Letter from Arnold L. Ender to Msgr. Higgins

George Higgins.jpg

Msgr. George G. Higgins

Courtesy of ACUA

Throughout his career, Monsignor George G. Higgins was a staunch supporter of the rights of workers, particularly their right to unionize. It was as much a moral issue as a social one for Higgins, who held strongly to the beliefs espoused in the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum) and Pope Pius XI (Quadragesimo Anno). This stance often led Higgins to condemn legislation that he believed undermined the cause of labor, including the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 (better known as the Taft-Hartley Act), which severely limited the power of unions. In his autobiography, Higgins described the act as having “the effect of chilling the right to organize.”[1]

While many leaders and lay persons within the Church would agree with Higgins, that was not always the case. In the letter sent to Higgins in June 1965 exhibited here, Arnold L. Ender of the J.A. Baldwin Manufacturing Company in Kearney, Nebraska, took Higgins to task for his crusade against Taft-Hartley. Referring to himself as a “Catholic and also as a working Catholic,” Ender argued that the Church “is overstepping its bounds as far as separation of church and state is concerned when we start going into laws of this type.” Ender had no problem with the Church advocating social justice legislation, but felt that clergy should not interfere in labor legislation and claimed that such interference could in fact weaken the standing of the Church in the U.S. While Higgins would never back down from his position, it would also not be the last time he faced such opposition from Church members.



Letter by Arnold Ender to Msgr. Higgins
Courtesy of ACUA


1. What reason might Ender have had for opposing Higgins stance on Taft-Hartley?

2. Is there a contradiction in Ender’s belief that the Church should support social legislation but take no part in labor legislation?




[1] Monsignor George G. Higgins, Organized Labor and the Church: Reflections of a “Labor Priest” (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993), 162.