Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pope Francis’ ‘Joy of the Gospel’ (Proclaimed November 24, 2013)

  The ‘Joy of the Gospel’, Evangelii Gaudium, brings to the whole world the good news - the Gospel.  Pope Francis proclaims the basic message that God loves all of creation, even sinners, and that the Kingdom of God is here on earth in so far as we love God and neighbor.  He cites the message of previous popes of ‘preferential option for the poor.’   In Pope Francis’ personal invitation to the faithful to work for social justice, love of neighbor, he does not use the ‘imperial we’ as did previous popes in similar messages. Paul VI wrote on the same subject in 1975, ‘On Evangelization in the Modern World’ (Evangelii Nuntiandi), and used the ‘imperial we.’  Pope Francis is by definition a monarch, but he has chosen to be a benevolent dictator and hears the cry of the people.

      Evangelii Gaudium boldly explains that Faith is confidence and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob creator of all - a God that works with people to overcome the evil of an individualistic ‘survival of the fittest’ economic doctrine.  With Jesuit clarity, Pope Francis contrasts the Faith of Jews, Christians and Muslims in the one true God with faith in the ‘invisible hand’ that is supposed to regulate the market place.  Francis states:

   …some people continue to defend the trickle-down theories which   assume that economic growth encouraged by a free market, will   inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice 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 economic system. #54

   As pastor of a church without frontiers, Francis pleads for migrants:

I exhort all countries to a generous openness which, rather than fearing the loss of identity, will prove capable of forming a new form of cultural synthesis. #210

In solidarity with the faithful and the poor Francis laments:

I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish all of us would hear God’s cry “Where is your brother?” (Gn. 4:9) Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor?   #210  
With regard to his own flock, Francis directs with authority:     
We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim Immigrants to our to our countries … #253
   In the ‘Joy of the Gospel’ Francis, the first American pope, prays with Faith to Mary, the patroness of the Americas, hoping that his invitation to a new evangelization will be accepted by the faithful.  Francis reminds all of us the story that the campesino and evangelizer, Juan Diego, was comforted and strengthened by Our Lady of Guadalupe.  #286

Thursday, March 13, 2014



shema yisra’el Adonai ’elohenu Adonai ’ehad.  Duet. 6:4                                                           Hear, O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is one.

   An opinion: elohenu is the God of nature, the philosophers – e.g.  Aristotle’s uncaused cause, Stephen Hawking’s big bang and final crunch.  elohenu  retaliates with anger and requires sacrifice.

   Adonai reveals a presence; Adonai is the Father – Mother of all; Abba of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets.  Adonai supports the struggle for justice; he advocates and acts for the poor. Adonai is truly only one.

     The model, the documents and comments listed are based on notes taken at a seminar in the summer of 2003 given by Dr. Christine Firer Hinze of Fordham University, formerly of Marquette University and recognized expert on the work of labor priest, John Ryan.  (1865-1945)   The seminar was one of many graciously given by Dr. Hinze for interns and other labor associates of the Faith Community for Worker Justice in Milwaukee.  Dr. Hinze also participated in the annual ‘Labor in the Pulpits Program.’  The New Sanctuary Movement of Voces de la Frontera now sponsors the same program, ‘Predicators de Justicia’ for the May 1st Labor Day since the Faith Community for Worker Justice of the Milwaukee Labor Council folded.

   Some additions and deletions were made to Dr. Hinze’s notes.  As the discussion continues, more changes will be made.  Notable points are listed, but it is recognized that such abbreviations do not really represent the richness and complexity of the Encyclicals. October, 2011, revised  March, 2014.


Rerum Novarum, 1891, Pope Leo XIII:  Workers’ right to organize. #36

Program for Social Reconstruction, 1919, U.S. Bishops:  Value international & interdenominational cooperation- also, equal pay for equal work for women, right to a living wage including health care.

Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, Pope Pius XI: Principle of subsidiarity. #80


Social Documents, 194I –1952, of Pope Pius XII. 

 Whitsuntide Message, 1941: Pvt. property has social responsibilities.

 Xmas Message,  Democracy & Peace, 1943:  “Corporate” democracy OK.  Distrust of “masses.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
To the Representatives of the International Union of Catholic Employers  Associations, 1949: Reaffirm Q.A. Nationalization of assets, with limits, to protect common good.                                                                                              
To the International Congress of Social Studies, 1950: Balance of production withconsumption a key issue - free mkt. not the answer.  Workers ancient feudal bonds similar to modern wage slavery.

To the Italian Catholic Association of - Owner Managers, 1952: Principle of Solidarity.                                        
Letter to 39th “Social Week” Dijon, France, 1952:  Free market does not produce distributive justice.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
Radio Address to Austrian Catholics, 1952: Overcome class struggle by organic coordination of employer & employee.

Exul Familia, 1952: Right to migrate.

Xmas Message, 1952: Unrestricted production is not the answer to unemployment.  Advocates international solidarity.

Letter of Mons. Montini (future Pope Paul V I) to Catholic Social Week in Turin, Italy, 1952: Addresses worker alienation.  Advocates worker, employer solidarity.                                                                                     
Mater et Magistra, 1961, Pope John XXIII: Social duty of private property, Cf. Pius XII. Part 1, 41-43.  Values collective bargaining.  Part 2, 91.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Pacem in Terris, 1963, Pope John XXIII: Dignity of the person is the basis of human rights & duties.  The first Encyclical directed to all men in hope of peace through justice,  part 1, B.  Right to migrate confirmed, part 1, 25.  Right to medical care, Part 1, 11.    

1962 – 1965         Council Fathers with Pope Paul VI

Unitatis Redintegratio. (On Ecumenism),1964: Advocates cooperation with                                   “separated brethren”  on social issues. C. II,12

Lumen Gentium, (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church),1964: The Spirit dwells                           in the people. C. I, 4.   
Gaudium et Spes, (Pastoral Constitution on the Church),1965:  Labor right. to organize               organize & freely elect leaders.  Right  to strike. (vs. fascist Spain & Franco) #68                                                                                                       
Dignitatis Humanae, (Freedom of Conscience) 1965: In all activity man is bound to follow his own conscience. #3  
Nostra Aetate, (Relation to Non Christians),1965:  Although hostilities in past - make    common cause for social justice. #2

Dei Verbum, (Dogmatic Constitution on Devine Revelation), 1965:  God can be known by all through reason.  #1.


Populorum Progressio, (On the Development of Peoples),1967, Paul VI: Neo-colonialism  a concern.   Free trade is fair only if it is subject to the demands of  social justice. Part II, 52–58.                                               
Medellin, Colombia Documents, 1968, Latin American Bishops: Foundation of Liberation Theology – Political and economic structural change advocated.                                                                                              
Octogesimo Adveniens, (Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, 1971, Paul VI:                 Women have equal rights to participate in cultural, economic and political life.  #13
Puebla, Mexico Documents, 1979, Latin American Bishops: Visiting Pope J.P. II endorses Liberation Theology.

 Laborem  Exercens, (On Work),1981, John Paul II: Proper subject of “work” – man #5 & #6. Solidarity of workers  #8. Labor is prior to capital #12.  Labor Unions indispensable  #20 
Economic Justice for All, 1986, U.S.  R.C. Bishops: Use of sociological data.                                                                              
Solicitudo Rei Socialis,  (On Social Concern). 1987, John Paul II: In Solidarity, overcome structures of sin for true liberation. VII, 46

Centesimus Annus, (One hundredth Anniversary of  Rerum Novarum),1991, John Paul II:  The church values the democratic system in so far as it insures the participation of citizens in making political choices.  Chapter 5, #46.  Roman Catholic Social Teaching pertains to the church’s evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message…’ C.I, 5.

Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, 2003, U.S. and Mexican Bishops.  Persons have the right to migrate to find work and support themselves and their families.

Caritas in Veritate, (Selfless Love in Truth), 2009, Benedict XVI: Trade union organizations  experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic  utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating power  of labour unions.  Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. Section 25.                                                                                                                              
Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary System in Context of Global Public Authority. 2011, Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, Rome.  
Creation of world public authority to regulate financial markets that  “cause inequities and distortion of capitalist development.”

Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis, November 24, 2013.  “In this context, some people continue to defend the trickle – down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by the free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater 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 economic system.” C.II, 54   

Monday, February 24, 2014


    Lincoln at Gettysburg redefined the political - moral basis of the United States by indicating that “All are created equal with the right to life…”   means what it says, but he also said we were (and still are) in process of realizing this fundamental truth.  Lincoln’s “Labor is Prior to Capital,” 
a corollary of this principle is also in process.

THE PROGRESSIVE ERA:  The Gilded Age – 1890, T. Roosevelt & W.H. Taft vs. Corruption, Wilson epic pro-Labor & Peace to World War l – 1917.
   President Theodore Roosevelt saved Capitalism from a bloody worker revolution, but workers continued to be exploited. Historian Foster Rhea Dulles wrote:

   Yet the status of the great bulk of working men did not improve during these years of the progressive era in terms commensurate with the national advance as a whole.  The real wages of industrial workers; that is, wages in terms of purchasing power, actually declined. (Foster Rhea Dulles, Labor in America, Thomas Y. Crowell Co. New York, 1966, p. 185.)

Neo-liberal legislation curbed the criminal greed of the capitalists, but the direction the economy as ‘for the people’ was not achieved.   Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book The Bully Pulpit minimizes the seriousness of this explosive situation at the turn of the century to W.W. I. (Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2013.)


   Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft were of the ‘progressive era,’ men of principle, compassion and, in many instances, advanced the cause “of the people,” but they were limited by their higher belief of loyalty to their class.

   As a result, the ‘progressive era’ was not all progressive.  Beyond Roosevelt and under Taft was the dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910. Western Federation of Miners members were found guilty of the attack.  Let’s not forget the Triangle Shirt Waist strike by garment workers in 1909 and the tragic fire at Shirt Waist in 1911.  During the Wilson administration there was the Ludlow Massacre of strikers and their families by the militia in 1914. Consider before Roosevelt’s presidency, the Pullman strike, and some of the bitter violent struggles of the Western Federation of Miners - Cripple Creek, Colorado 1894; Leadville, Colorado 1896; and Coeur d’Alene Idaho, 1899.  (Rayback, Joseph G. A History of American Labor, The Macmillan Company, N.Y. 1966)  State militias were used to keep the peace, but at the request of Idaho Governor, Frank Steunenberg, President McKinley sent Federal Troops to Coeur d’Alene. (Stone, Irving, Clarence Darrow for the Defense, Big Trouble, Bantam Books, 1958, p. 97)

   ‘Square Deal’ Roosevelt was not Labor’s favorite.  The legendary Mother Jones led a march of 100 children in 1903 to Roosevelt’s summer home in Oyster Bay, Long Island to protest conditions in Philadelphia textile mills.  (AFL-CIO web site)  

   During the Roosevelt administration, three leaders of the Western Federation of Miners, including nationally known Big Bill Haywood were kidnapped by Pinkerton detective, James McParland, and shipped from Denver to Boise, Idaho to stand trial for the 1905 murder of the former Governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg.  The trumped up charges were obviously false and recognized as such by the working population. Roosevelt categorized the defendants as ‘undesirable citizens’ which outraged the working community. A trial was held in Boise; Roosevelt sent Federal troops to a nearby fort to be called out if needed.

   Throughout the country in 1907, May Day marchers protested Roosevelt’s ‘undesirable citizens’ remark.  Eugene Debs wrote for the May Day edition of The Worker, the Socialist Party’s weekly:  “This is the first and only international Labor Day.  It belongs to the working class and is dedicated to the revolution.” (Philip S. Forner, International Publishers, New York, 1986, p.77)

                                     Eugene Debs, sketched by Liam Gima-Lange,                                                                                        student at Aptos Middle School, San Francisco, California

 In New York a massive march was held that included a large representation of Jewish garment workers.  Presiding speaker, Socialist attorney Morris Hillquit, the former Moses Hilkowitz of Riga, Latvia, began his remarks, “Ladies, gentlemen and fellow undesirable citizens.”  Eugene Debs vented his anger at the detention and accusations against the Western Federation of Miners leaders: “If they attempt to murder Moyer, Haywood and their brothers, a   million revolutionists, at least, will meet them with guns.” (Eugene V. Debs Speaks, Pathfinder, New York, 1970, p. 147)  With Clarence Darrow as defense attorney, a not-guilty verdict was reached in 1907.  World Federation Miner leader, Big Bill Haywood, was released from prison.  (Lukas, Anthony, Big Trouble, Simon & Schuster, 1997, pp. 470 – 490, 722.)

    W.H. Taft, Roosevelt’s chosen successor, was not a Labor favorite.  As a Federal Circuit Court Judge in Cincinnati in 1894, he issued an injunction to stop railroad workers from refusing to service Pullman cars.  Taft ruled that the railroad workers had the right to organize, but not to boycott Pullman which was a manufacturer in another city. (Kearns Goodwin, p. 216.)
   Taft could not see beyond supporting Labor’s right to organize.  Property rights, for Taft, superseded worker rights.  Kerns Goodwin reports his comments:

   To the daunting question of what those unable to find work during the recession might do, he had earnestly answered, ‘God knows….they have my deepest sympathy.  It is an awful case when a man is willing to work and is put in this position.’ (Kerns Goodwin, p. 535.)  

Eugene Debs’ important reply is not recorded by Kerns Goodwin. Debs stated:  “The Socialist Party does not refer this important problem to the   Deity for solution.  It recognizes the fact that is of human creation and must be solved by human effort.” (Eugene V. Debs Speaks, p. 162.)


   McClure’s as progressive – that’s a stretch.  Anthony Lukas wrote:

    For years McClure had betrayed anxiety about labor’s ‘lawlessness.’  In part his misgivings sprang from an 1896 pressman’s strike against  his own company occasioned by his temporarily cutting his press feeders wages from twelve to ten dollars a week. (Lukas, p. 591)
   It’s no wonder that Samuel S. McClure would not publish Eugene Debs’ response to President Cleveland’s article in McClure’s Magazine justifying sending Federal troops to Chicago to break the Pullman strike.   Samuel McClure was pro-labor as long as labor was exciting and his writers produced articles that sold magazines.   The powerful investigative writing team of McClure’s separated from the magazine in 1906. (Kerns Goodwin, p. 487.)

   Undaunted, McClure and the magazine continued.  He was especially interested in the ‘lawless’ Western Miners Federation.  The chief witness against the W.F.M leaders was Harry Orchard – a gun for hire – who claimed the W.F.M. hired him to murder ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg, a major figure in the Cour d’Alane strike.

   McClure secured psychiatrist Hugo Munsterberg, a colleague of William James at Harvard, to profile Harry Orchard.  During the trial articles were written portraying Orchard as telling the truth.  Defense lawyer Clarence Darrow and his “defense team were livid.”  (Lukas, p. 600)  The move to ‘yellow journalism’ did not work. 

   Taft with Roosevelt’s support won the presidency in 1908.  After the election, McClure offered Roosevelt 72,000 dollars to work for his magazine, but Roosevelt rejected the offer and signed with Outlook magazine. (Morris, Edmund, Theodore Rex, Random House, New York, 2001, p. 540.)  McClure sold his magazine to creditors in 1911.


   Milwaukee ‘Sewer Socialists’ claim Eugene Debs as founder with Victor Berger.  Frank Zeidler explains ‘Sewer Socialist’:

   …it reflects a time when the practical Socialists of Wisconsin were held in some derogation by Socialist theoreticians, especially in eastern states, who said the Milwaukee Socialists were incapable of theoretical thinking and were content to see that rubbish was collected and sewers installed.  (Beck, Elmer A. The Sewer Socialists, Westburg Associates, Fennimore, WI, 1982, viii)

   Anthony Lukas calls this, “…one step at a time ‘gas and water’ Socialism, so named because its program emphasized the ownership of municipal utilities.”  (Anthony Lukas, p.413.)  Change would come through political action. (Elmer Beck, p. ix)

   Democratic Socialist Eugene Debs was a man of compassion.  He was a worker himself and identified with the suffering poor.  Debs was incarcerated during the Pullman strike.  He wrote about his experience as an inmate in the Cook County Jail,

   I can never forget the sobbing and screaming that I heard, while in Cook County Jail, from the fifty or more women prisoners who were there.  From that moment I felt my kinship with every human being in   prison, and I made a solemn resolution with myself that if ever the   Time came and I could be of any assistance to those unfortunate souls   I would embrace the opportunity with every ounce of my strength.(Debs Speaks, p. 297)

   Eugene V. Debs was a man of principle; for him it was clear that labor was prior to capital.  Like Lincoln he believed that all were equal and had the inalienable right to life and a living wage.  Debs wrote in 1903:

   As a social party we receive the Negro and all other races upon absolutely equal terms.  We are the party of the working class, and we will not suffer ourselves to be divided by any specious appeal to race prejudice… (Debs Speaks, p.93)

 Is Labor prior to Capital?  Debs wrote’ “…the truth is axiomatic that labor, and only labor, creates capital.”  (Ibid. p. 55.)

Compassion and Principle in the Faith community

   Leo XIII’s Encyclical is not mentioned by Doris Kerns Goodwin or Edmund Morris as having an influence on Theodore Roosevelt or W.H Taft.  Lukas mentions an incident concerning the May 4th march in 1907 which supported the W.F.M. leaders held in detention and called “undesirable citizens” by Roosevelt.   A Roman Catholic Pastor denounced the march and the people in no uncertain terms.

       I watched the crowd pass back and forth and hardly heard and English   word spoken … This horde abused the privileges they got by being    permitted to land on our shores.  We ought not to become the dumping ground for the refuse of Europe.  (Lukas p. 479)

   In Denver, Roman Catholic Bishop, Nicholas C. Matz condemned the W.F.M. as Socialist and therefore contrary to the teaching of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. (Lukas, p. 193)                                                                                                                               
   Labor priest, Irish immigrant, Peter Yorke in San Francisco in 1901 supported a maritime strike that included all working on the docks citing Rerum Novarum.

    Garment workers in New York had no problem connecting the theology of faith with an understanding of every day social justice. Anthony Lukas wrote:

   The intellectuals who rose within the garment trades were often   Socialists, working class savants mixing up a rich stew of Talmudic   doctrine and Marxist dogma.  Tracts of that era saw a congruence   between the two beliefs the coming of the Messiah became the Social revolution; Israel’s liberation from Egypt symbolized the workers’ liberation from class oppression. (Anthony Lukas, p. 466)          

   The Social Gospel advocated by the Protestants, initiated by the faith based abolitionists, had a strong presence in the progressive era.  Roosevelt wrote an article for McClure’s in 1901 which indicated that he might have been close to breaking away from the “politics of plutocracy.”  The article referred to a large New York City Episcopal Church, St. George, which had made an impact preaching the Social Gospel. Roosevelt wrote:  The Church is of all places, that which men meet on the basis of   common humanity under the conditions of sympathy and self respect.  (Roosevelt, Theodore, McClure’s Magazine, “Reform Through Social Work,” vol.XVL, March 1901, p. 448)

   The dominant political philosophy of Roosevelt was that of the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. plutocracy controlling not only the American Continent, but the world.  With Roosevelt we begin with U.S. neo-colonialism and the steady march to W.W.I and W.W.II.

AFL-CIO, Web Site
Beck, Elmer A.  The Sewer Socialists, Westburg Associates, Fennimore, WI. 1982
Dulles, Foster Rhea, Labor in America, Thomas Y. Cromwell Co. New York, 1966
Forner, Philip S. May Day, International Publishers, New York, 1986
Kearns Goodwin, Doris, The Bully Pulpit, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2013
Lukas, Anthony, Big Trouble, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997
Morris, Edmund, Theodore Rex, Random House, New York, 2001
Rayback, Joseph G.  A History of American Labor, The Free Press, New York, 1966
Roosevelt, Theodore, “Reform through Social Work,” McClure’s Magazine, March 1901, vol. XLV
Stone, Irving, Clarence Darrow for the Defense, Bantam, Books, New York, 1958

Tussey, Jean Y.  ed. Eugene V. Debs Speaks, Pathfinder Press, New York,  1970 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


    Pope Francis was Time Magazine’s 'Person of the Year.' The Time lead article stated:

You could argue that he (Pope Francis) is Teddy Roosevelt protecting capitalism from its own excesses or he is simply saying what Popes before him have said, that Jesus calls us to care for the least among 

The question is interesting.  Yes, T. Roosevelt’s neoliberalism (regulated capitalism) saved free market capitalism (liberalism) from self destruction, and Pope Francis, in focusing on real problems rather than Church rules, may be saving the Roman Catholic Church from irrelevance.  However, it should be noted that the tradition of Roosevelt’s neoliberalism is now under attack by his own Republican Party.  Also, Pope Francis is advocating for justice for the poor.   Free market capitalists might throw loose change to the poor, but justice beyond fulfilling contracts is not a concept understood by the free market liberals.

 Where are the Wisconsin Politicians on the issues of  justice?  The debate on the minimum -living wage ordinance will tell the tale.  Wisconsin legislators have Wisconsin progressive tradition to refer to that dates back to the Roosevelt era.

   McClure’s Magazine

   Doris Kerns Goodwin in Bully Pulpit recounts that McClure’s Magazine investigated abuses of the robber barons, published stories about political reformers, and was a part of T. Roosevelt’s attempt to go over the heads of politicians and communicate with the people.
   Let’s look as some McClure's articles not referenced by Kerns Goodwin as a historical guide for Wisconsin legislators in deciding about a living wage for workers.  McClure’s writer Lincoln Steffens wrote about Wisconsin Governor Robert La Follete in October, 1904:

His [La Follete's] long, hard fight has developed citizenship in Wisconsin - honest reasonable intelligent citizenship.  And that is better than business; that is what business and government is for men (people) (McClure’s, Oct. 1904, No. 6, vol. XXIII)
   McClure’s Magazine published an article in 1904 by former Democrat President Grover Cleveland where he tries to justify sending Federal Troops to Chicago to end the Pullman strike.  Pullman workers went on strike because of a cut in their meager wages.  The strikers were supported by the American Railway Union headed by Eugene Debs.  In the McClure article, former President Cleveland argued in terms of existing law written to protect business.  From Washington, D.C., Cleveland decided that Interstate commerce was interrupted, that the mail was stopped, that there was violence and neither the State of Illinois nor the City of Chicago would act, therefore Cleveland had to send in the troops.  Labor leader Eugene Debs defied an injunction to call off the strike and he was sent to prison.

     Debs wrote a reply contradicting Cleveland point by point, but the ‘progressive’ McClure’s would not publish the article.  Victor Berger of Milwaukee, later to be the first Socialist to be elected to Congress, visited Debs at his Woodstock, IL prison cell.  Later, Debs wrote explaining how he became a Socialist because of the events of the 1894 Pullman Strike:

Victor Berger – and I have loved him ever since – came to Woodstock,   as if a providential instrument, and delivered the first impassioned message of Socialism I had ever heard.  (Eugene Debs Speaks, ed. Jean Y. Tinssey, Pathfinders Press, N.Y. 1970, p. 49)

But do Wisconsin legislators need the principles and compassion of a socialist to understand the need for a living wage?  Consider the words of Adam Smith the founder of liberal economics or laissez faire Capitalism.

    Servants, labourers and workers of different kinds, make up a large part of every great political society.  But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconvenience to the whole society.  No society can surely be flourishing and happy of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.  It is but equity, besides, that they who feed,   clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people should have a share of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged. (Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, I. VIII, 36, 1776)

A minimum - living wage makes practical sense, but does the politics of money make it a tough call for Wisconsin politicians?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


 Part I

“LABOR IS PRIOR TO CAPITAL” Abraham Lincoln at the Wisconsin
State Fair - 1859 

   Several of us from the Immigrant Workers’ Center – Voces de la Frontera - attended the Monday, December 16th hearing of the County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee on a ‘living wage’ ordinance.  I was very disappointed. At least two of the Supervisors and a representative of the County Executive attempted to block the legislation.  Final vote of the committee was delayed frustrating over 100 living wage advocates who were in attendance.  A wage of 10% over the poverty level is being asked for which is not really a living wage but perhaps a beginning towards a living wage.

  Several advocates mentioned Catholic Social Teaching which has supported a ‘living’ wage since Pope Leo XIII in 1891.  Despite impassioned pleas from workers, testimony from a professor of economics and a prominent faith leader, Supervisors who opposed the legislation didn’t listen, and spoke without compassion or principle.  They could only speculate a future of doom and gloom if the legislation were passed.

   But this is not the time for personal or partisan politics; the situation is serious.  Former chief economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz says the income gap threatens democracy.  (Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality, W.W. Norton & Company, New York & London, 2012, p. xii) 


   For guidance let us consider the words of Abraham Lincoln in his speech at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1859.  The nation was struggling with the issue of slavery.  Lincoln advocated free labor.  He said, “Labor is prior to Capital.”  Just wages should determine political and economic structures. 

   Do we need to go back to Lincoln to find compassion and principle in U.S. economic thought?  Economist Robert Reich notes that the 1929 income gap that preceded the Great Depression was similar to the present gap.   The response was F.D.R.’s New Deal.  Social justice legislation in the 30’s would be an example of legislation based on compassion and principle, but let us go back to the beginning of government legislating against free market capitalism and the criminal  greed that disrupts the common good.  Doris Kerns Goodwin in her book, Bully Pulpit, (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2013 ) provides a guide to the progressive era, the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.  Both were Republicans, but were separated by personality and political thought. The problems of the ‘gilded age’ were similar to the present. It was the epoch of the ‘Robber Barons’ and the income gap threatened to be a chronic disease of the economic system.


   Theodore Roosevelt’s eyes were opened to the poverty in New York City by an investigative journalist, Jacob Riis.  While T. Roosevelt was Police Commissioner and New York State Assemblyman, “Jacob Riis had introduced him [Roosevelt] to the realities of immigrant life in the slums, though Roosevelt found it hard to relinquish his conception of the poor as people who had ‘failed’ in life.” (Bully Pulpit, p. 213)  Riis’ famous book, How the Other Half Lives stuck with Roosevelt.  Doris Kerns Goodwin described T. Roosevelt’s final campaign speech at Madison Square Garden in his 1912 presidential campaign.

   If the problems created by the industrial age were left unattended, Roosevelt cautioned, America would eventually be 'sundered by              those dreadful lines of division’ that set the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’ against one another.  (Bully Pulpit, p. 735)   

   Abraham Lincoln was T. Roosevelt’s role model. (Bully Pulpit, pp. 79, 83, 566, & more)  Lincoln at Gettysburg emphasized inalienable rights; Roosevelt did the same in a 1912 campaign speech at Columbus, Ohio.

   We progressives believe that human rights are supreme over all other rights; that wealth should be the servant, not the master of the people. (Bully Pulpit, p. 678)


W.H. Taft, T. Roosevelt’s successor, and more so T. Roosevelt himself are considered progressives in the ‘gilded age.’  They challenged liberalism (laissez fair capitalism) with neo-liberal legislation and judicial decisions. Kerns Goodwin listed the accomplishments:

A series of anti-trust suits had been won and legislation passed to regulate railroads, strengthen labor rights, curb political corruption, end corporate campaign contributions, impose limits on the working day, protect consumers from unsafe food and drugs, and conserve vast swaths of natural resources for the American people.   (Bully Pulpit, p.xi)

   But T. Roosevelt promoted the Spanish American War.  His reaction to the 1886 Haymarket riot was couched in language distinguishing ‘Americans’ as law abiding as  opposed to the immigrant German workers demonstrating against police brutality.  Kerns Goodwin quotes Roosevelt from his western ranch in Medora,

Men here are hard working laboring men for no greater wages than many of the strikers; but they are Americans through and through, I believe nothing would give them greater pleasure than a chance with their rifles at one of the mobs.  (Bully Pulpit, p.159)

   Kerns Goodwin fails to note that the 1886 demonstrations in Chicago were part of the Knights of Labor national campaign for the eight-hour day, and that parades around the world on May 1st remember the Haymarket Martyrs.

   The next posting, Part II of COMPASSION AND PRINCIPLE, will continue with the guide of Doris Kerns Goodwin’s book Bully Pulpit, but will focus on the role of McClure’s magazine as an agent for T. Roosevelt’s – ‘Bully Pulpit.’ How did Taft and Roosevelt differ?  We will also consider Eugene Debs criticism of T. Roosevelt’s labor policy.

LABOR IS PRIOR TO CAPITAL” Pope John Paul II (not Pope Francis) Laborem Exercens, 1982

The sketch of President Theodore Roosevelt is by Liam Gima Lange.  Liam is a student at Aptos Middle School, San Francisco, CA

For comments:

President Theodore Roosevelt drawn by Liam Gima-Lange, January, 2014

Thursday, December 19, 2013


   'Tis the season of wonderful myths.  Our steering committee of Voces’ New Sanctuary Movement was invited to the St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Burlington, Wisconsin to do a dramatization of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

   We discussed myths as we traveled to Burlington; it took over an hour.  What were we doing, out on a cold, snowy, and dark evening?  The discussion went as follows: Christmas time puts us in touch with myths from all faiths.  Such myths are comforting, but they also could propel us to create new political structures for the common good.  We decided that you cannot say a myth is false in the sense that it is not historical or scientific.  Scientific or historical truth is not the purpose of a myth.  Its purpose is to give understanding to something that is very difficult or impossible to explain.  There were still questions by the time we got to Burlington.

Cast of the Play in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe

      The reception at the parish was warm and friendly.  Most of the people were Latinos but not all.  We celebrated Mass which included Aztec dancing; we prayed the Rosary and we did our play.  The singing of our committee member, Maria Guadalupe, was a moving religious experience for me.  Her song petitioned the beloved and pregnant, dark skinned Mother of the Savior for the gift of Justice and Peace.  The liturgy was a loving act of resistance in a repressive foreign culture.

   But what about the Gospel Christmas myths of Matthew and Luke; are they still viable?  Let’s look at another example that says yes to myths.

   The gospel of Luke has the birth of Jesus announced to shepherds, working people, by angels, messengers from heaven.  The Savior is a Jewish peasant child born in a stable in occupied Israel. What does this mean?  The angels caroled, “Good news of great joy”… “Peace on earth to those of good will.” (Luke C. 2, vs. 10 - 14)  The revelation goes directly against the Roman good news myth of, Pax Romana, – peace through aristocratic military might.

   Let us remember, fifty years ago the world was on the cusp of nuclear destruction.  John XXIII responded with his encyclical, Pacem in Terris. (Peace on Earth)

   The Cuban missile crisis of October, 1962 had been resolved by negotiation.  John XXIII had pleaded, “We implore all rulers not to remain deaf to the cry of humanity for peace … to resume negotiations … to set in motion, to encourage and accept discussions at all levels and at any time a maximum of wisdom and prudence.” (Douglass, James, JFK and the Unspeakable, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2008 p. 339)  Vatican Council II had opened a few days before the world was aware of the threat of nuclear destruction.  The Council’s opening message from the Church Fathers stressed peace and social justice.   

   By April of 1963 talks on a nuclear testing treaty seemed to have broken down.  John XXIII presented his encyclical, Pacem in Terris, on April 11th.  Khrushchev had seen a copy.  Kennedy, of course, could not refer to any influence by the Pope.  The Encyclical proposed mutual trust as opposed to mutual nuclear escalation for complete annihilation as the road to peace. The path to a disarmament treaty looked dark, but on June 10th Kennedy gave his greatest and most radical speech at the American University commencement program.  James Douglass wrote, “The American University address owed much to Pacem in Terris.” (Ibid. p. 347) Kennedy announced a unilateral suspension of nuclear tests in the atmosphere to promote “our primary long range interest, general and complete disarmament.” (Ibid. p. xxvi).

   Benevolent dictator Pope Francis has indicated that the ‘Peace thru Justice’ theme of Vatican II and Pacem in Terris is not completely dormant in the Roman Catholic Church but surely needs to be revived.  In the Francis papacy, Roman Catholic theologians may be given the freedom to explain faith and myths in terms of peace and justice.  The spark for revival is there; I’ve heard many people say, “because of Pope Francis, I’m proud to be a Catholic.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


   The headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shouts, “Hierarchy asks Catholics for opinions.”  The article states, “[Pope] Francis in October called on bishops around the world to survey the faithful in advance of a special synod on evangelization and the family scheduled for next fall.” (M.J.S. 11-18-12)  Such a survey is in line with the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium that names the faithful the ‘People of God’ who receive the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (L.G. C.1,4. C.4,9.0)

   Is this simply a bait and switch con game?  Francis has said that the bishops overemphasize abortion, contraception, and gay marriage, but the survey focuses on these issues.  Lumen Gentium also states that the Church hierarchy in conformity with the pope is the ultimate and final authority. (L.G. C.III,18=21)  Infallible decisions have been made on the issues to be discussed at the Synod.  Rush Limbaugh and Sara Palin have been critical of the Pope.  This is an indication that Francis is on the right path, but did Rush and Palin push the panic button too soon?  Church doctrine will not be changed because of a survey.

    However, the pastoral response of the hierarchy may change as a result of the survey.  Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, emphasized the ‘pastoral slant’ of the Synod:  “It is not, therefore, a matter of debating doctrinal questions, but rather … how to effectively proclaim the Gospel of family in the times we are living, characterized by a clear and spiritual crisis.” (National Catholic Reporter, 11, 22, & 12, 5, 2013, p.8)  Does this mean that as ‘Benevolent Dictator’ Francis will bend a bit on the hot issues of politically right wing bishops such as Cardinal Dolan of New York?  Pope Francis could maintain the dogma and cite exceptions depending on circumstances and reference to the right of freedom of conscience.   He may also dust off the opinion of Thomas Aquinas and say that we should follow the natural law and do what is reasonable. (Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIa, q. 19, a. 4; cf. a. 9)  It remains to be seen, but Dolan may have hitched his carriage to the wrong horse. Will the position of the U.S. Bishops on Obamacare change? (See – “Behind the scenes bishops seek exit strategy,” National Catholic Reporter, 12, 6-19, 2013, p. 5)

   Nothing has been said about making the economic survival of families a concern for the Synod.  Church liberals and conservatives ignore the simple survival of families in a world of increasing income inequality and poverty, but the Pope has raised these issues and received press coverage from every vantage point.

   Let us remember, the first social encyclical expressed that the core of society, the family, was entitled to life – a living wage, and health care. (Rerum Novarum 34)   The living wage principle continues to the present.  Key to achieving a living wage and health care is the political support of a strong labor movement.  Leo XIII shocked the world by stating in 1891 that workers have the right to organize. (R.N. 36)  Pope John Paul II was ignored when he said in Laborem Exercens that labor unions are indispensible. (L.E. C. 4, 20) 

    In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II states that the social encyclicals are the ‘new evangelization.’ (C.A. Intro. & C. I, 4)  But for the Roman Catholic hierarchy and their liberal critics, doctrine on internal church rules on sex trump food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education as prior.   

Oscar – The Advisor - Rodriguez (The Politics of a Benevolent Dictatorship part 3)

   Pope Francis has appointed eight Cardinals as his most trusted advisors.  One of them is Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.  NCR reports that the Honduran Cardinal serves as coordinator of the group. (National Catholic Reporter, 12, 6-19, 2013. p.12)  The direction of Church ‘reform’ will be greatly influenced by this Central American Cardinal.

    I interviewed Rodriquez for the Spanish Journal in October of 2006.  The Cardinal received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Lutheran affiliated Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rodriguez was clear that he favored ‘Liberation Theology’ and was also clear that he opposed trade agreements that exploited workers.  The Archbishop of Milwaukee, and future New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, attended the event.

   But questions about Rodriguez Maradiaga’s involvement in the 2009 military coup in Honduras are troubling.  Did Rodriguez support the coup?  Did he support the coup because the democratically elected president Zelaya had discussions with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela?  Questions about anti-semitism and a rigid position on church rules concerning sexuality have also surfaced. 

   The politics of Francis’ benevolent dictatorship may allow the Central American Cardinal Rodriguez to position himself on the side of the poor.  Rodriguez is from a poor and violent country, but he has lived a privileged life.  Still the question remains, what takes priority for the papacy and Church of Pope Francis?  The fact that there is a change in Church politics is a hopeful sign.