Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day 2005

1) The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. In 1884, the first Monday of September was selected as the holiday celebration. Its purpose was to exhibit "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the workers and their families. It was the growing tension produced by the exploitation of the worker by capital whereby his work, and therefore his person, was being reduced to the status of "thing" or commodity to be bought and sold.

2) It is an excellent opportunity for us to re-consider the primacy of persons over structures enshrined in the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then- Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. There it reads: "The priority given to structures and technical organization over the person and the requirements of his dignity is the expression of a materialistic anthropology and is contrary to the construction of a just social order [75]. Consequently, "the priority of work over capital places an obligation in justice upon employers to consider the welfare of the workers before the increase of profits. They have a moral obligation not to keep capital unproductive and, in making investments, to think first of the common good. The latter requires a prior effort to consolidate jobs or create new ones in the production of goods that are really useful. The right to private property is inconceivable without resonsibilities to the common good. It is subordinated to the higher principle which states that goods are meant for all" [87].

3) The Church therefore teaches: "The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real `Gospel of work,' offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though He was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of His earthly life to manual labor. The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobilityand fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption. Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort" [82].

4) "Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question. It is therefore in the domain of work that priority must be given to the action of liberation in freedom. Because the relationship between the huan person and work is radical and vital [83]," we should remember that the human person "finds himself by the sincere giving of himself" (Gaudium et Spes #24), and that this self-giving takes place on the occasion of work, any kind of work. It is not the kind of work that distinguishes persons as greater or lesser, but the giving of the self on the occasion of that work. And since culture means cultivation of persons, the development of a true social and prosperous culture - nationally and globally - depends on this development of a spirituality of work.

5) The development of structures like unions arises from the instrinsic relationality of the human person as a right: "the right of association." "Their task is to defend the existential interests of workers in all sectors in which their rights are concerned" [Laborem Exercens # 20]. However "it remains true ... that structures established for people's good are of themselves incapable of securing and guaranteeing that good... It is therefore necessary to work simultaneously for the conversion of hearts and for the improvement of structures. For the sin which is at the root of unjust situations is, in a true and immediate sense, a voluntary act which has its source in the freedom of individuals. Only in a derived and secondary sense is it applicable to structures, and only in this sense can one speak of `social sin.' "[Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation" #75]

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