Farmworkers

The Catholic Church, Farmers and Farmworkers

In proclaiming the Kingdom of God, the Catholic Church has continually supported and spoke on behalf of farmers and farmworkers. Here in the United States, this was no better portrayed than the support by the Untied States Catholic Church during the 1970’s by supporting the grape and lettuce boycotts of the United Farm Workers.

As examples of the ongoing support of the Church for farmers, their families and farmworkers, the Catholic-Labor Network have gathered the following quotes from Church magisterium as examples of that support:

Mater et Magistra: On Christianity and Social Progress (An Encyclical of Pope John XXIII [1961])

  • 138. On this subject it must not be forgotten that the price of agricultural produce represents, for the most part, the reward of the farmer’s labor rather than a return on invested capital.
  • 144. We are convinced that the farming community must take an active part in its own economic advancement, social progress and cultural betterment. Those who live on the land can hardly fail to appreciate the nobility of the work they are called upon to do. They are living in close harmony with Nature – the majestic temple of Creation. Their work has to do with the life of plants and animals, a life that is inexhaustible in its expression, inflexible in its laws, rich in allusions to God the Creator and Provider. They produce food for the support of human life, and the raw materials of industry in ever richer supply.
  • 145. Theirs is a work which carries with it a dignity all its own. It brings into its service many branches of engineering, chemistry and biology, and is itself a cause of the continued practical development of these sciences in view of the repercussions of scientific and technical progress on the business of farming. It is a work which demands a capacity for orientation and adaptation, patient waiting, a sense of responsibility, and a spirit of perseverance and enterprise.

Solidarity and Co-operation

  • 146. It is important also to bear in mind that in agriculture, as in other sectors of production, association is a vital need today – especially in the case of family farms. Rural workers should feel a sense of solidarity with one another, and should unite to form co-operatives and professional associations. These are very necessary if farm workers are to benefit from scientific and technical methods of production and protect the prices of their products. They are necessary, too, if they are to attain an equal footing with other professional classes who, in most cases, have joined together in associations. They are necessary, finally, if farm workers are to have their proper voice in political circles and in public administration. The lone voice is not likely to command much of a hearing in times such as ours.

Guadium et Spes: The Pastoral Constitution: On the Church in the Modern World (December 7, 1065)

  • 60. Everything must be done to make everyone conscious of the right to culture and the duty he has of developing himself culturally and of helping others. Sometimes there exist conditions of life and of work which impede the cultural striving of men and destroy in them the eagerness for culture. This is especially true of farmers and workers. It is necessary to provide for them those working conditions which will not impede their human culture but rather favour it. Women now work in almost all spheres. It is fitting that they are able to assume their proper role in accordance with their own nature. It will belong to all to acknowledge and favour the proper and necessary participation of women in the cultural life.
  • 66. To satisfy the demands of justice and equity, strenuous efforts must be made, without disregarding the rights of persons or the natural qualities of each country, to remove as quickly as possible the immense economic inequalities, which now exist and in many cases are growing and which are connected with individual and social discrimination. Likewise, in many areas, in view of the special difficulties of agriculture relative to the raising and selling of produce, country people must be helped both to increase and to market what they produce, and to introduce the necessary development and renewal and also obtain a fair income. Otherwise, as too often happens, they will remain in the condition of lower-class citizens. Let farmers themselves, especially young ones, apply themselves to perfecting their professional skill, for without it, there can be no agricultural advance.

Popularum Progressio: On the Development of Peoples (An Encyclical of Pope Paul VI [March 26, 1967])

  • 9. At the same time, social unrest has gradually spread throughout the world. The acute restlessness engulfing the poorer classes in countries that are now being industrialized has spread to other regions where agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. The farmer is painfully aware of his “wretched lot.”

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