Fr. Oubre also finds some common views of the unemployed are "troubling." People sometimes assume that those who can't care for themselves are "obviously just lazy."
"I think it's scary in the rhetoric I hear around me, as we focus so much on Ayn Rand and 'Atlas Shrugged,'" he said, referring to the 20th century novelist who advocated radical individualism and capitalism.
The priest is wary of the mentality that says, "I'll take care of myself and pull myself up by my own bootstraps." He stressed that people are "social creatures" and need to care for those who are born with health problems or who suffer crippling accidents.
"I'm speaking of family members whose children are born with spina bifida and have to try to raise their child and meet their health care needs. I'm thinking of the worker who's driving to work and suddenly is caught up in an auto accident that's not his fault and is paralyzed from the waist down," he said.
"We talk about 'I just take care of myself.' There's somethings that happen where people can't take care of themselves."
In order to know how to live in the modern economy, Fr. Oubre encouraged the study of Catholic social thought.
He said Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum" rejected both socialism and "the brutal, brutal capitalism that was crushing and killing people" in the transition from agricultural to industrial society. The encyclical stressed that workers "could not justly enter into a contract that paid them a wage that did not give them at least a wage that they and their family could live upon."
"He clearly condemned unregulated free marketism as well as socialism as being an insult to human dignity," Fr. Oubre said.
Catholic social teaching on the place of labor has continued through various popes to Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 encyclical "Caritas in Veritate."
Fr. Oubre also recommended that Catholics read the U.S. bishops' Labor Day statement.
He noted that Labor Day has traditionally marked an increase in political activity.
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"It is absolutely imperative that Catholics be authentic to their Catholic social teaching, and not be 'cafeteria Catholics' of the left or the right. The real challenge is to conform ourselves to what our Church calls us to."
"That means being pro-life, that means standing up for the dignity of marriage," he said. "That also means fighting for the rights of our immigrant community and acknowledging the rights of workers to organize unions and participate in collective bargaining."
"We have to try to live every aspect of Catholic social teaching," he said.