Bishop Echoes Pope: The Poor's Plight is the Gospel, Pure and Simple; Labor Day Statement 2018


This coming Monday is Labor Day here in the U.S., though it might be easy to overlook or ignore with everything else that is going on in the world and the Church today.

Here is the USCCB statement for Labor Day 2018


The Pope Francis quote at the beginning is kind of weird–the Gospel, pure and simple, is our redemption from sin by the incarnate Word (see CCC 422). The struggle of working people isn’t really good news!

In any event, the rest is spot on, in my opinion. This part especially sticks out:

Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community

This is where Catholic social teaching departs from all other economic theories–economic efficiency is not the end, neither is man’s temporal well-being (which neglects part of the whole man, his soul).

Along those same lines, just because something like the amount of a wage is the result of market forces, doesn’t always mean it is just.


I think the Pope Francis quote is meant to remind us that our responsibility for the poor, both individually and as a society, is a central tenet of the Gospel, and that our redemption from sin is closely linked with how we treat those who are struggling and the least fortunate among us. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis states, “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.” He goes on to say, "A lack of solidarity with his or her needs will directly affect our relationship with God, " and he ends this section with the admonition for employers and rich oppressors from the 5th chapter of the Letter of James, “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out! the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”

I hope you are able to enjoy a blessed and happy Labor Day!


The gospel isn’t an economic message. The closest to an economic message you can get is that money is evil, but that wouldn’t be an accurate reading either. Jesus told his followers to give up everything and follow him. Higher wages isn’t the message portrayed in the Bible, nor in the tradition of the Church. We can ask ‘what is a just wage’ but to say that is the gospel is a distortion of the gospel.


As Catholic Christians, followers of Our Lord, the Gospel should influence all aspects of our lives, and economic policy must be included as well. The Council Fathers, in Gaudium et Spes, devote an entire chapter to Economic and Social Life, and there they tell us, “To fulfil the requirements of justice and equity, every effort must be made to put an end as soon as possible to the immense economic inequalities which exist in the world and increase from day to day.” Blessed Pope Paul VI tells us in Octogesima Adveniens, “The more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others.”

Regarding better wages and decent working conditions, Pope Francis tells us in Evangelii Gaudium, “Yet we desire even more than this; our dream soars higher. We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a ‘dignified sustenance’ for all people, but also their ‘general temporal welfare and prosperity.’ This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use”


This is a big topic.

Does the gospel lead us to look after those who suffer, yes it does.

But does Jesus teach us to take from people through compulsion and build a welfare state - no He doesn’t.

That doesn’t mean we are forbidden to use government in certain ways but I think it is an indication of that way salvation does not lay.

We also have the very clear lesson over the centuries that the best way to lift people out of poverty is to defend capitalism, property rights and encourage personal enterprise and development.

I live in the Philippines where unfortunately we don’t have these aspects as much as others. But we are very Catholic and there is a lot of helping others in need.

The lesson is clear that if we want to help the poor we have to get out of the mindset of administering to them and promote the mindset of facilitating them.


I see that the Philippines also celebrates Labor Day, but on May 1st, appropriately the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. I’m a few months late for you, but happy Labor Day anyway!

Permanent welfare is never the goal, but some sort of social safety net is required for those of us in genuine need. When individual or Church sponsored charity is insufficient, our governments have their legitimate role to play in helping the poor and disabled.

No one wants to feel that they are being forced to do something against their will. We should not have to be compelled to pay our fair share in taxes to support the common good, those things we all use at some time or another. Employers should not have to be compelled to pay their workers a living wage. But it is human nature that greed, pride and fear will make many of us feel that we never have enough money and goods, and that we can’t possibly give any more, or that we deserve our good fortune while others do not. This is why as a society we enact laws to ensure that people pay taxes and employers compensate their workers fairly and provide a safe place to work. This is why the Church has long supported collective bargaining rights for employees. This is why our U.S. bishops continue to chide and remind us of our responsibility for helping the poorest among us, both individually and as a society. This is why they release documents like, “Just Wages and Human Flourishing,” every Labor Day, so that issues like fair wages and job benefits are not dismissed or forgotten, as though everything was fine for everyone just the way it is now.


Good points. I am busy today but will respond later.

I think phrases like ‘fair share of taxes’ and ‘living wage’ can be very vague and open to ideological problems including the constant moving of the goalposts and a government redistribution mentality that brings its own problems and injustice.

Sorry, I will respond better in a day or so.


Hello Christofirst.

I agree that being mindful of the poor is very important. Jesus and of course the Jewish Scriptures speak clearly about helping such people as an act of grace. I think when we help someone, especially those that need it we feel the grace in our hearts. I think the church is very good at helping people face to face and if the church is to grow again in the West then this will have to be a big part of the change. Paradoxically i think the church being too involved in Government has taken away some of the face to face Chrisitan helping and the church has suffered for it.

I can speak about my father in the Saint Vincent De Paul group or my mother working at a Catholic aged persons home to give examples where i think the corporatist/government view detracts from the personal preaching of the gospel.

I think we also have to factor in things that have changed since Jesus spoke the gospel such as democracy, capitalism and the welfare state.

We now have a situation that people can vote, year after year to take wealth off those (largely producing) citizens and give it to others (or themselves).

There is a question of social justice in doing that which was not something Jesus had to address. In the past those at the top took from workers for the state and for themselves. People at the top often got their by violence and stayed there the same way. I think it made sense for Jesus to speak about the social injustices of that system.

Now with democracy we (in theory) don’t have that situation and the people whose wealth is taken is the producers (including workers). This wealth is taken year after year and we know that producers are good for virtually everyone. Capitalism has encouraged participation in producing so that everyone benefits. This is what has made the difference in reducing poverty in western countries and hopefully more to follow. I think it is a long process and there is no short cut for countries like the Philippines (although it seems to be made increasingly slower than it needs to be). Given this great success story of capitalism there is still the push to take large quantities of wealth from people, year after year building secular bureaucracies which i don’t think is the Christian gospel.

Also, i think most of the poverty in western countries now is mainly deriving from either a migrant population unwisely brought to the west; or it is because of the taxing of producers for welfare which stunts company growth and innovation affecting jobs; or lastly the wages of workers have been undercut through globalisation.

In countries like the Philippines, people are willing to do the same jobs for cheaper and they benefit for having the employment. If wages are made to rise through government then ultimately jobs are lost.

So i think these three reasons are the main explanations of poverty today in the west (Immigrants, taxation and higher wages) and paradoxically all of the reasons are caused by government trying to help the poor.

I think maybe we have extrapolated Jesus’ message in a wrong direction.


There is a lot to unpack in your post, and we are not in my area of expertise, since I am an electrician and not an economist. That said, just as there are many conservative economists who would support your conclusions, I am also aware of many more progressive experts in the field of economics who would claim that the exact opposite is true.

Studies here have shown that immigrants actually contribute far more in taxes than they take in public assistance, and once here, the great majority are just as law abiding as the rest of the community, often doing the jobs that others are unwilling to do, such as harvesting crops.

We can hopefully agree that some taxes are necessary. When properly applied to maintaining our infrastructure, more revenue is returned to the economy through the good-paying jobs that are created. Good private charities such as St. Vincent de Paul can never meet the demand that is met here by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Tax cuts that favor the wealthy, and trickle down economics, relying on the benevolence of the wealthy to help the poor, according to many studies simply does not work, and has been rejected by no less than Pope Francis himself in Evangelii Gaudium, “In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about great justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” (I am aware of the numerous attempts that have been made to reinterpret his words).

Higher wages, which creates and sustains a sizeable, stable middle class, is actually a boon for the economy, at least it has been here in the U.S., since more consumer goods are purchased, resulting in more jobs and a more healthy economy. Again, from Evangelii Gaudium, “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the rights of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control.”

It is important is that we don’t use the Gospel to somehow justify the rich growing ever richer while the poor grows ever poorer. Like it or not, the Church teaches that gross income inequality is an injustice. “Inequality is the root of social ills,” says Pope Francis, “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth; it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to the better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.”


Hello Christofirst.

I agree with a lot of what you say and have a slightly different view on other things you mentioned.

I cannot speak to your (i guess American) experience with immigration. We have different cases in the Philippines and Australia (my ex-pat country). Some is good and some is bad but i think when the numbers are so large in certain parts of the world i think there is also a cultural problem.With regards to manual labour we have the examp[e of Japan that takes in very few migrants and has learned to automate a lot of their economy. This has the benefit of developing product leader status in the rich field of automation and helps make Japan such a fine developed country. When there is a large pool of workers such as a constant stream of migrants then apart from wages going down and house prices going up (making it tough for citizens) there is not the capitalist incentive to develop automation. We see now in places like supermarkets and even fast food businesses companies are following the automation success story but then you are left with a large pool of unskilled (hopefully only temporarily).

We agree on the desirability of taxes and many of the services that are then created but i think it is better if we can get the private sector to do it (in theory, if possible). I agree though that it does not seem to be always possible. I just think there is a mistake in thinking of government as the solution to big problems. For every problem you can think of a government solution so i think politically that is where a lot of minds automatically go.

But i think the government sector is a little like chocolate cake. It is hard to say no to any individual offer of cake but if you accepted all offers, or unlimited offers then what is good can turn not so healthy very quickly.

Regards and a belated Happy Labour Day. My father was a union delegate in the Australian printing industry so i know it is an important day for many people.


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