Pope Francis: Corporate dehumanization of workers causes deaths, injuries
Pope Francis at a general audience meeting in the Vatican this year. | Andrew Medichini/AP

ROME—Never one to pull his punches when supporting workers and opposing capitalist greed, Pope Francis blames deaths and injuries on the job on corporate dehumanization of workers.

In a one-page speech, lasting less than two minutes, the Pope told the Italian Association of Injured Workers that “tragedies begin when the goal is no longer man, but productivity, and a man becomes a production machine.”

“Thank you for keeping a focus on the issue of safety in the workplace, where too many deaths and injuries still happen,” the Pontiff began, after eulogizing five Italian railroad workers killed in job accidents the week before.

“This happens when work becomes dehumanized, instead of being the tool that lets human beings reach their fulfillment within the community. It becomes an exhausting race for profit.”

The Argentinian-born Pope’s speech, posted on YouTube by RomeReports.com, is in line with Francis’s prior denunciations, during his decade in the Vatican, of corporate and capitalist degradation of workers. He’s called capitalism “an economic system that continues to discard lives in the name of money.”

Francis’s record as Archbishop of Buenos Aires oscillated between opposition and cool neutrality towards the left-leaning Kirchner government, with a split on abortion the turning point, the Associated Press reported earlier this year. The right there now hates him, too, and he’s been advised not to visit his native land because doing so would draw him into its political turmoil.

Francis’s outspoken support of workers and unions is also in line with 130 years of Catholic social teaching, which heavily favors the need for unions to protect workers, enhance their living standards, and as a counterweight to corporate exploitation.

And in a prior more obvious gesture of support, Francis met months ago, as part of a general audience, with Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, as the union’s ultimately successful campaign for a good collective bargaining agreement with UPS was revving up.

But Francis’s stands on that and other issues have angered a significant segment of higher Catholic clergy—bishops, archbishops, and cardinals–in the U.S., almost all named by Francis’s two predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Prominent Catholic laity, including right-wing U.S. lawmakers and university and healthcare administrators, also disregard or defy Francis’s statements on social justice, especially worker justice.

University presidents, to give one example, won a case before the majority right-wing of the U.S. Supreme Court that lets them unilaterally fire professors who disagree with what the administrators say is Church dogma.

Chicago’s Catholic-run Resurrection Health Care system often broke labor law in its successful effort to bar AFSCME’s campaign to unionize its workers.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.