There’s been some dispute in Catholic circles of late whether the Wisconsin bishops have come out on the side of the public sector unions in the current union dispute in Wisconsin. Bishop Morlino of the Diocese of Madison has effectively answered that question himself in a column today entitled “Clarifying the Fairness Issue”:
Believe it or not, I frequently try to avoid weighing in-on certain situations. However, the recent happenings in our state capital with regard to legislation about labor union practices beg for a comment. In this column, I simply want to point out how a well-informed conscience might work through the dilemma which the situation poses.
Should one support or oppose the legislation which regulates union procedures? The Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC) has chosen a neutral stance because the present dilemma comes down to either a choice for the common good, of sacrifice on the part of all, at times that pose immense economic threats, both present and future on the one hand, and on the other hand, a choice for the rights of workers to a just compensation for services rendered, and to the upholding of contracts legally made. As Catholics, we see both of these horns of the dilemma as good, and yet the current situation calls many of us to choose between these two goods. Thus the WCC has taken a neutral stance, and this is the point of Archbishop Listecki’s recent statement, which I have echoed.
The question to which the dilemma boils down is rather simple on its face: is the sacrifice which union members, including school teachers, are called upon to make, proportionate to the relative sacrifice called for from all in difficult economic times? In other words, is the sacrifice fair in the overall context of our present situation?
At a time when all are called to sacrifice, this question requires a weighing of the relative sacrifice which all are called upon to make, so that a judgment about just proportions can be made by each one of us.
The teaching of the Church allows for persons of good will to disagree as to which horn of this dilemma should be chosen, because there would be reasonable justification available for either alternative. (This is unlike the case of abortion or euthanasia, for which reason can offer absolutely no justification in terms of the killing of an innocent victim.)
This seems reasonable and hardly surprising, but since the question had been disputed recently it seems only fair to allow the bishops to speak for themselves by disseminated their statement.
(Hat Tip to Jake of Roma Locuta Est, who is himself a non-union teacher in the unionized public schools of Ohio, and has had several good and thoughtful pieces on the issue over the last couple weeks.)