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Social justice and the living wage

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Amidst all the recent talk about academic freedom and Catholic integrity, I think that the true meaning of Catholic character has been lost on us. It seems that the proponents of “Catholic character” favor closed-mindedness and exclusionism, while those in the academic freedom camp choose love and acceptance. However, to this point, University President Father John Jenkins has not shown a willingness to go as far as possible to make this a true Catholic institution. So far, all that he has done is promote hard-lined conservatism on the issues that matter the least. At the same time, he has repeatedly refused to answer the questions posed to him by Campus Labor Action Project.

The heart of Catholic character lies in its social justice teachings. These teachings call for and demand a living wage and dignity for all workers, everywhere. Eight different papal encyclicals talk about it, including Rerum Novarum, which says we have a, “great and principal obligation to give everyone that which is just, to exercise pressure for the sake of gain, upon the indigent and destitute and to make one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud anyone of wages that are his due is a crime which cries to the avenging anger of heaven.” And yet, on our campus, a plethora of workers start between $6.45 and $10.17 an hour, well below the $12.10 called for by CLAP.

As a university, we cannot complacently ignore these teachings out of convenience or practicality. We also cannot afford to let the market dictate our wages; they must be based on justice. No Notre Dame workers should live in need, and until their needs are met, any talk of this university having Catholic character is merely talk. It is time for Jenkins to form the taskforce that CLAP has called for and to meet this important issue head-on.

Nick KrafftfreshmanStanford hallFeb. 21