Labour, work and workers

Labour and work/worker/employment/unemployment etc. in the Instrumentum Laboris

In summary, there are several good references to current problems and issues in the fields of labour/work/employment/unemployment/underemployment/casual work.

There is also a beautiful reference to the vocation of the “vast majority of Christians”, which “will be lived out primarily in the context of their family life, their workplace and their engagement with their culture and society.”

However, the term “worker” only appears twice and only in reference to pastoral/lay church workers.

There is no mention of young workers in particular.

Nor are the problems of unemployment, underemployment or casual work mentioned.


We acknowledge the lifelong trauma of abuse victims, survivors and their families, the crimes of some clergy, religious and lay church workers, the failure of some leaders in the Catholic Church to protect, believe and respond justly to children and vulnerable adults, and the consequent breaches of community trust.


In recent decades, life has changed significantly. Australians have embraced technological and cultural change while maintaining some core values and beliefs. Church and society have been enriched by waves of migrants who live peaceably alongside the First Australians and those who have settled here over the past two centuries. Ours is an affluent, high aspiration, low tension society. Yet population shifts from rural to urban areas challenge cities to meet growing demands for basic housing and infrastructure, employment, education and healthcare needs. Rural areas face shrinking communities, social and economic stresses and new challenges from a burgeoning, transient workforce. Insecure employment, pressures on relationships, shifting family patterns and advancements in science and technology impact our daily life that is segmented and busy. Mental illness, sickness, loneliness and financial pressures afflict many Australians. Statistics reveals increasing rates of suicide, depression and anxiety, violent crime and disengagement from traditional forms of community. Fear of the future, distrust of institutional authority and the impact of climate change are part of the social reality for many.


Some parishes in more isolated areas are invigorated by lay leaders and pastoral workers, who lead Sunday liturgy in absence of a priest.


Australian youth are challenged by secularisation, the proliferation of new ideologies, changes to work and employment conditions, and the opportunities and risks of emerging technologies and a digital culture. Migrant youth face additional difficulties of language, integration and assimilation. However, young people have a deep desire to work for justice and equality and many find themselves drawn to the mission of the Church through its social ministries. There are also positive stories of those who have had an experience of the faith through local and international Catholic youth events and festivals.


The journey of communion and holiness calls for a decisive commitment by each believer to live fully the implications of their baptism in all dimensions of their lives—personal relationships and family life, workplaces and community groups, leisure and entertainment activities, civic engagements—so that they might more effectively share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and kingly office in the Church and in the world. “Since baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity”


As a chosen race and a royal priesthood, the whole People of God is called to place itself at the service of the life of the world, just as Christ the priest offered himself for the life of the world. For the vast majority of Christians, this vocation will be lived out primarily in the context of their family life, their workplace and their engagement with their culture and society. In this way Christians respond to the Lord’s call to be “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt 5:13-16). 


The deep and pervasive social changes of today’s globalised world affect the Church in its structures and strategies, just as it affects Catholics in the way they live their faith in everyday life. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. As a multicultural society, with an internationalised economy and work force and a highly technologized way of life, Australia is greatly exposed to these forces of change.


The Church’s distinctive contribution to fostering this integral ecology arises from the “Gospel of life” it has received from the Lord Jesus, and from the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in the world. Thus, an essential element of the Church’s mission in Australia is to communicate the Gospel of life in its fullness, especially where threats to life emerge. On the thirtieth anniversary of Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, Pope John Paul II recalled its words:

Whatever is opposed to life itself; murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful self-destruction; whatever violates the integrity of the human person; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the trafficking of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, all these poison human society and dishonour the Creator.

Stefan Gigacz


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