“"Controversy in the Church Requires Genuinely Open Dialogue”

Outdoor Mass.jpg

Mass is held on behalf of an imprisoned UFW demonstrator outside of the Bakersfield Jail, Bakersfield, California, c. 1970s

Courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

The previous page presented conflict between the laity and clergy. Disagreements over the Church's role in the labor dispute also occurred between members of the clergy. There was often a disconnect between priests and their superiors, wherein many priests wanted to assist the workers, but their bishops often felt the pressure growers (particularly Catholic growers) to not get involved.

This was specifically true in California, according to Gerard Sherry, a writer with The Observer, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois. Sherry decried a lack of open discussion within the Church, writing that some in the hierarchy "refuse to listen and to attend to the rest of the people of God. Any attempts at dialogue with them is treated as insubordination." His example was the Delano grape strike, arguing that Church authorities had failed to take a stand on social principles by not challenging growers, some of whom were Church members who "felt no need to pay living wages or to provide decent housing for their workers." Those priests who spoke out in support of these laborers often were shunted away after growers complained to the bishops in the area. Sherry charged that strides made in management-labor relations to that point were attributable to national groups that may or may not have been Christian and not due to local bishops, who should have been "the most obvious mediators" but "had little to say and left it to laymen who could always be repudiated if things didn't work out."

Controversy in Church.pdf

Sherry's "Controversy in the Church" article
Courtesy of ACUA

In the end, Sherry said some clergy would have to accept being branded as "outlaws" in order to bring change to the labor situation. It was a challenge that a number of clergy would enthusiastically embrace.



1. What does Sherry appear to think is the underlying reason for the grape strike?

2. How does he say the situation can be resolved?