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Morality in economics?

Kelsey Conlon | Thursday, February 25, 2010

I would like to thank Mr. Andre for his unfounded opinion that this Catholic University, based on Catholic values, has no “moral obligation to pay employees any more than a market price” or that this Catholic University is not responsible for the “welfare of the lower class.” This might just be me, but I thought that Catholicism was supposed to focus on morality and preferential treatment for the poor.
This University’s mission statement states, “The University seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.” Notre Dame is not just some university; it is a Catholic university. By paying $9 an hour to workers, we are contributing to the cycle of poverty that we should be trying to end. The University wants us to use our learning for justice; why are they not leading by example? Justice in the opinion of the Church is allowing people at least a living wage so that they can live day-to-day without having to be severely in debt or wondering how they are going to pay for their children’s healthcare bills. If you don’t believe that these are real problems, talk to the workers! They will tell you about the frustration that comes when you have to choose which bill not to pay each week. Many of the workers here don’t make a living wage, forcing them to rely on government subsidies to survive.
As a Catholic institution, we should adhere to Catholic social teaching. Pope John Paul II echoed previous popes in “Laborem Exercens,” stating that “a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the justice of the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly.” Since we, as a Catholic institution, are not offering a just wage (living wage), according to Pope John Paul, we are not functioning justly. So, I’m sorry if I think John Paul II may have had a better moral compass than you, Mr. Andre, but as a Catholic, going to the most well-known Catholic university in the United States, I would hope that I could rest at ease knowing that at least Norte Dame’s economic values are just and would make John Paul II proud, but this is clearly not the case.

Kelsey Conlon
Farley Hall
Feb. 25