Catechism on Labor, Globalism, and Economics
In 2016, the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) published its official English-language catechism titled Christ Our Pascha. A catechism is a summary of the Church’s official teachings: dogma, doctrine, spiritual and theological emphases for a particular Church at a particular time. Christ Our Pascha was the culmination of an international effort, acknowledging the increased diversity of the UGCC. Since the last catechism was published during the wartime years of the last century, the UGCC has become well-established in at least a dozen countries, coordinates missionary work in dozens more, and has emerged into a rapidly globalizing world from decades of Soviet subjugation. As you will read, the Church’s responses to these challenges are pretty radical, deeply Eastern Christian, and cut across political and ideological divides. The St. Mary of Egypt Social Justice Fellowship is sharing extended excerpts of the catechism as it relates to the Fellowship’s mission, and you are welcome to read the whole text here.
E. The Christian Understanding of Economy
1. Work and Profession
§ 975 The Lord creates man and woman in his image and invites them to work on the earth. Labor becomes a blessing if it is a form of cooperation with the Lord, as well as a participation in his plan for the world and humanity. Our likeness to God is fostered by such work. Through the fall of Adam work became “toil” ✙. However, in Christ, work, united with prayer, transfigures the world and sanctifies individuals.
§ 976 Metropolitan Andrey wrote:
Work, according to Christian teaching, brings a person honor because it provides the means to support oneself honestly. Work does not demean a person. A person’s labor is a part of his or her life, and not a commodity whose value rises or falls depending on demand. Exploitation of human labor is inhuman and a detestable crime; and withholding a worker’s rightful wage is a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.
§ 977 The withholding of a worker’s wage is a grave sin and an offense against God, inasmuch as a laborer in his or her professional activity acts as God’s co-worker and co-steward of earthly goods. Therefore, justice demands that a salary somewhat exceed a minimal sum necessary for life. A lower salary will surely be unfair, and even in the event of a voluntary agreement to accept lower pay because of the pressures of the employer’s financial distress, the employer is obliged to compensate in accordance with the appropriate level ⛪.
§ 978 Through one’s profession, a person realizes their personal life calling in accordance with their talents, abilities, and professional training. Every profession as a form of service to God and country is honorable. Therefore, it is incumbent upon society to ensure the right of every citizen to work and receive fair compensation.
§ 979 In his pastoral letter on Christian Labor, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky makes an appeal:
Be hard-working, frugal, sober; do not squander your labor. But most of all, hold on to your plot of land; do not let it out of your hands. Avoid laziness, whatever your social standing may be; laziness is a disease, a wasting of your goods. For the time for work is also a gift from God—a precious gift. Using your time you can turn work into wealth, while wasting it in idleness, you can bring about your own ruin.
§ 980 The contemporary phenomenon of globalization is primarily characterized by the creation of a global culture, which leads to the formation of a global civil society. It can be positive if it succeeds in combining the diversity of existing cultures in such a way that one culture enriches other cultures while preserving its own identity. At the same time, the creation of a global culture carries the risk of reducing all cultures to one mass culture geared toward a consumer society.
§ 981 Another element of globalization is the creation of a global economy through which it may be possible to solve such global human problems as poverty, hunger, social injustice, and illiteracy, as well as environmental and natural resource issues. At the same time, in the creation of a global economy there exists the risk that individual states may lose some of their politico-economic sovereignty. As a result of this, the influence of national governments on the economies of their own countries becomes greatly reduced.
§ 982 Globalization could become a genuine sign of the times for the Church in the contemporary world, opening up new possibilities for the evangelization of peoples. The Church, with her experience of unity in diversity, can inspire the peoples of the world to live in mutual understanding. The proclamation of the Gospel will bring to the consciousness of the world community the conviction that there is no contradiction between morality and production, or between solidarity and competition, but, on the contrary, that they are interconnected. In the vortex of globalizing processes, the living presence of Christ’s Church is capable of transfiguring conflict into cooperation, the clash of civilizations into mutual enrichment, and fear of unbearable enslavement into the freedom of the children of God.
F. The Christian Value of Rest
§ 983 Rest corresponds to the will of God himself. The creation account in the book of Genesis testifies to this ✙. Rest is a “holy” matter, for it allows a person, who is sometimes excessively preoccupied with earthly concerns, to be reminded that everything is God’s creation. Having been endowed by God with magnificent dominion over creation, we can sometimes forget that it is God who is the Creator. It is for this reason that for Christians, rest is the celebration of the “Lord’s Day.” Sunday is also a day of man—a day of rest, joy, fraternal fellowship with neighbor, a day for works of mercy and apostolic works. ⛪§64-73
§ 984 Christians are obliged to arrange their rest on Sundays and holy days in such a way that they may be able to participate in the Divine Liturgy and refrain from the kind of work and activities that are incompatible with the sanctification of the Lord’s Day ⛪§65-67. In order to avoid rest becoming an empty absence of activity that elicits a sense of boredom, rest should be a fount of spiritual enrichment, as well as a source of renewed spiritual and physical strength. Rest should serve the growth of personal freedom and foster fraternal community. Christian rest confirms the priority of the human person in relation to the demands of social and economic life.
§ 985 On Sundays and holy days, it is not permitted to perform heavy physical labor or to compel others to do so. One is also not allowed to engage in an activity aimed at earning money. Forms of recreation that occupy time intended for the praise of God and works of mercy are also contrary to the Christian approach to rest.
Deliver, O Lord…from ... sword, foreign invasion and from civil war...quench the ragings of the nations. (Anaphora of the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great)