WASHINGTON, DC (August 26) The following is a statement by Rev. Michael D. Place, STD, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), on today's release of the United States Catholic Conference's working paper, "A Fair and Just Workplace: Principles and Practices for Catholic Health Care."
"A Fair and Just Workplace: Principles and Practices for Catholic Health Care" is the result of two years of dialogue that does not end with the release of this working paper. Rather, the document provides an opportunity for bishops, healthcare leaders, and labor representatives to reflect on and live out the mission of the church's health ministry, our responsibility to workers, and to the common good.
We in the Catholic health ministry welcome this document as a catalyst for our own reflection, discussion, and improvement on the important matter of justice in the workplace. Too often attention is focused on local labor disputes without equal attention to the countless communities where Catholic health facilities and workers, whether unionized or not, relate well.
The document allows for all interested parties to better understand the Catholic social teaching that articulates basic values that are shared by Catholic healthcare and the organized labor movement. Catholic healthcare is not a commodity to be bought and sold. Healthcare is an essential social good. Everyone has a right to quality healthcare that is basic, continuing, and comprehensive. This is a basic understanding of the Catholic Church and one that Catholic healthcare and labor often share in advocating for accessible and affordable healthcare for all. As the preface states, both are committed to serving the poor and providing access to services that are essential to caring for human needs. Both are called to respect the needs of workers and their right to safe working conditions, a fair wage, and a voice in workplace decisions that affect them.
We particularly welcome the call for an end to tactics that undermine mutual objectives of labor and management and impugn the character of good people and organizations. I am confident that health ministry leaders are committed to Catholic social teaching on the dignity of work and to creating the relationships necessary to realize those ideals with their workers, whether or not they choose to unionize.
That being said, I must take note of the pain and frustration that all those in Catholic healthcare are experiencing as they seek to be faithful to these ideals. Whether it be the complexity of providing both quality healthcare and a productive work environment, even as fiscal resources are diminished, or the challenge of navigating with integrity organizing efforts, Catholic healthcare is often charting new territory. To be misunderstood or to experience alienation from others in the Church is especially disheartening. I am hopeful this document will help to address these realities. I also believe the process of review and discussion of the text could reveal concerns and possibilities that the draft does not consider, particularly in those areas where we failed to find consensus.
For that reason the Catholic Health Association and its members are planning a variety of forums and strategies to use this working paper to promote education and self-examination within the ministry as well as dialogue within the Church.
The St. Louis-based Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) is the national leadership organization representing the Catholic health ministry. CHA's more than 2,000 members form the nation's largest group of not-for-profit healthcare sponsors, systems, facilities, health plans, and related organizations. For more information, visit the CHA Web site at www.chausa.org.