In reading the Vatican document “The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,” I was very surprised by 5 things.
The 5 discoveries:
DISCOVERY #1: I didn’t know about the Church’s demand that governments establish Full Employment for all able people of working age.
- Work is a good belonging to all people and must be made available to all who are capable of engaging in it. “Full employment” therefore remains a mandatory objective for every economic system oriented towards justice and the common good. A society in which the right to work is thwarted or systematically denied, and in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, “cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace”.
DISCOVERY # 2: I didn’t know about the Church’s demand that governments establish a Just Wage.
b. The right to fair remuneration and income distribution
- Remuneration is the most important means for achieving justice in work relationships. The “just wage is the legitimate fruit of work”.
They commit grave injustice who refuse to pay a just wage or who do not give it in due time and in proportion to the work done (cf. Lv 19:13; Dt 24:14-15; Jas 5:4). A salary is the instrument that permits the labourer to gain access to the goods of the earth. “Remuneration for labour is to be such that man may be furnished the means to cultivate worthily his own material, social, cultural, and spiritual life and that of his dependents, in view of the function and productiveness of each one, the conditions of the factory or workshop, and the common good”. **The simple agreement between employee and employer with regard to the amount of pay to be received is not sufficient **for the agreed-upon salary to qualify as a “just wage”, because a just wage “must not be below the level of subsistence” of the worker: natural justice precedes and is above the freedom of the contract.
In order to protect this relationship between family and work, an element that must be appreciated and safeguarded is that of a family wage, a wage sufficient to maintain a family and allow it to live decently. Such a wage must also allow for savings that will permit the acquisition of property as a guarantee of freedom. The right to property is closely connected with the existence of families, which protect themselves from need thanks also to savings and to the building up of family property. There can be several different ways to make a family wage a concrete reality. Various forms of important social provisions help to bring it about, for example, family subsidies and other contributions for dependent family members, and also remuneration for the domestic work done in the home by one of the parents.
The rights of workers, like all other rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on his transcendent dignity. The Church’s social Magisterium has seen fit to list some of these rights, in the hope that they will be recognized in juridical systems: the right to a just wage; …
DISCOVERY # 3: I didn’t know about the Church’s demand that governments redistribute income in order to create more fairness.
b. The right to **fair **remuneration and income distribution
- …An equitable distribution of income is to be sought on the basis of criteria not merely of commutative justice but also of social justice that is, considering, beyond the objective value of the work rendered, the human dignity of the subjects who perform it. Authentic economic well-being is pursued also by means of suitable social policies for the redistribution of income which, taking general conditions into account, look at merit as well as at the need of each citizen.
DISCOVERY # 4: I didn’t know the Church’s openly talks about the existence of social classes and the tendency of members of the business class to be antagonistic towards members of the employee class.
- The relationship between labour and capital often shows traits of antagonism that take on new forms with the changing of social and economic contexts. In the past, the origin of the **conflict between capital and labour **was found above all “in the fact that the workers put their powers at the disposal of the entrepreneurs, and these, following the principle of maximum profit, tried to establish the lowest possible wages for the work done by the employees”. In our present day, this conflict shows aspects that are new and perhaps more disquieting…
DISCOVERY # 5: I didn’t know the Church’s openly talks about the need for governments to engage in economic planning for the whole society.
- The planning capacity of a society oriented towards the common good and looking to the future is measured also and above all on the basis of the employment prospects that it is able to offer.