Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell,Esq.

1/25/2012 (3 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 (3 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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.



Comments


More Living Faith

Drinking the Chalice of the Lord: Facing Suffering, Struggle and Failure Watch

Image of All of those who bear the name Christian are invited to follow the path of Jesus' struggle, to walk along with Him on the way of His rejection. We too are invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love. Golgotha beckons.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

James was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. From faithful stock, we see in this encounter that some forms of zeal may indeed be genetic. In fact, the zeal in both of these brothers caused the Lord to name them the Sons of Thunder.(Mk 3:14-17) However, human ... continue reading


A look at the Roman persecutions of the early Church (PART TWO) Watch

Image of A depiction of an early Christian martyr.

By Robert Mullen (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The first 150 years or so of the early Christian Church were undoubtedly bloody. Roman authorities in the Middle East, Italy and much of the Empire actively hounded early worshipers and those who converted, enacting policies intended to destroy the new sect with ... continue reading


ISIS is not the first to persecute Christians, a look at the Roman persecutions of the early Church (PART ONE) Watch

Image of St. James the Greater, one of the first Christian martyrs.

By Robert Mullen (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It is a sad and disheartening fact that many Christians suffer from constant-and often brutal-persecution today, most visibly in places like the Middle East where the Islamic State rules, or in Asian nations like India or China where Christianity is a ... continue reading


Give God control: 20 verses to help during anxiety and fear Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Terrorism, disease, natural disasters, war, violence and crime; we live in a world where we see and hear about horrors every day. People are dying every day, in your city, in my city, in a country on the other side of the world. I am afraid. It's hard not to be afraid. ... continue reading


Three type of people your life may be better off without Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Have you ever wondered why you're wasting your energy dealing with the kind of person who brings you down? Or maybe you're the opposite - you're the one who loves too much and does not know how to say "No." MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - Reality says that ... continue reading


Frodo Baggins and St Therese: The Little Way Through Middle Earth Watch

Image of Frodo alone, while weighed down by the burden of the Ring, is not tempted to use it for his own long term glory, until at the last moment he weakens and the Ring's power infests his heart. 
Frodo is humble, but he is not weak, and what keeps him from being weak is his obedience

By Fr Dwight Longenecker

In giving us a humble hero Tolkien reminds us that it is the foolish things of God which overturn the wisdom of the world. Things are not what they seem. The small ones turn out to be mighty while the mighty are fallen. It is the secret agents of the world who ... continue reading


Making a Lenten Retreat with Pope Francis: Learning from Elijah Watch

Image of There is a mystery here, deep and profound, yet as simple as the broom tree encounter of our teacher Elijah. God is searching for men and women who will surrender their lives in love to Him in this hour. Often, it takes the depletion of all of our own efforts and resources before we are willing to give up - and give in - to Him. When we do, the life of true faith begins. It is there we learn to hear the God of surrendered love in the whisper of the wind. It is there that we learn the Faith of Elijah, under the broom tree.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In many respects, our life on this earth is a classroom of love and a continual invitation to holiness. As we age, we are given the opportunities we need to receive the graces we need to empty ourselves of all that clutters up our life - so that we can be free to ... continue reading


Pope Francis opens the Vatican to the homeless Watch

Image of The homeless are now being welcomed into the Vatican and are sleeping there overnight in sleeping bags donated by Pope Francis.

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

Pope Francis has opened the Vatican to the homeless, providing them with sleeping accommodations. The number of homeless there has doubled in the past six months as the Pontiff makes a difference in the lives of so many people. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Your Catholic Voice Foundation (YCVF) Reports - what your generosity did for Syrian and Iraqi Christians in 2014!

Image of YCVF has helped thousands in need. You can be part of this success too. Help now!

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Your Catholic Voice Foundation 2014 Report - Last year, caring, devoted Catholics such as you made thousands of donations to care for Christians in Syria and Iraq. At this time, Your Catholic Voice Foundation would like to report how your donations made a ... continue reading


New rules for Vatican finance offices include protection for 'whistleblowers' Watch

Image of Publishing the new statutes in Italian on its Web site, the new rules governing the Vatican's finances went into effect on March 1. Pope Francis approved the statutes

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Those who find evidence of wrongdoing in the finances governing the Vatican will be protected under new rules. The guidelines governing the guidance, oversight and control of Vatican financial and administrative activities will include the power to levy ... 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, Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-18
3 Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
16 He called down famine on the land, he took away ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
33 'Listen to another parable. There was a man, a ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 6th, 2015 Image

St. Colette
March 6: Colette was the daughter of a carpenter named DeBoilet at Corby ... 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