Guest speaker shares presentation on Catholic social teaching


Photo credit/ Katlynn Whitaker

Dr. Gerald J. Beyer, a theology and religious studies professor at Villanova University, gave a presentation to a small crowd of Marywood professors and faculty about Catholic Social Teaching.

Rachel Looker, Asst. News Editor

On Friday, Oct. 16, Dr. Gerald J. Beyer, a theology and religious studies professor at Villanova University, gave a presentation to a small crowd of Marywood professors and faculty about Catholic Social Teaching in the Comerford Auditorium.

Marywood’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) invited Beyer to campus and opened the lecture to the entire Marywood community.

The presentation was titled “Implementing Catholic Social Teaching on Labor at Catholic Universities.”

According to Beyer, Catholic social teaching emphasizes worker’s rights which include health benefits, safe working conditions, retirement pensions, unemployment insurance, maternity leave, worker’s compensation, and the right to unionize.

“I found it hypocritical and painful to see rights of workers were violated at Catholic institutions,” said Beyer during the presentation. “Catholic Universities by nature have an obligation to teach Catholic social teaching, and we have to model it, which includes protecting rights of workers.”

Beyer described how excessive wages for certain employees are unacceptable when others are not making a living wage at Catholic Universities.

“If we are allocating resources in a way that can be avoided, while there are members of the University community whose rights are being violated, rights to a living wage, rights to healthcare, to safe working environments, then it becomes problematic,” said Beyer. “But the preferential option for the poor always has to be kept in mind. That’s what the Church teaches.”

According to Beyer, Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to unionize without “fear of reprisal.” Beyer stated that in the eyes of Catholic social teaching, unions are a force for social good.

“Unions have a crucial role in negotiating minimum salaries,” said Beyer during the presentation.

According to Beyer, under Catholic social teaching, every worker has a right to participation and to have their voices heard and valued.

“St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II, and Pope Francis have all said that when people’s lives are being affected, when decisions are being taken that have a significant impact on the lives of people, those decisions should not take place above their heads,” said Beyer.

Beyer outlined how Catholic Universities must show that there is another way to view the higher education industry. Specifically, he said that adding more adjunct professors to an institution’s work force demonstrates a University’s corporatization.

According to Beyer, Catholic universities cannot operate like corporations.

Beyer described that Catholic social teaching should shape policies and practices of universities and should create structures and policies that reflect Catholic social teaching.

“There is a lot of similarity, a lot of correspondence between Catholic social teaching, particularly in the right to participation, and what the AAUP has been promoting with regard to shared governance,” said Beyer.

Beyer concluded by stating that Catholic Universities should follow Catholic social teaching ideals and the AAUP’s idea of shared governance.

“He had excellent points to make,” said Dr. Craig Johnson, professor of mathematics and Faculty Senate President. “This was another way to frame the issue of communication.”

Dr. Francis DeMatteo, associate professor of psychology and secretary/treasurer of the Marywood chapter of the AAUP said, “I think it’s spot on. He does an amazing job at restating what we need to be doing at a Catholic institution. We need models of what to do. We need to do what we say and say what we do.”

Anne Zukowski contributed to this article.

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