Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture

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Dignity and Work Forum

Workers in fieldprofessor and students

Events in this Series

Much of the focus of USD in relation to Catholic Social Thought right across campus and beyond, including its engagement with many of the national and international social justice issues pertain to the world of work and obviously of labor. The world of work and human dignity in relation to work occupy so many of the discussions and so much of the ongoing research that faculty, students, staff and USD institutions are constantly engaged in. Whether it be migrant labor and rights, equal opportunities free of discrimination of any form, Family Friendly policies, the structure and organization of working life and places of work, labor rights, fair wages, hours and benefits in general and, of course, the meaningfulness and developmental nature of work in relation to the lives of all who work and those of their families – work gives rise to so many challenges and discussions. The tradition of Catholic Social Thought here, most explicitly in official church teachings of the modern period, gathers together these and many other issues through its focus upon human dignity.

The CCTC seeks to provide as a campus resource a ‘Forum’ whereby various avenues of exploration of Dignity and the World of Work can be facilitated. These will include events and programs as well as studies in relation to Catholic Social Teaching in relation to work, the theology of work, the philosophy of work, social scientific and political scientific perspectives and legal perspectives. Heath care and natural scientific perspectives as well as, of course, those from the disciplines of Business Studies, economics and Business Administration will naturally all have a great deal to offer. Various University departments, institutes and centers – including of course the Wellness Center, would have much to offer such a forum. This would, quite naturally dovetail very much with the foundational aim of the CCTC “To promote Catholic Social Teaching and its integration into the academic life of the university community”.

The Christian tradition has much to say about the dignity of the human being and how this can and must be enhanced through their work activities.

Here we find a surprising convergence between the Gospels and modern political and social philosophy, which have all found a fusion in many movements and campaigns throughout the world.

Catholic Social Teaching on Work

“Human work not only proceeds from the person, but it is also essentially ordered to and has its final goal in the human person. Independent of its objective content, work must be oriented to the subject who performs it, because the end of work, any work whatsoever, always remains the human person. Even if one cannot ignore the objective component of work with regard to its quality, this component must nonetheless be subordinated to the self-realization of the person, and therefore to the subjective dimension, thanks to which it is possible to affirm that work is for the person and not the person for work”.

- Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Rome, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004, §272

“The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God's creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”

- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Themes of Catholic Social Thought

Related links:

USD - Work: The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

United States conference of Catholic Bishops - Justice, Peace, and Human Development

Papal Encylcical: Laborem exercens

Papal Encylcical: Centesimus annus

Papal Encyclical: Sollicitudo rei socialis

Despite what Glenn Beck or other pundits might say, Catholic social teaching is neither 'conservative' nor 'liberal,' but offers challenging teachings for people of both political parties in the U.S. context. Emily Riemer-Barry, THRS


USD students working

Catholic Social Thought is a rich heritage of wisdom and a living tradition of the Church's commitment to work for a just and peaceful society. Concerned about the moral quality of social life, this tradition expresses the Church's understanding of society and continuously explores the social demands of the Catholic faith.

To learn more about CST and to get involved on campus and in your community visit USD's CST website.