Thursday, March 13, 2008

Catholic Bishops Lobby For Socialist Agenda

WHEN THE NEW YORK CATHOLIC BISHOPS went to Albany this Tuesday to oppose Spitzer's abortion bill and the legalization of civil unions, they also brought with them a list of troubling policies they are lobbying NY lawmakers to support: more government-funded health care, "essential services" for illegal immigrants, the reduction of green-house gases in the form of a gas tax, and, most troubling in my opinion, increased access to public-funded child day care for working families.

On their official website is a page-long document detailing the Bishops' desire that the NY State government "expand the availability and use of quality, affordable, subsidized child care opportunities to meet the needs and demands of families transitioning out of public assistance, as well as other low income families." They are asking for "increased funding" and "expanded subsidies" for a variety of areas, including the training and management of day care workers, especially for those moving from public assistance to work in the child care industry, tax credits for after-school care and care of sick children, more funding for early childhood development programs, and more funding to increase the salaries of day care workers.

Here is the dream of our Catholic bishops, inspired no doubt by the European socialist model: the government will provide the training necessary so low-income women can enter the work force and become "self-sufficient." To facilitate this goal, the government will also fund the development and expansion of the child care industry, to meet every possible need of working mothers, even care of their sick children---all subsidized, of course, with taxpayer dollars from you and me.

In 1996, 70% of women with working husbands and children under the age of 18 worked outside the home, and 62% of mothers with children 6 and younger were employed outside the home, so the working-mom model is clearly the most widespread option for American families.

However, this utilitarian model of the perfect middle-income working family unit: one or two children (any more is almost impossible to manage with this model), both parents working, infants and small children being cared for by strangers, school children kept in school 10+ hours/day even when they are ill, latch-key kids, empty houses and empty neighborhoods during the day, and all the resulting and well-documented social dsyfunction caused by the absence of mothers caring full-time for their children--is this really the family model the Catholic bishops should be advocating?

I hardly think so. While single mothers on welfare, widows, and women whose husbands are disabled are unfortunate cases which will always be exceptions to the rule, Catholic social teaching has always insisted that priority in an economic system be given to allowing mothers of young children to stay at home to care for their families.

Pope Leo XIII first advanced the concept of a just living wage in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, where he insisted that "wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage earner." Wages were to be "sufficient to enable him comfortably to support himself, his wife, and his children..." (RN 46).

Such a wage which could support "himself, his wife, and his children" is obviously meant to include the provision that the mother stay at home and care for the children. Leo's arguments why women are best suited for the position of homemaker would ruffle a lot of feminist feathers today: "Women, again, are not suited for certain occupations; a woman is by nature fitted for home-work [i.e., work in the home], and it is that which is best adapted at once to preserve her modesty and to promote the good bringing-up of children and the well-being of the family" (RN 42).

Pius XI
The Popes did not stop proclaiming the need for stay-at-home mothers. Pope Pius XI reiterated Pope Leo's injunctions in Quadrigesimo Anno:
In the first place, the worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family. ...It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for mothers on account of the father's low wage to be forced to engage in gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper cares and duties, especially the training of children." (QA 71)

This does not, however, preclude women working from the home; the Pope is careful to explain that it is "proper that the rest of the family contribute according to their power toward the common maintenance, as in the rural home or in the families of many artisans or small shopkeepers," though "it is wrong to abuse the tender years of children" or the weaker physical nature of woman, who "should especially devote their energies to the home and the things connected with it."

Pius XII
In the 1940's-50's, Pope Pius XII especially developed the themes enunciated by earlier Popes on this issue. In "An Allocution to Italian Women" (1945), he declared unequivocally the equality of men and women, "In their personal dignity as children of God, a man and woman are absolutely equal." This equality, however, does not mean sameness, or alikeness, and their equal dignity cannot be preserved "except by respecting and activating characteristic qualities which nature has given each of them, physical and spiritual qualities which cannot be eliminated, which cannot be reversed without nature itself stepping in to restore the balance."

Pius XII spoke of the Communist claim that women are emancipated when they work outside the domestic sphere, but pointed out, that far from being a voluntary choice, many women are forced to work because of economic circumstance, "A woman is, in fact, kept out of the home not only by her so-called emancipation but often, too, by the necessities of life, by the continuous anxiety about daily bread. It would be useless then to preach to her to return to the home while conditions prevail which constrain her to remain away from it."

John Paul II
Pope John Paul II continued the call for a "family wage" in Laborem exercens, defining it as "a single salary given to the head of the family for his work sufficient for the needs of the family without the other spouse having to take up gainful employment outside the home." In addition, he called for "other social measures such as family allowances or grants to mothers devoting themselves exclusively to their families" (LE 19). He specified that, "These grants should correspond to the actual needs, that is, to the number of dependents for as long as they are not in a position to assume proper responsibility for their own lives" (LE 19).

Further developing these themes in a subsequent encyclical, Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II declared,
While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family" (all quotations, FC 23).

Instead of adopting the dreary European model of socialism, our Bishops clearly ought to be exploring creative ways to support families, such as the family allowances mentioned by Pope John Paul II. Lobbying for Child Care Tax Credits for stay-at-home moms would also be an excellent place to begin. While some form of child care is necessary for moms in special circumstances who must work, farming children out to institutional day care should not be a wholesale solution for working- and middle-class families.

Catholics and all Christians who honor the traditional family and are concerned about its survival, should recognize that the family is best protected by the two-pronged approach of Catholic social teaching on this matter: that heads of families be given a living wage, and that every consideration be made to allow mothers of young children to care full-time for their families.

Pope John Paul II, in his inimitable way, best defines the correct attitude on this crucial issue: "Furthermore, the mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome."

For a more extensive examination of this topic, be sure to read "The Sovietization of American Women," by Rupert J. Ederer.

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