The Moral Responsibilities of Employers and Employees

“The main error, the capital crime of this century is the pretension of withdrawing public society from the government and the law of God… The principle laid at the basis of the whole modern social structure is atheism of the law and of the institutions. Let it be disguised under the names of abstention, neutrality, incompetence or even equal protection, let us even go to the length of denying it by some legislative dispositions for details or by accidental and secondary acts: the principle of the emancipation of the human society from the religious order remains at the bottom of things; it is the essence of what is called the new era.” (Cardinal Pie, Pastoral Works, Vol. VII, pp. 3, 100)

Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical called Rerum Novarum in 1891 on the “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor.” In it he describes Catholic social teachings, building on the writings of earlier popes and of the work of St. Thomas Aquinas. Part of his document enumerates 6 obligations of employers and 5 obligations of employees. Sadly, these are rarely ever considered in an era of unrestrained greed when usury runs rampant.

Law is the implementation of a moral system – distinguishing between right and wrong, good and bad conduct. Governments are set up within this kind of moral framework. From the first kings and pharaohs to the times of emperors and presidents, leaders have recognized that something supernatural is involved. The pharaohs claimed divine authority for themselves, while later [Christian] leaders recognized that the God of the universe gives them their authority and permits them to govern, while for their part, they are obligated – before the same God – to acknowledge and abide by His law.

The Doctrine of the Two Swords

In 1302, Pope Boniface VIII defined the ‘Doctrine of the Two Swords,’ which says that society should be ordered by God. The Doctrine of the Two Swords teaches us that Christ, being both God and man, is King of the Universe, and as such, His Kingship, which includes both individual souls as well as the whole of society, should be officially recognized by all nations. Accordingly, His Spouse, Holy Mother Church, is Queen, while the Sovereign Pontiff exercises that Kingship on His behalf.

This doctrine is rooted in a Scriptural passage which puzzles most readers. However, as Catholics we have the great blessing of reading Holy Writ with the wisdom of the Church. According to Saint Luke, Our Lord concludes the Last Supper with the words which serve as the foundation for this teaching. This context is extremely important because Our Lord begins to institute His most essential and sacred Mysteries at the Last Supper (e.g., Holy Mass, Priesthood, His Eternal Sacrifice…). Before He left the Upper Room and processed to the Garden of Olives, we read:

“For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be fulfilled in Me: And with the wicked was He reckoned. For the things concerning Me have an end. But they [Apostles] said: Lord, behold here are two swords. And He said to them, it is enough. And going out, He went, according to His custom, to the Mount of Olives. And His disciples also followed Him.” (Luke 22:37-40)

The 6 Moral Obligations of Business Owners:

  1. Respect employees and recognize their Christian dignity.
  2. Allow the worker time and opportunity to meet their religious obligations.[1]
  3. Not expose employees to corrupting influences.
  4. Not lead a man from his family and domestic duties.
  5. Not demand work that exceeds the capacity of the employee.
  6. Protect the stability of wages for the worker.

The 5 Moral Obligations of Employees:

  1. Perform honest labor in accordance with one’s contractual obligations.
  2. Never damage the property of the owner and never cause harm to him.
  3. Keep the peace at all times.
  4. Avoid and discourage rioting.
  5. Avoid sowing seeds of discord in the workplace.

Catholic social teaching calls on the laity, along with the clergy, to be witnesses of faith, hope, and love to the world. Our faith is not something to keep hidden. It is absolutely necessary to shine a light in the public spheres where we have influence. In transforming our society to greater justice, promoting God’s Kingdom, the Church is the essential voice of conscience and morality. The bishops are called to speak with authority on matters of faith and morals, and to inform and influence the secular world.

When civil leaders claim to be Catholic, while also advocating immorality, they cause scandal, which leads others into sin. It also greatly weakens our Christian witness before the world. These leaders put their souls and the souls of many others in jeopardy. We must pray for them to change and call on bishops to confront this problem.

As members of the laity, we are called to participate in the social order by voting, educating others, and practicing acts of charity. Additionally, we cannot turn our backs on “lawful” sins; sin is sin even when it has been promoted as socially acceptable. One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to “admonish sinners.” Only God knows the state of other people’s souls. But truth should be proclaimed, and evil actions corrected. We don’t judge another’s soul, but we can judge if certain actions are sinful.

One of the truths most in need of new voices is the reality and consequences of sin. Sin exists and it distances the sinner from God. It is important to know that continuing in sin, further clouds a person’s ability to perceive the good, and the true. Yet, God is always ready to forgive sinners who are repentant. So, we join with clergy members in praying for the conversion of sinners and in speaking out when possible.

Two Catholic Principles

In relating to governments and social institutions, there are two principles taught by our Church: [1] Solidarity means we are a community called to support and challenge each other. [2] Subsidiarity means that we start at the local level and insist on the rights of the local community.[2] Charity begins at the local level. And to that end, employers and employees should carefully review the above list and make adjustments as necessary to be in conformity with the Church’s teachings and the obligations imposed by Christ Himself through the teaching authority of the Church.

It Is Late. May It Happen Soon.

Our Lady of Fatima warned against the ‘errors of Russia.’ Yet they now spread throughout the world. Let us pray for full obedience to the requests of Our Lady – especially the proper Consecration of Russia and the worldwide promotion of the Communion of Reparation on every First Saturday – which will result in the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is already late, but may it happen soon so as to mitigate the chastisements our world will suffer.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!


[1] It can certainly be assumed to refer only to Catholic obligations as non-Catholic religions have no right to exist and are not on equal footing with the True Faith. To claim all obligations to be equal would be to make truth and error equal. And they are not and cannot be. See “Religious Indifferentism: Leading Souls to Hell One at a Time.”

[2] Gross violation of the principle of subsidiarity is one of the 4 primary errors of Socialism.

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