by Peter, Paul and Mary
A bit about Jesus, the Worker: In Matthew 6:33 Jesus tells us: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The common good is critical to the Worker. The Church teaches that civil law is legitimate only when it is rooted in the natural law and, because of that, the civil law will always be subsidiary, or subordinate to, natural law. The Church has long taught that civil laws that are not rooted in the moral law must be resisted and disobeyed. In fact, there is a long tradition in Catholic doctrine recognizing that an unjust law is no law at all.
In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas:
"Human law is law insofar as it corresponds to right reason and therefore is derived from the eternal law. When, however, a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; in such a case it ceases to be law and becomes instead an act of violence." Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 93, a. 3
It follows, then, that Catholic Christians have an obligation to resist or disobey unjust civil laws, even unto arrest or imprisonment. In the words of the Compendium: “Recognizing that natural law is the basis for and places limits on the positive (civil) law means admitting that it is legitimate to resist authority should it violate in a serious or repeated manner the essential principles of natural law.”
When some in the legal profession, however, use the civil law to thwart the rights of workers, they interfere with the natural moral law. This is a matter of grave concern for it threatens the very livelihood of workers and their families. Catholics, in particular, who employ the civil law to frustrate worker rights and the contribution that labor unions make to the common good, demonstrate, at a minimum, ignorance of Catholic teaching on the central importance that unions may play in the wider economic and social order.
Because of its conviction that the natural moral law is rooted in the eternal law, the Church has from its earliest days recognized the right of free association that can never be abridged by civil law. During the Medieval period recognition of the right to free association extended to merchant and craft guilds each of which united to seek benefits for their members and, because they were inspired by Catholic teaching, for the common good of society. In optimal circumstances, merchant and craft guilds worked together for fair prices and quality products for consumers, as well as for just wages and job stability for workers.