Catholic Perspectives on the Dignity of Work

Saint John Paul (Pope John Paul II) stressed the value of work in his third encyclical, On Human Work. In a particularly striking passage he emphasized how work is a way a person expresses their human dignity:
It [work] is not only good in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy; it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that corresponds to man’s dignity, that expresses this dignity and increases it. If one wishes to define more clearly the ethical meaning of work, it is this truth that one must particularly keep in mind. Work is a good thing for man – a good thing for his humanity – because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being,’ (par. 9).
Saint John Paul was well aware that markets by themselves might not always protect the dignity of workers. In On Human Work he observed:
The attainment of the worker’s rights cannot however be doomed to be merely a result of economic systems which on a larger or smaller scale are guided chiefly by the criterion of maximum profit. On the contrary, it is respect for the objective rights of the worker – every kind of worker: manual or intellectual, industrial or agricultural, etc. – that must constitute the adequate and fundamental criterion for shaping the whole economy, both on the level of the individual society and State and within the whole of the world economic policy and of the systems of international relationships that derive from it, (par. 17).
In testimony, the MCC acknowledged the complexity of tax law, but asked legislators to support SB 40 and, in general, seek ways to improve wages for the working poor.

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