Jaeger David-M.A. ,
Antonianum, 81/4 (2006) p. 609-613
The “question of labour,” which occupied such a prominent place in industrialised societies through much of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, and which seemed to have found a fairly stable resolution (or rather, “equilibrium”) in the West in the middle of the twentieth century, is once more creeping – some would say, galloping – towards centre stage. Essentially – painting now with the broadest strokes (inevitably in such a brief reference) – the aftermath, in the West, of the Second World War was characterised by a substantial settlement of the “labour struggle,” guaranteeing working people increasing protections and benefits, albeit in a sometimes different manner in Europe (and, e.g., Canada) than in, say, the United States (with its own economic and labour-relations culture). It was - some say - as if the political and economic élites felt obliged to recognise that the indescribably huge sacrifices made by ordinary working people on all sides of the Conflict should not be understood as motivated exclusively by national or “idealistic” sentiments, but also bespoke their hope for a structurally “better deal” for themselves and their families, a “better deal” that, after all that sacrifice, could not now be denied. Perhaps even more to the point - we have heard it claimed - what is now sometimes referred to (often with more than a hint of patronising scorn) as the “Welfare State” in Western Europe was, to a significant extent, rooted in the determination of those same élites (of one mind and heart on this with all freedom loving persons) to avert the danger that the workers might be seduced en masse by the siren song of Communism from across the (awfully close) Iron Curtain, with strategic catastrophe to follow. It was – so this hypothesis says - as if the dominant classes had decided to make life so good for their countries’ workers, that the alternative prospect of Communist revolution would lose any appeal it might otherwise have had. In a number of countries, the powerful pressures these days to cut back on workers’ protections and benefits – we have heard it argued - can in fact be traced to the spectacular collapse of the Communist tyranny in Eastern and Central Europe. To some people (though perhaps not to others who take a wider perspective) it seems as if the disappearance of the danger that Western European working people in particular, might ever transfer allegiance to a (no longer existing) Communist block, now undermined the whole reason for being of that post-WWII “settlement” (or had it just been a prevailing trend, after all?)
Be that as it may, it is plain that the newly prevailing political culture in Europe has been calling, with growing insistence, for various “reforms” and “”modernisation” of the (conceptual, as well as normative) architecture of labour relations, decrying much of the post-War settlement (to the extent that it endures) as stultifying, economically unsustainable, anti-competitive, fatally unsuited to a “globalised” economy, and even “conservative” or “reactionary” (thus cleverly turning on its head the hitherto usual application of the latter two terms). The arguments being advanced for these profound policy changes are often cogent, perhaps even unanswerable. At any rate, they have been sweeping (almost) all before them; so much so that, to insist still on an alternative view of the polity, society and the economy is mostly regarded as quaint, eccentric, uninformed, anachronistic, or worse, and therefore holds little appeal. Throughout much of Western Europe, even political parties with previously passionate (and misguided) ideological convictions pointing in a different direction altogether, have one after another abandoned their former beliefs and become essentially indistinguishable form their erstwhile bitterest rivals, at least on the question of work (and its overall economic context).
However these mutations are read, in terms of their etiology and so on - it is sufficiently evident that the closest attention must once more be powerfully focused on human labour, and the relationships within which it is carried out and benefited from, or rather, on the working person and that person’s relationship to whomever the work benefits. Hard thinking and intense yet orderly debate are surely called for – as all can agree – whether to defend or reinstate that which is being reformed away, or else to re-think, re-imagine, re-build a twenty first century model of a society (polity and economy) that is as just as it is productive, as fair as it is prosperous.
It would hardly be our place to take part right here in any debate on these “macro” questions, which do engage the social doctrine of the Church. Knowledge and understanding of more than theology is required for useful participation in this discussion. All one can say is that this conversation must surely hinge equally on both “Laborem Exercens” (with its reminder of the intrinsic superiority of labour - i.e. the working human person - over “capital”) and “Centesimus Annnus” (with its ringing affirmation of the freedom of economic initiative), not forgetting “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis” - the three great “social Encyclicals” of our time, all by the Servant of God Pope JOHN PAUL II; which the theologian will read, not simply cumulating their doctrinal contents, but seeking to draw fresh insight from their nexus mysteriorum, as it were.
However, as the question of labour rises once more to prominence in the West, the realisation is inevitable that the Church is in this regard not only Mater et Magistra, but also herself an Employer, and that, in keeping with her teaching and witnessing mission, she in any case must truly be speculum iustitiae, doing in fact the truth and justice that she preaches in word. The new focus on the Catholic doctrine of work necessarily leads therefore to an ever deeper examination of the Church’s own application of this doctrine to herself as an Employer of workers.
It is in this precise context that the recent coming into being, in the Federal Republic of Germany, of a unique, original judicial mechanism aimed at ensuring precisely this, that the Church-Employer is just to her employees, and is seen to be just (which is never any less important, in the end) irresistibly caught the attention of our Faculty of Canon Law. As Franciscans – specifically, Franciscan jurists - how could we not be most especially attuned to the world of work (populated by veritable minores), to the exigencies of justice (in which there is peace)? The Faculty’s 2006 bilingual Dies academicus – held as always jointly with our exceptionally qualified (personal and institutional) German partners – was therefore dedicated to the study of this new mechanism, from several distinct angles. Professor Detlev W. Belling and Dr. Joachim Eder, in their papers here published, expound the Church’s labour laws in Germany and the establishment of the respective labour courts. Both papers are packed with very specific information, yet it is precisely through this highly organised mass of detail that the essential principles and structure of the system can be securely grasped. Inevitably, much of it is country-specific and will not be directly applicable to the Church in other countries, yet all of it amounts to a causa exemplaris that should inspire and challenge the Church-Employer everywhere else too. Keeping in mind this exemplary causality, we have chosen to publish both papers in an Italian translation, and thus make it more easily accessible to a far more numerous readership than would have been able to benefit from the German-language text. We, and our readers, owe the greatest debt of gratitude to the selfless dedication of our two German-speaking canon law professors, Fathers Nikolaus Schöch (our two-term former Dean) and Heinz-Meinolf Stamm, who spent countless hours and expended tremendous intellectual energy (from their seemingly endless resources) to offer us accurate, yet readable translations – for no consideration, other than the satisfaction of a worthwhile job well done.
Father Schöch himself contributed an original paper, which should be of the greatest interest to canon lawyers, in which he expounds, meticulously, on a conceptual level, as well as in the most practical manner, the complex yet (to a canonist) fascinating intertwining and interaction of the canon law and the relevant civil law (variously received and integrated) in the ius particulare (indeed “particularissimum”) that has been created for the Church in Germany to secure justice for those who work for her. Again, his profound, insightful study is destined to be of the greatest utility to any who would be bold and visionary enough to enterprise analogous undertakings elsewhere (may they abound!).
Particular gratitude is owed to our colleague from the Theology Faculty, Father Martin Carbajo Nunez, who generously accepted our invitation to write a specially commissioned article on the theology of work, thus appropriately undergirding the more specifically juridical papers of the Dies academicus with considerations of a yet far higher order, thereby permitting us to highlight the “theandric” nature of the ius canonicum as the union of theology and law (or “applied theology,” as some of us would say).
Finally, while on this subject, mention must be made of the “oral” element of our Dies academicus, the “round-table” discussion, which brought into the picture also the celebrated Luigi Bobba, then president of Italy’s Catholic workers’ associations (ACLI), which are so highly regarded for the soundly Christian alternative they have offered for decades to workers’s movements based on alien ideologies – and our Confrère, Father Giuseppe (Pino) Noto, then oeconomus at “Propaganda Fide” (and sometime Professor Invitatus in our Canon Law Faculty). The latter impressed all present with his presentation of the thorough application of the Church’s social doctrine in the very special kind of labour relations that exist at the very highest level (both hierarchically and morally) of the Church-Employer, the Holy See itself; while the former lent his considerable prestige, as well as his erudite and inspiring comments, to our modest assembly.
Labour matters do not, however, entirely occupy this issue of Antonianum, which is happily enriched and diversified by three other scholarly contributions at the high level we consistently aim to maintain: Father Stéphane Oppes, Dean of our Philosophy Faculty, shares with our readers his recent discoveries in the archives of the erstwhile Holy Office, which shed new light on the travails of the noted Italian philosopher, Luigi Stefanini; Father Anto Popovic leads us on a voyage of scholarly exploration of the Seventh Day of Creation, while Francesco Fiorentino, our esteemed regular contributor on matters Scotist, deepens our understanding of the Doctor Subtilis and his concept of scientia (a most opportune offering at this particular time).
The Chronica section in this issue is itself a treasure house: The Message of the Grand Chancellor of our University, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Father José Carballo, and the annual “State of the University” Report by our Rector Magnificus, Father Johann Baptist Freyer, both delivered at the Inauguration of this Academic Year at the Pontifical University “Antonianum”, together amount to the best possible presentation to our readers of our University – its values, its goals, and how well it has been doing in being true to the former and in accomplishing the latter.
Two more illustrious personages are present in this section: The Cardinal-Theologian Tomás Špidlik, and the Cardinal-Prefect and Patriarch emeritus Ignace Moussa Daoud; likewise an account of a particularly timely seminar on Franciscans and Science.
The section Opera a Directione recepta and, most usefully, this year’s complete Indices, bring this volume to a close. For the latter, grateful recognition is publicly due – assuredly not for the first time – to a specially valued member of our larger team (and of our University Library’s permanent staff), Brother Trinidad Huertas Rosas.
As it happens, all of this has left us with no space for recensiones this time – a section that will, of course, be back with the next issue, the first for 2007.
As always, putting together this issue of Antonianum has required a great deal of work, effort and attentiveness – a sense of decency compels me to declare that I can claim very little of it, if any. As on previous occasions, this service has been performed overwhelmingly by my more generous, qualified, Colleagues, Fathers Salvatore Barbagallo (Deputy Editor) and Moacyr Malaquias Junior (Secretary). I do, however, bear full responsibility myself for any errors that may yet be found in it (and it is almost a law of nature that there will always be some) This is what being the Editor means.