WASHINGTON (August 22, 2000) -- In the annual Labor Day statement of the United States Catholic Conference (USCC), which focused in part on the current issue of economic globalization, Cardinal Roger Mahony warned that not all Americans are receiving a fair share of the nation's booming economy.
"The big picture can mask the growing gap between rich and poor," the Cardinal said. "Economic growth can sometimes distribute economic benefits inequitably."
Cardinal Mahony, of Los Angeles, is Chairman of the USCC Domestic Policy Committee. The statement is entitled "A Jubilee for Workers: Challenges and Opportunities for the New Millennium."
The USCC has issued an annual Labor Day statement for many years, but this Labor Day, September 4, 2000, has been declared the Jubilee Day for Workers, as part of the Catholic Church's year-long jubilee observance noting the contributions of various groups to society. It is a day set aside to honor working men and women and to celebrate the meaning and value of work at the beginning of a new millennium.
Just below the surface of economic prosperity, said Cardinal Mahony, lies the reality of what the U.S. Catholic Bishops have described as three economies living side-by-side (NCCB, A Decade After Economic Justice for All, 1996):
"A first economy finds many people prospering in this new information age and global marketplace. They not only cope but thrive in the new economy, experiencing remarkable economic rewards for themselves, their families and their companies. They are moving ahead."
"A second economy includes people who are doing well by some measure, but are squeezed by declining incomes, struggle to afford health care, and worry about the cost of a college education or Catholic schools for their children. They find the new 'global competition' not only an opportunity but also a source of worry."
"A third economy touches a substantial number of people who are left behind and cannot escape poverty. Too often they live in the wrong place-a neighborhood without decent jobs or affordable housing. They lack the necessary skills for the 'new economy.' Many need not only decent well-paying jobs, but the means to get work and/or the child care necessary to continue working."
"For Christians," Cardinal Mahony declared, "these realities represent not just troubling statistics, but the struggles of brothers and sisters, members of our one human family. The values of our faith call us to shape economic policies that protect human dignity, promote strong families, and create vibrant communities. In our religious tradition the fundamental moral test of any society is how the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable are faring."
The Cardinal called rapid globalization one of the reasons for both economic growth and economic dislocation. "The Church has long stood and continues to stand with workers and their unions in the struggle for justice, decent wages and a meaningful voice in economic life," he said. "The results of globalization must be managed wisely and assessed for their impact on human life and human work."
Cardinal Mahony said the Bishops' Conference is exploring ways to encourage a Catholic conversation on economic globalization "framed by our traditions and values."
"We believe our social tradition and our everyday experiences as a community of faith and service -both here at home and around the world-give us unique perspectives and useful contributions...to the discussion on globalization."
Turning to the globalization-related issue of the plight of immigrant workers, Cardinal Mahony declared: "We must treat immigrants with the dignity and honor afforded all people. Many of these workers, regardless of their immigration status, have contributed greatly to the overall economy. In exchange for their willingness to work in difficult jobs with little pay and few benefits, they are often mistreated and abused."
To address this problem, Cardinal Mahony called for serious consideration of a general amnesty for those workers who come to the U.S. fleeing oppression and destitution and who make significant contributions to our society.
"It is worth remembering on this Labor Day--this Jubilee for Workers--that a person is more valuable for what she or he is than for what they have, for the work they do rather than for what they possess," Cardinal Mahony said.
NOTE: The Labor Day statement is available on the Conference website. Printed copies of the statement are available from the USCC Office of Domestic Social Development, 3211 Fourth Street , NE, Washington, DC, 20017, 202-541-3185. Or, call USCC Publications toll-free at 800-235-8722.