Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue's Trade Unions Conference homily

 This homily was preached by Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue on Sunday 8 September 2002 at Sacred Heart Church, Blackpool, at a special Mass to celebrate the start of the TUC Conference. We're publishing it now in response to several requests. What a joy to be with you today and thank you for inviting me. I applaud the workings of the TUC and see them as very much at one with the principles of the Gospel; they also have a strong foundation rooted in the social teaching of the Catholic Church. What a wonderful coincidence too that the Readings of the Mass, especially the Gospel, are particularly relevant to the debates and discussions at your own Annual Conference. In fact, the Gospel offers, among other things, a comprehensive grievance procedure, which must not have escaped your attention. Christ advises that where a serious crime has been committed against another, the victim should confront the aggressor face-to-face and seek redress. Fearlessly establishing the truth is at the very heart of dialogue. Where the aggressor refuses to listen, then the victim should introduce his witnesses who will support his/her claim - these you will see as the negotiating team, perhaps even mediators. When the aggressor still fails to see reason and acknowledge guilt then the victim has the right to go public and expose the injustice or abuse. In industrial relations this will be the time for an all-out strike, all overtures having failed. In all of this I'm not suggesting that today's Reading is merely 'a grievance procedure' - there is much, much more and it must be seen in the context of the entire Gospel. Christ teaches and we draw our principles of action from Him. Take, for instance, the Beatitudes where His teaching is vividly and clearly enunciated: 'How blessed are the poor in Spirit; 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice; 'Blessed are the peace makers; 'Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness; 'Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account' (Matthew, Chap. 5) Your vision of justice and just practices is fully in accord with the Gospel. When you challenge mal-practice at whatever level, defend the inalienable rights of the person, fight for justice and a just wage, act as peace-maker and decry war-mongering, challenge the unjust distribution of wealth and condemn racism, stand with the poor at home, in the underdeveloped countries - wherever - then know that all of this is the work of the Lord. In trade union circles you speak of brotherhood/sisterhood - this, too, has a Gospel foundation. In the opening sentence of today's Reading, Christ underlines 'brotherhood' - "if your brother does something wrong" - not worker, boss, gaffer or line-manager but 'brother'. In God's family, even when at loggerheads, we are still brothers and sisters; this equality must never be forgotten even in the tough negotiations at industrial relations level. Our moral obligations stem from our equality and mutual interdependence. This is true for the workforce as well as management. What a wonderful solidarity. You Trade Unionists have a very special and unique brief to work for harmony and peace between employer and worker. A just relationship depends on a just wage - but health-care, rest, holidays, support in old age as well as the working environment, all contribute to the determination of justice. Union organisation should also be concerned with education and everything that enhances the quality of work and life, thus enabling workers to be better people and more aware of their dignity and destiny as well as having more money, power and leverage. It is important that capital should serve labour rather than the other way round. Finally, I applaud you and the work that you do. I make a special plea that you continue the struggle for social justice - this is as important today as it was 50/100 years ago. The socially deprived, the poor in our cities and towns at home and abroad, the homeless, the refugee and asylum seeker are still in our midst and need our help. Today, at a time of much suffering, injustice, and famine in many parts of the World, and with peace treaties so fragile, I would encourage you to concentrate on working for peace and the development of peoples and countries. Resist the temptation to warmongering and the inevitable slide into a Middle East conflict that could have cataclysmic outcomes. I plead, too, that we take more seriously the brotherhood/sisterhood of the human race. source: Diocese of Lancaster

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