area was Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum, literally "Of New Things."  This encyclical was, as, as the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church describes it, "a heartfelt defense to the inalienable dignity of workers," but it also stressed the "importance of the right to property, the principle of cooperation among the social classes, the rights of the weak and the poor, the obligations of workers and employers, and the right to form associations." (Compendium, No. 268)

From Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum to Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in veritate, "the Church has never stopped considering the problems of workers within the context of a social question which has progressively taken on worldwide dimensions."(Compendium, No. 269)

In addressing the social questions and the economic and social changes brought forth by the Industrial Revolution, the Church has reflected on the meaning of work, work that is the every-day fact of life for man, work from which man can derive dignity, but which may in some cases also be impersonal, tainted by injustice, the loss of freedom, and the cause of heavy toil and inhuman suffering.

The Church brings a unique personalistic vision of work, one that finds in it great dignity and great value.  For the Church, work is always understood within the context of the human person.  The human is never viewed as a commodity, but always as a person called to an eternal destiny.  It is from this personal vantage point that the Church understands work and its dignity.

The Church therefore sees human work from three dimensions: the objective, the subjective, and the social.  The first looks first at the work and not necessarily the person doing the work.  The second looks at the person doing the work and not necessarily the work done.  The third looks at the social aspect of work: how it affects others.

The Church recognizes that work has an objective component.  It can be seen as the "sum of activities, resources, instruments, and technologies used by men and women to produce things."  The precise boundaries of works therefore changes with the times and with place.

But the Church also sees the more important subjective component of work.  In this subjective sense, work is the "actus personae," an act of a person.  She recognizes that "work is the activity of the human person as a dynamic being," one made in the image of God and enjoying all the dignity of that image. (Compendium, No. 270)  It is this personal, subjective side of work above all which gives it its dignity, and "which does not allow that it be considered a simple commodity or an impersonal element of the apparatus for productivity."  "The subjective dimension of work must take precedence over the objective dimension." (Compendium, No. 271)

This personal view of things excludes materialism. "Any form of materialism or economic tenet that tries to reduce the worker to being a mere instrument of production, a simple labor force with an exclusively material value, would end up hopelessly distorting the essence of work and stripping it of its most noble and basic human finality." (Compendium, No. 271).

Human work, therefore, must recognize "human finality."  It must have as its final goal, not work itself or its product, but must have its "final goal in the human person."  The "end of work any work whatsoever, always remains man."  "Work is for man, and not man for work." (Compendium, No. 272)

There is therefore always a personal, a spiritual part of man involved in work, and so "whatever work it is that is done by man--even if the common scale of values rates it as the meanest 'service,' as the most monotonous, even the most alienating work" retains its subjective value.

Work is never not tied to others.  There are invariably social aspects, social connections and interdependency tied to work.  One always works with others and for others, and not only for oneself.  "Work, therefore, cannot be properly evaluated if its social nature is not taken into account." (Compendium, No. 273)

Work is not an option for man.  Work is "an obligation, that is to say, a duty on the part of man." (Compendium, No. 274)  In a sense, work may be seen as part of that commandment of loving one's self and loving one's neighbor as one's self.  The "Creator has commanded" that man work.  That command is not arbitrary, as it recognizes that work is required for a man "in order to respond to the need to maintain and develop his own humanity." 

Finally, work is a moral obligation "with respect to one's neighbor, which in the first place is one's family," but which may also be seen to including "the society to which one belongs, the nation of which one is son or daughter," and even "the entire human family of which one is a member."  Indeed, the duty of work extends beyond our own time, since we are "heirs of the work of generations and at the same time shapers of the future of all who will live after us." (Compendium, No.274)

In trying to understand the Church's personalistic vision of work, we might invoke here the picture of the last judgment presented by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46) and modify the context as a sort of thought experiment.

At the end of time, the Lord will separate employers and employees. And to the employers who understand the dignity of work, the Lord will say, "Come, for you provided me work."  And they will respond, "Lord when did we give you work?"  And the Lord will respond, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

And to the employees who understand the dignity of work, the Lord will say, "Come, for you worked for me."  And these will respond, "Lord when did we work for you?"  And the Lord will respond, "Truly I tell you, whatever work you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Think of how the world would differ if the employment relationships were seen as Christ employing Christ and Christ working for Christ.

I'll bet Adam Smith, James Mill, the Comte Saint-Simon, Karl Marx, and Pierre Joseph Proudhon and a whole host of modern economists never thought of that.

What a new thing that would be. 

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Living Faith

Papal visit to US not confirmed, but archbishop confident

Image of Pope Francis coming to Philly next September!

By Catholic News Agency (News Consortium)

Lets all Pray that Pope Francis comes to visit us here in the United States of America. Philadelphia, PA  (CNA/EWTN) - Reports that Pope Francis will travel to the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families in 2015 remain unconfirmed by the Vatican; however, ... continue reading


Catholic should be a way of life, not just a Sunday thing

Image of Catholic means universal. It's time to apply that to how we live.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

To know the way forward, we must look to the past. As the very first chapter Ecclesiastes tells us, "there is no new thing under the sun," meaning that everything we think of as new is actually old and whatever we can imagine has been imagined, and even tried by those ... continue reading


Let the Holy Spirit Teach us How to Become Prayer Watch

Image of St. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Greece, telling them to pray without ceasing. (1 Th. 5:16-19) They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, bills, and yes, difficulties and struggles beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith. Yet, he instructed them to Pray without ceasing. Did he really mean it? I believe that he did.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he ... continue reading


Pope Francis meets, blesses Sudanese woman condemned to death for faith Watch

Image of Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death for apostasy, but has since escaped her sentence and left Sudan.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has met and blessed the Sudanese woman who was recently condemned to death for her faith. Meriam Ibrahim was condemned to death in Sudan for the crime of apostasy. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis has met and blessed Meriam Ibrahim at the ... continue reading


MIRACLE IN ENGLAND: God's face smiles over Norfolk, or is it Sean Connery or Karl Marx? Watch

Image of This image is suspected to show the face of God in clouds over Norfolk, however, it may also be the face of Karl Marx or Sean Connery.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The English have long thought themselves special, and a new photograph from Norfolk in England may just prove that God does indeed smile on the English. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Amateur photographer Jeremy Fletcher took an image that shows a face in ... continue reading


Pope Francis to visit Mafia stronghold this weekend Watch

Image of Pope Francis' stance against organized crime is seen as remarkable; the Mafia and the Catholic Church have previously been seen by many as having

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Incensed about the loss of innocent life in his immediate surroundings, Pope Francis plans to travel to the Mafia stronghold of Caserta, near Naples this weekend in an effort to set things right. The murder of three-year-old Nicola "Coco" Campolongo, a boy who ... continue reading


Pope expresses regret with exodus of Christians from Mosul Watch

Image of

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

In his weekly Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis mourned the fleeing of the last Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, who were told by ISIS forces last week to either convert, pay the Jizya tax or leave. (CNA/EWTN News) - "They are persecuted; our brothers are ... continue reading


Your Catholic Voice Foundation delivers for Sisters of St. Joseph

Image of They're on their way, thanks to you.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An order for 350 Bibles for a Catholic school in Grenada has been shipped to the sisters free of international shipping charges, thanks to you, the readers of Catholic Online. The shipping charges stood at approximately $800, and was covered by donations. Now, Your ... continue reading


This is Ch__ch. What is missing?

Image of What's missing? You are!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What's missing from this church? You are! Are we mistaken? Show up and tell us you are already there and get your daily prayer and more for FREE as our thanks.Click here now to say you're there!Now you can share this question with your friends. Are they at church? continue reading


Unaccompanied migrant children need our help

Image of This is an image of immigrant children presently housed in conditions that would be unconstitutional for convicted felons. These children are without their families, alone and afraid and without control over their future, they are the victims of many culprits.

By Tony Magliano

Tens of thousands of children fleeing desperate conditions have entered the United States asking for help. And many more are coming. What kind of welcome is being offered to them? The answer to that question is still largely undetermined. According to Human Rights ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 13:1-11
1 Yahweh said this to me, 'Go and buy a linen ... Read More

Psalm, Deuteronomy 32:18-19, 20, 21
18 (You forget the Rock who fathered you, the God who ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:31-35
31 He put another parable before them, 'The kingdom ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 28th, 2014 Image

St. Innocent I
July 28: Innocent was born at Albano, Italy. He became Pope, succeeding ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter