The Church is Fighting Work on Sundays in Europe

Source: FSSPX News

Mgr Stanislaw Gadecki.

On Wednesday, August 23, the Polish bishops called for a total ban of work on Sundays in a country were the law is very liberal on that particular point. Likewise, across Europe, several episcopal conferences are trying to bring the question of Sunday rest back into the center of political debates.

The president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, declared on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, in the name of the bishops of Poland that “Catholics, non-Catholics, and atheists all need to have Sundays off.”

Though supported by the Solidarity Labor Union, the Church in Poland has not yet succeeded in imposing her views on the matter.

In this country that is deeply imbued with Catholicism, civil law allows work on Sundays and public holidays. Progress is being made, however: the current government is favor of a ban, and will look into the matter this fall.

As is so often the case, the statement from the episcopal conference simply defends Sunday rest, and fails to mention any religious motives. It advances arguments ad hominem, like the need for a better “quality of life”.  Along the same lines, the archbishop of Katowice, Archbishop Wiktor Skworc, declared that “families don’t just need financial support, they also need free time”.

Sunday rest finds its origin in the Decalogue: “Six days shalt thou labor, and shalt do all thy works. But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates” (Exodus 20: 9-10 . Ever since Christ’ Resurrection, this day is Sunday, the “Lord’s Day” – dies Domini. Thus Sunday as a rest day is a matter of positive divine law; all the Church has done was explain this commandment of God and make it more explicit. She later included it in her code of law, Canon law, and in her universal catechism.

As soon as the temporal power began to have normal relations with the Church after the Edict of Milan, it did not fail to follow Church law in this matter. Thus in a decree on March 7, 321, Emperor Constantine declared: “On the venerable Day of the sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.”

This remained the constant practice of the Church throughout the centuries, until the first attacks on Sunday, the sacred day when the faithful fulfill their duty of rendering to God the worship due to Him. The first attack came during the French Revolution from the Republican calendar that was imposed between 1793 and 1806; it suppressed the seven-day week and thus eliminated Sundays.

Today, commercial interests are succeeding where atheistic and secular ideologies failed. For many years now, there have been new laws in favor of Sunday work. The modern popes have tried to hold these changes in check. Thus on May 31, 1998, in his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, Pope John Paul II recalled that Sunday rest rest “is man's way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God”.

Likewise, the 24th Eucharistic Congress was held in Bari, in Italy, in August 2009, on the theme: “Without Sunday, we cannot live”.  At the closing of this congress, Benedict XVI asked Christians to rediscover the spiritual significance of Sunday, an “expression of the identity of the Christian community” in the face of “unbridled consumerism” and “religious indifference”.

Paradoxically, in Europe, a small number of very secularized countries such as Austria and Germany, seem to be more respectful of Sunday rest. In an article published in La Croix, Delphine Allaire quotes the German Constitution that stipulates in Article 139: “Sundays and the public holidays recognized by the state remain legally protected as days of rest from work and of spiritual edification.” In Belgium, it is only permitted to work on three Sundays a year, except in tourist cities.

For most of the European countries, however, including the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, and Portugal as well as the Spanish capital of Madrid, businesses are open 52 Sundays a year. In the strongly Catholic countries of Italy, Portugal, and Spain, heated public discussions erupt regularly, adds La Croix. Thus in 2014, the Spanish bishop of Santander, Vicente Jiménez called for a “united effort”, appealing to authorities to resist “economic pressures” liberalizing opening and working hours.

In France, Sunday rest lost significant ground after the Macron Law was promulgated in 2015, creating 21 international tourism zones in the country in which it is permitted, by means of a business agreement, to remain open on Sundays.

In Italy, explains Delphine Allaire, the Italian Episcopal Conference prefers to stick to background work to protect “workers’ rights to spend time with their families on Sundays”, supporting the country’s main business association, Confesercenti.

Allow us to recall that on Sunday, June 9, 1873, feast of the Blessed Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Saint-Bauzille-de-la-Sylve in the Hérault to a young 30-year-old wine-grower, a day laborer during the week, Auguste Arnaud, who was working in his little vineyard, and said to him with the utmost gravity: “You must not work on Sundays. Blessed are those who believe; woe to those who do not believe.” This Marian apparition was recognized by Church authorities, and it goes to show once again the importance of sanctifying the Lord’s Day. The Mother of God had already reminded men of this religious duty at La Salette.