A test for pope Francis

Pope Francis may not have changed anything as far as rigid Catholic doctrine goes but he has been outspoken about the problems of inequality and the need to improve the conditions of the poor, and this is an area where he can take action without contravening entrenched dogma.

Jim Hightower says that he now has an opportunity to show that these values are more than mere words, as a result of the awful way that Duquesne University in Pittsburgh treated one of its adjunct faculty Margaret Mary Vojtko, who died impoverished at the age of 83 after having taught there for 25 years with low pay and no benefits.

Her story would be unknown — except for Daniel Kovalik. A lawyer with the United Steelworkers, Daniel knew Margaret Mary through his union’s drive to help adjunct teachers organize for better pay and treatment. He wrote up her story, telling how Duquesne had let her spiral into abject poverty, and then they coldly booted her — no severance, no goodbyes, no nothing. Impoverished, abandoned, scared and stressed to the limit, her heart exploded shortly afterward.

The treatment of Vojtko galvanized the other adjuncts at the university who decided to join the United Steelworkers union so that they can better bargain for living wages and benefits. But the Catholic university has resorted to all manner of devious ploys to avoid granting them that right, and “they’ve even demanded a religious exemption from our labor laws, claiming that unionization would interfere with their teaching of Catholic values!” We recall the Catholic diocese in Cleveland using similar arguments to justify the highly restrictive morals clauses in its contracts with teachers.

The Steelworkers president has filed an appeal to that claim straight to pope Francis, telling him the sad story of Margaret Mary Vojtko, exactly the kind of person discarded by the ‘throwaway culture’ that the pope has condemned.

Let’s see what the pope does with this.


  1. says

    A positive action by the Pope in this case would go far to improve his standing with folks like me who look upon his election as nothing more than dogma in a new dress. Up to now, he’s been nothing but a whitened sepulcher; every time he says something “bold” a monsignor or bishop shows up to explain the Pope didn’t mean what we plainly heard. Some of us have no “faith” in him.

  2. Markovitch says

    Ms Vojtko wasn’t a raped choirboy, so the church may at least acknowledge that she existed. But she also wasn’t a fetus, so the church is unlikely to actually act.

  3. says

    Here’s how he could really make a difference — sell off the Vatican’s (mostly-stolen) wealth, and give the proceeds (no strings attached) to the world’s poor.

    But that’ll never happen.

  4. says

    That may backfire, considering Vojtko is not the best example here. There is still a problem with the compensation given to educators, but she really kind of screwed herself. Or not – she maintained her independence and distance from practically everything up to the last minute. And maybe that is exactly how she wanted it.

    I don’t think the university acted well at all, and universities are not good in general with paying instructors of any sort. I hope the union letter does gain some traction with the pope, but I don’t know about that. Then again, any positive outcome would only affect Catholic institutions, which kind of makes me blasé about the whole thing.

  5. sailor1031 says

    WMDKitty @ 3: isn’t that exactly what Yeshue told his followers to do? Of course a criminal syndicate like RCC wold never do such a thing.

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