The nation’s Catholic bishops and some of their Protestant counterparts have embarked on an ambitious effort to change the way Americans think about the U.S. economy.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has produced nine public-service radio announcements that are being broadcast throughout the country. The radio spots invite listeners to call a toll-free number to “find out what you can do.” The number connects callers with a recording that offers ways of putting into practice “the values and principles” contained in the bishops’ recent pastoral letter on the U.S. economy.

Calls for Action

The radio campaign is only one aspect of a major effort to spread the message of the church document, titled “Economic Justice for All: Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy.” The letter maintains that all economic decisions must be guided by moral principles. One such principle is that of “economic rights” to a job, food, health care, and adequate housing. The bishops call for a “new American experiment” in which civil and political rights would extend to the economic realm.

The prelates’ letter labels as “social and moral scandal” the fact that some 33 million Americans are living in poverty. And it calls for new public and private initiatives to fight poverty and create new jobs.

Less noticed by the news media are the spiritual dimensions of the bishops’ critique. The letter warns of the “idolatry” of seeking security in wealth and material possessions rather than in Christ. For the bishops, the issue of economic justice ultimately comes down to personal conversion. The U.S. Catholic Conference, as well as many of ...

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