Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Working Catholic: Who Is Next? by Bill Droel

Image result for nazi symbol

There has always been a strain of anti-Catholicism in our country. For example, Catholics were attacked (verbally, quasi-legally and even violently) through the mid-1800s by public leaders and small groups. The U.S., it was said, is for natives, not for papist immigrants. During the 1850s an entire political party, The Know Nothings, ran on this anti-Catholic platform; supported by vile religious slurs in newspapers, scandalous cartoons and discrimination signs in places of employment and housing. In the 1920s another nationwide group formed to oppose Catholicism. It had strong chapters in the Midwest (especially in Indiana) and the West. Its name was Ku Klux Klan. In the 1950s the violence-prone KKK became associated with anti-black sentiment in the South.

Ku Klux Klan symbol
Catholics gained acceptance during World War II and thereafter through their contributions to our country’s struggle against Nazi ideology (a movement that wanted a so-called pure race). 

Catholics were respected after the War because of their stance against communist ideology (another movement with exclusionary tendencies). The 1960 election of President John Kennedy (1917-1963) symbolized acceptance for Catholics. Although U.S. Catholics now surpass other Christian denominations in education attainment and average income, it is a mistake to think our country is free from Catholic-haters.

Given our history in this beautiful country, Catholic citizens should be on the front lines in protest against anyone who says an entire religious group is unwelcome on our shores.

A nation by definition has a responsibility to secure its borders. At the same time our nation is founded on the premise that a fresh start begins here. Further, the U.S. is proud of its history as a “beacon on a hill” and proud of its national poem: “…from her beacon hand glows world-wide welcome.” The U.S. regularly tells other nations to practice pluralism. The U.S. on occasion even scolds intolerant nations. And, as during World War II, the U.S. is sometimes willing to take up arms against a nation that persecutes an entire group of people because of their religion or ethnicity.

It is proper and necessary for the U.S. to turn away some foreign individuals from our harbors, or our airports, or our Canadian and Mexican borders. An individual should normally not enjoy our land of liberty if they do not qualify, particularly if they pose a threat to national security. To turn away an entire ethnic or religious group, however, violates the very freedom our country espouses.

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  Donald Trump, the showman from Queens, New York, belongs to a comparatively small Christian denomination. Its members—like Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Baptists and others—should be on guard against nativist exclusionary rhetoric. For once notions of a pure group or impure group gain credence, any group could be next. It was once Jews, Catholics before that, Muslims now. The religious group to which Trump belongs, should his prejudice spread further, might soon hear: “You’re fired. Get outta here.”

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a newsletter about faith and work.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Alienated Culture by Dr. Francisco Enriquez

Que es Hispanico?  What is Hispanic?
(Haggerty Museum, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI)

One of the paintings under the sub-title, 'Religion' is The Holy Family During the Journey into Egypt by Miguel Cabrera, 1715-1760’s.

It depicts a very European Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing from Herod as it was recommended by the angel who warned Joseph (Matthew 2:13).  Mary, who is wearing a fancy brown hat and beautiful blue tunic is holding baby Jesus in a very relaxed way. She is riding on a donkey that has stopped to drink water from a creek.  Joseph is holding Jesus’s hand who is holding a round fruit in his hand.

They are surrounded by chubby little blond angels and by a more mature angel who is walking with them.  There are no other families with them, no other refugees.  The scene appears to be taking place in a beautiful location, in the early evening hours and they are clearly facing the sunset which explains the details of their faces and the angel’s.

Mr.  Cabrera does not appear to be trying to convey a sense of urgency or alertness, which is what you would expect from a family who is running away from a governor who is trying to destroy your child. Neither does he appear to have created this painting with the average Mexican in mind.  He was clearly painting for the Spaniards or those who pretended to be of Spanish ancestry.  And the message was “we are not concerned, we are not even rushing”; the story was supposed to represent an “escape from danger” but in the here and now, we own this country [Mexico], its people and its resources and therefore we take our time and we enjoy it whenever we so desire, even if we are supposed to be in danger.

This is a contrasting story when compared to the real dangers that people from Mexico and Latin America have been escaping from.  Just to name a few ones:  the North America Free Trade Agreements that inundated the Mexican markets with government subsided corn, leaving the small Mexican farmers no chance of competition.  The final consumers of illegal drugs in the US who provide the incentive for the cruel and heartless drug cartels to terrorize, kidnap, rape and assassinate civilians in Mexico, Central and South America.  The firearms industry that has sold the weapons used by the drug dealers and that are used daily to intimidate and kill people who get in their way. The local governments that are in bed with the cartels and the firearm industry, etc.

When we think of families running for their lives, and for the lives of their children, the images of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya  are more likely to come to our mind.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 500,000 migrants have fled to Greece and Turkey, many of them in flimsy boats or rafts,  a “truly biblical migration” that has not faced a humane response with the exception of Germany.  Many European countries such as Hungary, Austria and Britain have closed their doors to immigrants and now France and the US have hardened to the appeals of refugees.

This situation is not new; in May 1939, the United States, Cuba and other countries closed their doors to 930 Jewish refugees from Europe on the St. Luis Ship from Hamburg.  They were returned to Antwerp, Belgium, where many subsequently died in the Jewish Holocaust.

When we think of refugees, the image of a 3 year old Syrian boy, Aylan, who washed up on beach in Turkey would be more appropriate at representing the struggle of refugees.  I doubt that Mr. Cabrera, even if he lived in this day and age would have chosen that one for his painting.

Dr. Francisco Enriquez is a pediatrician in the inner city of Milwaukee. 

Attributed to Miguel Cabrera, Mexican, 1695-1768
The Holy Family During the Journey into Egypt, 1715-1760s
Oil on copper, 34 1/4 x 28 in.  72.20
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Bader
Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An Alienated Worker by Gabriela Dieguez

“Silver Mine Worker” is a lithograph from Francisco Mora part of the collection “What is Hispanic?” at the Haggerty museum.  The picture shows a man holding a light on his left hand and  slouching down in order not to hit his head with the tunnel’s ceiling. He is entering the mine and far away you can see the entrance to the tunnel illuminated by the light outdoors.The worker’s face shows sorrow and resignation.
This picture takes me back to my last trip to Mexico.  During that trip we visited an old mine called “Dos Estrellas” in Tlalpujahua, Michoacan. Just as you can observe in the lithograph workers with little clothing and if lucky some sandals would enter the mine every day to extract gold and silver. “Dos estrellas” was one of the largest mines in Mexico in the early 20th century.  Its owners became very rich and most of the people of the surrounding area worked at the mine under precarious conditions.  The guide at the mine explained to us that many workers got sick during the years of hard work. In 1937 as the ore was dwindling, a mudslide carrying debris from the mine buried most of the town which brought mining in the area to an end.
Mining made possible the industrial revolution in the “first world” and this lithograph is a call to meditate about the cost for other countries “the third world”.  At “Dos Estrellas” very few people from the community became rich from what the mine produced.  Most were debt bondage workers that had to pay back for the axe, the helmet, the lantern and the oil for the lantern.  If they got sick the mine had its own hospital and the workers then were in debt again to cover medical expenses. Furthermore workers were paid with currency that only could be used at the mine store. Mining is now modern and efficient yet very few people in the local communities benefit from what is extracted. Currently, mining in third world countries likeGuatemala and El Salvador is carried out by transnational companies that leave only 1% of the royalties to the country.  
Mining not only affected workers lives but also the environment and the people in the surrounding areas and still does.  Mining requires large amounts of water for the ore to be separated from other minerals which causes pollution of the water ways.  Toxic chemicals are used in the process that later on are also washed into the rivers destroying flora and fauna.  Rivers then contaminate the soil where people cultivate their food. Here in the first world we benefit from the natural resources of other countries, from the labor of their workers and the destruction of their land.
May the light of the mining worker on the litograph shine on us to help us see the injustice of the unfair working conditions in which people work extracting the materials that are used to make the batteries in our electronics devices. May we be able to see the beauty of the small things around us and be inspired to take action and create community against injustice.

Francisco Mora
Mexican, 1922-2002
Silver Mine Worker (Obrero de una mina de plata, from the portfolio 
Mexican People (Gente Mexicana), 1946
171/2 x 51/4
2008. 11.6
Gift of anonymous donor
Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University

Gabriela Dieguez and her family escaped from Guatemala during the 
Reagan Administration wars in Central America. She is a social worker at the 16th Street Health Clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015


I remember as a factory worker at Briggs & Stratton in Milwaukee being well aware of the concept and the reality of being an alienated worker.

   Karl Marx originated the notion of alienation in reference to workers. The term ‘alienated’ described the situation of the worker in the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. (1)  The exploited position of workers was mitigated somewhat in the 20th century by the emergence of labor unions, but the term was used by theologian Gregory Baum in explaining the situation of workers as noted by Pope St. John Paul II in his 1981 Encyclical, Laborem Exercens. (2) 

   A worker’s identity is connected to his/her activity as an agent of production.  Economically forced activity that is harmful to the worker is personal activity that negates a worker’s own identity.  For example, work that harms the environment, work that is undervalued and is in a life struggle competition with other workers and work that denies a creative voice, are all inhuman.  In so far as it is spiritually destructive, work is an evil and causes resentment, anger, and crime.

   St. John Paul II in Laborem Exercens says that “labor is prior to capital.” (#12)  Labor is prior to capital in that labor produces capital and is the purpose of capital.  Although Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln made the same assertion in a speech in Milwaukee in 1859, you never hear such a statement in current political rhetoric.   Also the controversial claim made by the sainted Pope in Laborem Exercens that “labor unions are indispensable” (#20) gains little liberal or conservative political traction.

   Since the 1990’s income inequality has constantly increased yet power for unions is ignored by a political structure dominated by capital interests.    In so far as labor is separate from capital it follows that workers would be alienated. Laborem Exercens says that private property is a basic right but, “The right to private property is subordinated to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.” (#14)  Is there any possibility for industrial peace or peace in general unless it is recognized the all are owners of capital – owners with a voice and a right to the abundance produced?  

    The undocumented workers in the U.S.A. are a clear example of alienated workers.  They have no voice.  If the try to form a union or join a union the employer can retaliate by reporting them to the I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Service) I.C.E. designates the undocumented as “aliens” and when in process of proceedings for deportation provides an alien number.

   The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the Holy Family migrating to Egypt in order to avoid King Herod’s massacre of the Innocents. (Mt. 2)  Did Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have alien numbers in Egypt?  Perhaps Joseph worked for a brick manufacturer who liked the cheap labor and protected him from the ‘Egyptian Immigration Service.’

(1)  Lobkowicz, Nicholas,  Theory and Practice, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame – London 1967, p. 294
(2)  Baum, Gregory, The Priority of Labor, Paulist Press, New York, 1982, p. 48

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Kohler ‘Bathtub Barons’ vs. the Working Community

   Workers at the Kohler Plant near Sheboygan, Wisconsin have again been forced to go on strike.  Joanne and I drove up to Sheboygan just south of Green Bay on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to support the strikers with a donation and a turn on the picket line.  We also visited the Emil Mazey Union Hall which contains photos and the story of past Union battles with the Kohler ‘Bathtub Barons.’   As in the past, the struggle will have national implications.  Can workers establish their right to a voice in the workplace?  Currently Labor faces a well organized political enemy and the working community must coalesce in solidarity for justice and the common good.  The plant is in a rural area, and we saw a wild turkey near the highway.  It reminded us that it was Thanksgiving time and the debt of gratitude we owe to Kohler workers, past and present.

Strike 1897:  Kohler vs. Workers’ Voice

   Austrian immigrant John Michael Kohler founded the bathroom and kitchen fixture manufacturing plant in 1873. The founder fought worker representation from the beginning.  In March of 1897 workers who belonged to the Molders’ Union walked off the job to protest a 50-percent cut in wages. Founder Kohler stated that he would close the plant if the workers did not accept the wage cut; it was explained that the wage cut was needed to meet the competition. The strike failed – and so the story begins.

Strike 1934 – 1941: Workers vs. Fascism

   The next attempt to establish the worker’s right to a voice was in 1934.  Fascism was fomenting in Europe, especially in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria and Germany.  Kohler countered the strike for labor recognition with violence resulting in the death of two workers and many injured.  The company hired armed unemployed men who were dressed in black shirts – a European symbol of fascism to fight the strikers. Kohler tried the tactic of splitting the workers by establishing a company union to rival an independent union of workers.  The strike was settled in 1941 without the company recognizing an independent union.  The immediate needs of industrial production for World War II demanded a settlement.

Strike 1954 -1960: The McCarthy Era, Workers are Communists

   In 1954 Kohler workers went on strike again to establish their right for an independent voice in the work-place.  The Kohler again countered by forming a company union.

   The Kohlers were political idealists with reference to the Middle-Ages and feudal lords.  They felt that they were responsible to care for workers as they saw fit. Two Kohlers with big bank rolls became governors of Wisconsin. Herbert V. Kohler Sr., company head during part of the ’34-’41 and ’54-’60 strikes, was a spokesman for the extreme right wing Manion Forum. The Forum’s stated purpose, according to a Wall Street Journal article, March 17, 1958, is to wage war by television, radio and printed page against Socialist ‘pubic power,’ unrestrained Labor ‘bossism,’ federal aid to education and other progressive policies.

   An example of Kohler paternalism is the Kohler town established for workers and the American Club – a hostel as well as a place for a Kohler version of 'americanizing’ immigrant workers.  Such paternalism proved to be un-American, such as the infamous company town of Pullman near Chicago which culminated in a violent strike in 1894.  

        The climate for Union activity after World War II was toxic.  In 1947 the Taft Hartley act was passed by the U.S. Congress which restricted picketing.   Also in ’47 workers at Allis Chalmers in Milwaukee lost in a very bitter strike because some leaders were accused of being communists. The Landrum-Griffin Act passed by Congress in 1949 legitimized anti union ‘right to work’ laws passed by states. 

    Some leaders of the faith community, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant, supported the striking workers at Kohler.  Monsignor James Finucan summarized the main issue in a letter to Herbert Kohler Sr.

Men have a right which comes from God, Who created them to form associations and bargain collectively.1

The strike was settled in 1960 and in 1965 the union was awarded $4.5 million in penalties by the N.L.R.B. (National Labor Relations Board)2

Strike 2015:   A Sneak Attack by the Walker Administration

    The present strike is in an atmosphere of unprecedented anti- democracy/anti-union politics.  Governor Scott Walker led the passage of Act 10 which took away bargaining rights from public employees. He also signed ‘Right to Work’ legislation which promotes a split in union strength. 

   Workers at Kohler are on strike because of the two tier wage system which alienates worker from worker – young from old, and makes union solidarity questionable.  Also contended are insurance benefits; the company wants cuts from the previous contract.  Kohler makes these demands despite large profits over the five years of the current contract.

   Without shame, the Kohler ‘Bathtub Barons’ are trying to cleanse their name by becoming ‘Golf Course Moguls.’  Herb Kohler Junior’s Whistling Straights is host to national golf tournaments. Of course a round of golf for a worker is far too expensive, even with a worker discount.

  Again, Kohler workers are fighting for a voice in the workplace.

UAW Local 833 is seeking nonperishable donations such as: cereal, canned goods, and boxed dinners.  There is a special need for diapers, formula, baby wipes.  The Tier B people are earning such a low wage that they live day to day.  Any personal donations to directly support these people may be sent to UAW Local 833, Worker’s Relief & Strike Fund, 5425 Superior Avenue, Sheboygan, WI 53083 .

1.     Uphoff, Walter H. Kohler on Strike Thirty Years of Conflict, Beacon Press, Boston,      1966, p. 388.
2.    Ibid. p. 421.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Working Catholic: Esau and Jacob by Bill Droel

Political scientist Sheldon Wolin (1922-2015), who died in October, fought against a dominant approach in social science that constructs abstract models to then be used in devising and evaluating public policy. Instead, Wolin turned to the history of specific societies. From them he derived lessons that apply to modern situations.

In a well-known essay, Wolin looks at the saga of twins Esau and Jacob, as revealed in Genesis (See 25:19-34; 27:1-49). He then explores the difference between an individual who lacks context and a relational person who is rooted in family and community traditions. The older twin Esau, you remember, sells his birthright to Jacob. Their father Isaac is then tricked into bestowing the ancestral blessing on Jacob the younger brother.

A birthright, Wolin explains, is a unique and irreplaceable inherited collective identity. A birthright is an honor, but it implies commitment. It denies that solitary individuals are thrown into the world and allowed to make unencumbered choices. Instead, the birthright (which is one’s package of family and community traditions) bestows on its recipient all the treasures of the ancestors, but includes the obligations as well. Yet Esau and now many people in the United States, Wolin feels, would say the disappearance of familial obligation, especially obligation to the elderly, is not “a loss but a relief.”

Wolin calls this wholesale embrace of unencumbered individualism the contract theory of society. It replaces thick stories of familial honor and obligation with an assessment about the near-term additions or subtractions to an individual’s interest. Little regard, explains Wolin, is given to the meaning of the inherited situation. Nor do individuals consider “the possibility that [because of this or that choice] I could be better off but that we [will] not.” The contract theory rests on shaky premises, he writes.

The part of the Esau and Jacob story that many of us miss is that Jacob’s little coup d’├ętat was a disaster for both him and his brother. They feared and fought one another most of their lifetime. Only at the conclusion of Genesis does Jacob imperfectly attempt to end a pattern of isolation, resentment, retaliation and more isolation.

In popular contract theory, individuals are autonomous and society starts afresh each morning. But in reality, Wolin continues, there is never a single moment when all individuals “have no prior history” related to economic class, religion, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, geography, and more. The contract theory “is deeply anti-historical.” It posits “a memory-less person without a birthright.” The contract theory is really “collective amnesia.”

Our goal as North Americans is not to be enslaved by the past. The democratic idea that we are allowed to rise above the education and economic level of family or class is an advance in God’s plan. But the price for our ragged individualism is high. Far too many have become unattached from a collective story. The large number of isolated and resource-impoverished seniors is but one example of our lost sense of ancestral gratitude. A contract society, as it turns out, is not dynamic. Today’s society is populated by free roaming individuals making so-called free choices, yet ours is a static society— economically and especially spiritually. Individuals presume they are choosing, but they are not participating. Without the power of collective memory, says Wolin, true participation, which is “originating or initiating cooperative action with others,” becomes a rarity, not the norm.

The challenge is to draw upon the best values of our parents, grandparents, and other heroes in the faith as we create and fashion what Genesis calls Eden: literally, “a home out of the earth.

Droel is the author of Monday Eucharist (National Center for the Laity, PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629; $8)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Working Catholic: First U.S. Saint by Bill Droel

She is the first U.S. citizen to be an official saint. But it almost didn’t happen.

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, MSC (1850-1917) and half a dozen others from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart arrived in New York Harbor in March 1889, following a difficult Atlantic Ocean crossing. Italian priests serving in New York, the story goes, sent disturbing reports back to Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini (1839-1905) of northern Italy. The U.S. church, largely populated by Irish-Americans, treats Italian immigrants as second rate, those reports said. With the blessing of Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) Cabrini was thus dispatched to remedy the situation. Church officials in New York promised her a house, a school and an orphanage.

Upon arrival, Cabrini met with New York’s Bishop Michael Corrigan (1839-1902) only to learn no preparations were made for her. Paul Moses recounts the scene in his illuminating study, An Unlikely Union: the Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians (New York University Press, 2015). “I see no better solution to this question, Mother, than that you and your sisters return to Italy,” Corrigan said. “No, not that, your Excellency,” Cabrini replied. “I am here by order of the Holy See and here I must stay.” Keep in mind that until the 1978 administration of Pope John Paul II (1920-2005), the Holy See was an Italian-run operation.

Corrigan, Moses explains, was not against the pastoral care of Italian immigrants; he even spoke a little Italian. Corrigan and his Irish-American clergy simply thought the new arrivals were a problem. They did not want to lose the loyalty (and donations) of the slightly better established Irish-Americans who were reluctant to share with the Italians.

The half-hearted pastoral outreach in the U.S. church consequently reinforced the Italians’ preference for household piety and popular devotions; expressions of faith not dependent on approval of a local pastor. This popular religiosity only spun the wheel round again. The Irish-American parish leaders faulted the Italian immigrants for low Mass attendance, low financial giving, deficient knowledge of doctrine and susceptibility to evangelical Protestant outreach.

Cabrini, whose feast is celebrated each November, wasted no time on discouragement. She moved forward, not only in New York but across the country, including here in Chicago where she died. In total Cabrini founded 67 schools, orphanages and hospitals. Her Missionary Sisters, who are now headquartered in Radnor, Pennsylvania, continue to serve in those types of institutions plus in social service agencies, legal clinics, prisons and more.

The tension during Cabrini’s time between established parishes and new immigrants is similar in some respects to the situation with arrivals from Mexico—though that wave of immigration, contrary to a stereotype, plateaued a decade or more ago.

Mutual respect between Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans came about as the new arrivals developed leaders within the neighborhood, the parish and the workplace. The Italians acquired confidence and public skills, but not necessarily inside church settings. Local precincts, unions, schools and civic institutions valued their contributions. The other dynamic, as Moses charmingly shows, was intermarriage. Respect occurs organically as an Irish-American wife enjoys the conviviality of an all-afternoon dinner at her in-laws, while her Italian-American husband gives-and-takes at the rambunctious family gathering of his Irish in-laws.

There are unique pieces to this century’s Mexican-American story. The schools for leadership—the unions, precincts and parochial schools—are not as strong as in the past. Stable industrial jobs with benefits are few. Family culture has been eroded by the superficiality of the pervasive individualistic culture, fortified by mindless media content. Yet the Mexican-American plot line is the same. The drama may well progress slower than it did for Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans. Be assured there are still Cabrini-like saints among us, people fighting daily for the safety and progress of our immigrants.

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a newsletter about faith and work. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Working Catholic: NRA Is a Front by Bill Droel

According to a popular opinion, the National Rifle Association is the primary obstacle to gun safety. Progress is possible, if only the NRA would modify its extremism, this opinion says. Even President Barack Obama, speaking in the wake of the Umpqua Community College massacre, implicitly endorsed this opinion of the NRA. He asked responsible gun owners to question the organization.

The Industrial Areas Foundation is not buying this popular analysis. The NRA is merely a front for gun manufacturers, says IAF, a 75-year old network of community organizations founded in Chicago. The real obstacle is seven or so major companies that carelessly market unsafe consumer products. Their corporate behavior contributes to violence on city streets and in schools.

Thus, early on a brisk October morning about 150 leaders made their way by el train, car and bus to Chicago’s McCormick Convention Center. They arrived clutching steaming cups of coffee. They represented churches, synagogues, a mosque and civic institutions affiliated with IAF’s Chicago chapter, United Power for Action and Justice. They stood in a plaza, just outside the hall where the International Association of Chiefs of Police was meeting.

IAF’s strategy is to leverage the purchasing power of the military plus federal and local police forces. About 40% of gun sales are to these public entities. The police, in the IAF strategy, will sign purchasing orders under two conditions.
Condition #1.) Only when a manufacturer improves product safety. It is possible to micro-stamp each gun and each bullet so that in the event of a crime, police can easily trace the weapon. It is also possible to put a recognition chip into a gun so that only its owners can fire the gun. This is similar to a recognition chip used in some autos.

Condition #2.) Only when a manufacturer ends its sales to irresponsible gun shops. Greg Pierce, a longtime IAF leader, told the McCormick Place rally that a preponderance of weapons recovered at Chicago crime scenes are traced to Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, Illinois.

Over 75 police chiefs and public officials from around the country are on board with this corporate responsibility campaign. A handful joined the rally at McCormick Place, encouraging citizens to continue the pressure. Jersey City, New Jersey, looking to spend about $400,000 on police guns, actually used similar conditions. They received two bids and awarded a contract.

The United Power leaders got to specifics: Gun manufacturers had displays inside the convention hall. Using enlarged photos on sturdy poster board, the rally leaders called out the executives of four companies: Smith & Wesson, Glock, Beretta and Sig Sauer. Those four, it turns out, made many of the guns used in crimes around Chicago.

IAF wants to collaborate with those companies on safety. To get the companies’ attention, IAF wants the support of police departments and of the biggest gun purchaser in our country, Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama.

It is easy to say, “Oh, it won’t work.” That’s the slogan for the apathetic. The IAF leaders in Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, New York, District of Columbia and elsewhere have a different attitude. “We begin in the world as it really is,” they are apt to say. “We admit our imperfections and those of others. But we fight for improvement, for the world as it could be.” For more information on the safe gun campaign contact IAF (1226 Vermont Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20005; www.donotstandidlyby.org).
More on this topic in a future Working Catholic column.

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a free newsletter on faith and work.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Fernando Castro Pacheco
Mexican, 1918-2013
Working with Ixtle (Trabajando con ixtle)
from the portfolio Mexican People (Gente Mexicana), 1946
15 ¼ x 17 ½ in.
Gift of anonymous donor
Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University

WORK – A CURSE OR A BLESSING?  by Gabriela Dieguez

“Working with Ixtle” is a lithograph from Fernando Castro Pacheco part of the collection “What is Hispanic?” at the Haggerty museum.  The picture was made back in 1946 and tells the story of a woman working vegetable fibers on a loom. This is also the story of many workers from the present that we can meet in Wisconsin. As a social worker I have heard countless stories of life in Mexico, of the hardships that force people to migrate north and their adaptation to new lives in the U.S. 
This pictures talks about the importance of work.  In the picture the spectator can see that the woman is a hard worker.  The land seems barren with no plants even the tree from where her thread hangs has no leaves.  In order to collect the vegetables fibers to make the ixtle this worker has taken countless hours walking and carrying the plants towards her home.  The picture also shows behind a small tent where a woman and a child observe. Making sure the tent provides protection from sun and rain requires maintenance, it is all hard work. It is  possible that the woman on this picture uses the thread to make fabric and her work then can be used to make clothes. 
For most people work provides us with a sense of identity. And this identity is transformed when we migrate.  When I hear stories from migrants I am inspired by their strength and flexibility.  I have met shoemakers that here become factory workers, I have met doctors that here become office cleaners, and I also have met migrants that finish their studies in the U.S and go on to accomplish their dreams.  Work provides people the means to live and sustain their family.  Work is also part of who we are and how we perceive ourselves as part of our community and the way we contribute for the well being of society.  The work we each do is valuable and essential for our countries. Work done with passion and with full awareness of its importance in the functioning of a community, city, and country is work that brings us pride and happiness.

Gabriela Dieguez is from Guatemala; she and her family escaped from her home country during the Reagan sponsored civil wars in Central America. Gabrela is married and a mother of two university students. She is a social worker in Milwaukee at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Working Catholic: Goodbye Trump by Bill Droel

Don Trump is out. Don Quixote is in. Worldly self-regard is out. Regard for others is in. That’s the analysis of this Working Catholic blog no matter what happens in the polls or in state primaries. It’s percolating; though it is not evident to many of the new tycoons, or to so-called celebrities, or to many people in media. It emerged after the collapse of our individualistic marketplace in 2007-2008. It temporarily resides in both the disillusionment and the dreams of many young adults. Soon it will guide young adult behavior—not all of them, but at least the powerful 2% who will, in turn, change the world.

      Young adults—in ones and twos and eights—are seeing through the gimmickry culture of corporate Amazon, of the phony success of ragged individualists and the selfish privileges of the media darlings of the moment. Instead, these young adults seek something that Don Trump can never have: credibility.

     That’s why young adults are attracted to Pope Francis in whom they sense an alternative worldview. That’s why they get involved with causes like Fight for $15 or Black Lives Matter; why they look for jobs with NGOs or in city schools or among the intellectually disabled and the like. They don’t have all the specifics yet. They are at an ambivalent stage. But many young adults, in whole or in part, increasingly feel that the pursuit of wealth in itself is no longer exciting and worth their total investment.

      Aristotle (384-322 BC) wanted his students to make a lifestyle out of their sporadic positive impulses. It happens, he said, as people acquire virtue. To do so requires progress on parallel rails.

     On one rail are, in Aristotle’s term, intellectual virtues. They come by way of theatrical productions and by reading literature, history and biography. Try Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1802-1885). Its protagonist, Jean Valjean, is continually misunderstood, loses all his possessions, and is accused of terrible deeds. He is someone Trump might scorn, yet he is heroic.

     Try any novels by Charles Dickens (1812-1870). The heroes, though flawed, are the children and workers that the Scrooges of this world rob of dignity.

Go back a long way and read about St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), using one of the handful of newer biographies that leave off a sugar-coating. Francis was born into privilege, then inwardly he was conflicted and then he spent all his remaining years in downward mobility.

     And then there is the other Donald, the total flop who tilts at windmills in the novel by Miguel de Cerantes (1547-1617). If the nearly 1,000-page Don Quixote seems forbidding, try a similar story by Graham Green (1904-1991), Monsignor Quixote. On Don Trump’s TV show, Don Quixote would surely hear, “You’re fired!” But to describe him as a person who doesn’t succeed is, of course, to miss the point. He takes the scenic route to unassailable dignity; he fails big but with a pure heart.

     On Aristotle’s other rail are the moral virtues. These, he said, are acquired only through habit. According to Aristotle, it does little good, for example, to participate on Saturday in an anti-hunger walk. The key is to volunteer at a food pantry the following Saturday and then next month to look for a career with an NGO involved with community improvement.

     There is a tension between how things are now and how idealists want things to be. To put it all together a young adult needs a friend. Not someone on social media, but someone who, over coffee or beer, will reflect on this tension. Those two friends then need the steady companionship of four or five others—people who want to stay in the tension between how things are and how they could be. These are friends who want to realistically act on behalf of others.

     It is not easy because mainstream culture is no longer based on face-to-face solidarity, on neighbor-to-neighbor community. For now the way has to emerge among young adults one adventure to the next, one Sancho Panza and Don Quixote duo at a time, one small group here and another there. No matter. Trump and what he represents are done. You read it here.

Droel edits a newsletter on faith and work, INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Joseph Cardinal Cardijn

Let me follow up on Bill Droel’s very important article on Roman Catholic Labor Schools. (www.faithandlabor.blogspot.com Oct 7, 2015)  I would like to recount Milwaukee’s experience with the Cardijn Center and Labor Schools and propose an expansion to a model, similar to Cardijn, which is already underway.

          Milwaukee’s experience with Catholic Labor Schools is related to the Cardijn Center established in 1949 by John Russell Beix – a Milwaukee diocesan priest.  The Center was more than a labor center; it promoted the Christian Family Movement (C.F.M.) and was a social and education center for young people from Wisconsin farms looking for work in industrial Milwaukee.  An educational emphasis was on the new understanding of Catholic Social Teaching prompted by the encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno.  The Center was named after a priest, Canon Joseph Cardijn of Belgium who founded the Young Christian Workers Movement.  Cardijn insisted that Catholics get involved in every day politics.  His method was – observe, judge and act.  Cardijn was inspired by Popes Pius X, and XI’s emphasis on Catholic action.

          The Cardijn Center was sanctioned by Archbishop Moses Kiley but was under constant scrutiny and criticism by conservative priests in the diocese.  Milwaukee has a history of ultra conservative clergy who considered the focus of the Center not spiritual enough and did not trust the strong input of the laity that the Cardijn Center fostered.  In contrast Milwaukee seminary professors, some who later became bishops in other dioceses as Bishop Haas and Cardinal Muench, were strong advocates for workers.  Under pressure from the Archdiocese the Cardijn Center ceased to be a social and education center in the early 60’s but continued as a book store on the Marquette University campus.  The book store closed in 1995.

          The difficulty in promoting labor rights with the ever prevailing conservative hierarchy in charge is exemplified by the experience of Milwaukee archdiocesan priest Francis Eschweiler. He was a student of then Monsignor Hass and an ally of Father Beix.  Eschweiler is quoted in a book by Paul Wilkes, These Priests Stay and reprinted in Fire in the Heart Reflections on his ministry by Father Fran Eschweiler.

          I conducted what was known in those days as ‘Labor Schools.’              I went to the blue collar workers and taught them what to expect     when they were part of a bargaining committee and how to handle themselves.  I’d work with guys who were organizing and developing Unions and just and just try to give them the Christian ammunition, the basis of good Catholic action as enunciated by the two encyclicals.  (Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno)

          In 1947 as a young priest, Eschweiler supported workers who were striking at Allis Chalmers.  The Labor Priest Eschweiler was summarily exiled to Kewaskum, WI by Archbishop Kiley for his activities during the strike.  A response by Father Eschweiler is found in Paul Wilkes’ book and Fire in the Heart,

          What sunk in and really hurt was that the church obviously was           standing on the side of management and didn’t want one of their boys mingling with labor types.  The big money came from industry; it didn’t come from the working men.

It is the same today; consider the recent Palermo Pizza strike.  I found it impossible to get a public statement from a Roman Catholic priest  stating that the Palermo workers had the right to form a union and that this right is dutifully supported by the Church.  The Nuns on the Bus did show up and Sister Simone Campbell spoke to the workers in Spanish.  She was clear that the workers had the basic right to organize.  Also M.I.C.A.H. leaders, Orthodox priest Tom Miller and Lutheran Pastor Joe Ellwanger, spoke at rallies for the Palermo workers.

          On occasion a Roman Catholic priest or bishop might speak out for workers and their right to form a union, but this is rare.  Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki did note, in commenting on the denial of state workers the right to bargain collectively, that Catholic Social Teaching affirms workers’ rights. The Archbishop-was severely criticized for his comments. The Roman Catholic Bishops of the U.S. are strong advocates of the voucher program which is simply an attack on Union teachers. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has supported immigrants and immigration reform, but, as far as I know, they have not supported immigrant workers’ rights to form or join labor unions.   

          A better approach to advocate for the faith dimension of justice could be based in immigrant workers’ centers such as Voces de la Frontera.  At present Voces provides classes on safety (O.S.H.A. regulations), advocates for workers at the work place, suggests allied lawyers for recovery of lost wages and other work related issues. On the weekend before the May 1st march Voces’ New Sanctuary Movement offers speakers (Predicatores de Justicia) to the faith community to speak at services about social justice and immigrant rights.

          The New Sanctuary program of ‘Voces’ is ripe for expansion.  It should include a strong participation of all faith groups.  Roman Catholic Social Teaching is a valuable source for education, but other Christian and non-Christian faith communities also have rich social justice traditions to share.  For example, the fundamental source for the social justice theology of faith groups that call Abraham father is the Jewish Bible.  

          The New Sanctuary Movement of Voces is often asked to provide a clergy member to speak at a rally; we gladly accommodate when possible.  But wouldn’t it be better to provide a speaker that is an active member of the New Sanctuary Movement, cleric or non cleric, to present the faith dimension of social justice?  The speaker would be more than a ‘feel good’ organizing tool, but would provide a reminder or expand consciousness on the meaning of faith that includes justice.  A wider context could be presented, such as explaining why there is massive migration across our borders linked to the continuing history of injustice perpetrated by wealthy nations on Latin America. 

          A New Sanctuary Movement speaker would tend to not spiritualize the message which removes faith from reality.  Separation – spiritualization favors the authority of the hierarchy who are purported to know about the spiritual which they claim supersedes the material.  Milwaukee Archbishop Meyer, the future Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago and influential Vatican II delegate, in commenting about the incipient ‘lay movement’ expressed concern about the overemphasis on ‘action,’ neglecting the priority of the spiritual life and the loss of hierarchical authority.  He said in his Milwaukee installation address in 1951:

          No matter how the organizational structure of cooperation (with the          bishop) may vary or adapt itself to local circumstances - in one we         must all and always be on the same footing ‘in sentire cum ecclesia’             (thinking with the Church), in dedicating ourselves to the Church’s               cause, in obeying those whom the Holy Ghost has made the Bishop to           rule the Church of God, in submitting to the Supreme Pastor to whose           care, Christ has entrusted His Church. (Fr. Steve Avella,‘Salesianum”           Spring/Summer 1989)

In contrast to priestly hierarchical structure, ‘Voces Sanctuary’ would recognize the spiritual in the material and the material in the spiritual.
Awareness of the faith dimension of justice could be expanded within the worker center structures but also to the wider community.  It is a time of Kairos – a special time of opportunity.