Beginning in this century’s early days many towns and mid-sized cities explored strategies for post-industrial life. Maybe the big-box retail store near the Interstate can do the trick, despite its obvious limitations. Maybe a new soccer stadium will entice people to come back downtown in the evening. Maybe marketing our town’s tourist attractions will lead others to invest here. Hundreds of urban planners got interested in Richard Florida, who caused a stir with his prescriptive Rise of the Creative Class… Read more

Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati was the setting for a recent conference about young adult Catholics. It was a positive conference because no one complained about bishops, priests or Vatican policy. And no one faulted young adults for disaffection from worship or for their lifestyle. By design, several conference presentations were about bygone people and events. But the gathering was not a nostalgia trip. The conversation was forward-looking. The tone of the conference was directed outward toward work, family… Read more

Most grammar school and high school students encounter Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) in one or another textbook. He is heralded as a pioneer in organizing agricultural workers and as a champion of Mexican-Americans. So in September 1965 who were those farm workers who went on strike and whose action launched a boycott that brought Chavez to national attention? The workers were Filipino-Americans. Today’s students and others probably assume that farm worker unions hardly existed until Chavez and others created the National… Read more

It was in post-World War II Poland that a positive turn occurred in the theology of work. For centuries Catholicism, with some important exceptions, gave pride of place to worldly abandonment, including a degree of disdain for normal work. In the prevailing Catholic understanding a saint-worthy spirituality meant intense contemplation which required a retreat from ordinary workaday obligations. This attitude was derived in part from Hellenistic and Gnostic influences. It was also partially a byproduct of too close an association… Read more

Go to the barbershop and get a hold of The Atlantic (June/18). Its cover features a baby in a Yale University outfit. Matthew Stewart contributes a 14-page article that gives fresh perspective to our economic scene. In recent years the class divide has been termed the 99% and the 1%. Years ago it was called bourgeois and proletariat. I’ve also heard it called the upper crust and the working stiffs, or the big shots and the rest of us. The… Read more

Let’s say there is a society in which everyone honors contracts—formal ones and implied promises. Managers and their employees abide by their collective bargaining agreement. Car dealers transparently present their vehicles; customers pay their loans. Real estate agents advertise “open housing” and then do not discriminate. Tax returns contain accurate figures. Civil courts are the rarity. Yet, says Pope Pius XI (1857-1939), such a utopia may disguise alienation. All the rules can be followed, but that society can lack friendship… Read more

When the diagnosis is cancer, our singular focus is properly on treatment—surgery, radiation, chemo, immunotherapy, blocking therapy and more. The bulk of cancer research is directed toward improving these treatments and finding others. Prior to a cancer diagnosis most people do not often think about cancer and we rarely think about the cause of cancer. Dr. Samuel Epstein died here in Chicago in March at age 91. He was long affiliated with the School of Public Health at University of… Read more

Can electoral politics be a vocation; a person’s response to God’s call? By one opinion, the answer is decidedly no. Political office, this opinion points out, is a place for illicit sex, ostentation, financial corruption, self-serving ideology and general boorishness. As for those politicians who invoke God’s name, their policy positions hypocritically oppose God’s revealed positions: care for the poor, proper labor relations, compassion for widows and orphans, respect for each life and more. Days after a recent primary election… Read more

The pastoral teaching of Catholic bishops in our country has “consistently supported the right of workers to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining,” wrote Anthony Picarello Jr. to the Supreme Court this past January. Picarello is the bishops’ general counsel in Washington, D.C. Bishop John Carroll (1735-1815) became the first U.S. Catholic bishop in 1789, following a stateside election. (That is another story.) From that day until now, no U.S. bishop has ever compromised our Catholic doctrine by supporting… Read more

St. Frances Cabrini, MSC (1850-1917), the first U.S. citizen to be canonized, is the patron of immigrants. William Green (1873-1952) was for 28 years president of American Federation of Labor (before the merger with CIO). A notorious public housing project in Chicago was named for these two. Ben Austen takes us inside that housing project in High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing (Harper Collins, 2018). The project started in 1943 with several row houses in an area… Read more

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