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US bishops issue Labor Day statement, renew call for healthcare, immigration reform

Catholic World News - September 03, 2009

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued a Labor Day statement that reviews the teaching of Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical, celebrates an agreement between Catholic hospitals and unions, and renews calls for healthcare and immigration reform.

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict “revisits the traditional teachings of his predecessors on the value of the human person, the dignity of every human being, and the integral development of human society to promote human flourishing. His reflections reaffirm the teachings of Leo XIII on labor and Pius XI on subsidiarity. With John XXIII and John Paul II, he insists on the value of solidarity and focuses with a special emphasis on Paul VI’s passionate commitment to the Third World and the development of peoples.”

“In the new encyclical, the Holy Father affirms and extends traditional Catholic teaching on the centrality of work to the whole human experience,” Bishop Murphy continues.

Decent work, according to the encyclical, “means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for children, without the children themselves being forced into labor; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for re-discovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.”(#63)

Bishop Murphy then recalled an agreement among four parties-- the Catholic Health Association, the AFL/CIO, the Service Employees International Union, and the USCCB-- that “offers guidance and options on how workers can make a free decision about whether or not they want to be represented by a union.” He concluded by calling for healthcare and immigration reform:

I urge you to join the bishops in advocating for health care reform that is truly universal and protects human life at every stage of development. We must remain resolute in urging the federal government to continue its essential and longstanding prohibitions on abortion funding and abortion mandates. Our government and laws must also retain explicit protection for the freedom of conscience of health care workers and health care institutions …

As a nation we have to be concerned about the integrity and safety of our borders. But that cannot overwhelm issues of respect for the dignity of immigrants who come to our country for so many varying political and economic reasons. We are a nation of laws. We as a people respect the laws of our country and state and local municipality. New peoples also are expected to do the same as good citizens or as good people desirous of becoming citizens. Most immigrants work hard, pay taxes, contribute to social security, and are valuable members of our society. Yet too often these same immigrants, including legal immigrants, are denied access to health care services. This should not happen in a society that respects the rights and dignity of every person.

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