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Rights and Duties of Catholic Employers

Rights and Duties of Catholic Employers April 20, 2013

In the United States,  there is a lot of emphasis on the rights of Catholic employers to be exempt from any mandate to provide health insurance plans including contraception. But of course, we know that the Catholic understanding of right differs from the standard liberal one – in the former, you have a right to something so you can discharge a corresponding duty, whereas in the latter, you have a right not be coerced as long as it doesn’t bump up against the corresponding rights of others.

So perhaps we should shift the focus a bit from the “rights” of Catholic employers to the “duties” that underpin these rights. And this is clear – they have a duty to provide a just wage (which is not the same thing as the market wage); to provide decent employment conditions, including adequate leave and benefits; and to support the role of unions. This is by far the most important thing. So important, in fact, that then-cardinal Bergoglio singled it out as an instance of whether it would be appropriate to receive communion or not. From John Allen:

“Francis does not address the question of whether bishops should administer communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians, but he hints at how he might handle it in the context of talking about Catholic business leaders who refuse to pay employees a just wage.

“In certain situations, I do not give communion myself; I stay back and I let the ministers give it because I do not want those people to come to me for the photo op,” he says.

This is the first issue Francis picks, not whether or not a public figure supports legal abortion or not. Funny how you never hear this example being used in the United States, isn’t it?


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