Under increasing pressure from the Vatican to come up with something better than “definite progress” and “robust discussion” concerning the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops announced this week that they’d contracted with staff from the National Labor Relations Board to, “help sort things out about those Catholic Colleges and stuff.”
“It was divine intervention, really,” said the USCCB President, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. “Here we thought the Obama administration was yanking our chain over unions and stuff, and then someone’s like, ‘Wait a minute! Are these guys from the Newman Society or something? Because they know what they’re doing.’ So we approached them about the possibilities, and discovered it’s easier to hire a fed than to get a new hymnal approved by Divine Worship.”
. . . . after decades of dissent on many Catholic college campuses, the federal government—through the NLRB—has stepped in to assess whether the employees of Catholic colleges and universities are actually contributing to the religious mission of these institutions by “performing religious functions.”
. . . on January 6, 2015, the NLRB issued a “Certification of Representation” allowing adjunct professors and lecturers at St. Mary’s College of Moraga, California, to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). This ruling by the NLRB that employees of Catholic colleges are not expected to uphold Catholic values and doctrine and advance the college’s Catholic mission is an important development in Catholic higher education.
In the Manhattan College decision, the NLRB claimed that “public representations of Manhattan College clearly demonstrate that it is not providing a religious educational environment.” Ruling that Manhattan College did not qualify as religious institution deserving of an exemption, the NLRB pointed out that although Manhattan frequently cites its Lasallian tradition in describing itself in its public documents, these references are made in “purely secular terms.” Noting that Manhattan College’s own admission brochure does not even include any reference to the Catholic Church or Catholicism, the NLRB issued a 26-page report which concluded that the college cannot claim a religious affiliation in an effort to prevent the unionization of its employees.
A similar NLRB ruling at Seattle University . . . [NLRB regional director Ronald Hooks] pointed to the lack of a religious requirement for faculty as evidence of the school’s lack of religious character. Hooks knows—as many faithful Catholics know—that many faculty members employed on Catholic colleges do not support Catholic teachings on faith and morals. This makes it difficult to claim a religious exemption.
In addition to gaining theological expertise difficult to acquire in-house, the USCCB Treasurer, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell, observed, “This new partnership also helps us better live out the mission of the Church as explained in the encyclical Nullum Salarum**, which clearly teaches that youth ministers, parish secretaries and other Church employees ‘are not who we’re talking about’ when we say that people should be paid a living wage. The deal is that if it turns out a college investigated also has labor-law violations, the government picks up the tab.”
Some critics are concerned that giving this contract to the NLRB might ‘squeeze out’ Catholic apostolates serving a similar function. But a spokesman for the Newman Society said that worry is unfounded. “We’re selling tons of Newman Guides to these guys. If we could just get a few Catholic Universities to upset the Pentagon, we’d never have to hold another fundraiser again.”
*In response to questions from some readers: The grey-shaded block quote is from an actual news commentary. That’s the real part of this piece. The rest is just my rich fantasy life.
**Any resemblance to actual Latin is purely a coincidence.
Artwork: Philip de László [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons