American Pastoral

Revisiting ‘Economic Justice for All’

During their fall meeting in 1986, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passed by a vote of 225 to 9 the final draft of Economic Justice for All (.pdf). Many had hoped that the bishops would celebrate the letter’s twenty-fifth  anniversary in 2011 by updating it in light of all that had transpired during those twenty-five years—especially the changing nature of the global economy. Instead, the USCCB chose to write a much shorter and less comprehensive pastoral statement to the American people without reference to the bishops’ previous documents on social justice, which spanned almost a century—the last major effort in that field having been Economic Justice for All. The new statement failed to receive enough votes to pass.

In the spring of 1981, the president of the USCCB, Archbishop John Roach, asked me to lead a committee tasked with writing a pastoral letter that would come to be called Economic Justice for All. It was published five years later. As today’s bishops prepared to discuss the more modest document, I could not help but ask myself many questions. The first was: If we bishops were to write a major pastoral letter on the economy today, would I recommend a change...

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About the Author

Rembert G. Weakland, OSB, was archbishop of Milwaukee from 1977 until 2002.