Fact sheet

Fact Check: Did the Pope declare wage theft a mortal sin that reaps eternal punishment?

Wage theft Trade unions

The union movement enlisted the opinion of the Catholic Church in its campaign to make wage theft a crime. Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus told her Twitter followers that the spiritual stakes were high for employers who ripped-off their workers: "The Pope is making @unionsaustralia look soft on wage theft. He's declared it a mortal sin so punishment is eternal". Is that really what the Pope said? And do mortal sins attract eternal punishment? RMIT ABC Fact Check found Ms McManus's claim is a faithful account. Although Pope Francis didn't specifically say "wage theft", he did refer to examples that fall within the term's broad meaning. Strictly speaking, there is no agreed definition of wage theft. However, Fact Check takes it to mean deliberate non-compliance with legal obligations relating to employee entitlements ' whether that's underpaying wages or withholding leave payments and superannuation. And the Pope said those "who don't pay" are committing a mortal sin. Indeed, Catholic doctrine makes clear that his admonition applies to intentional acts of greed or stinginess by employers. And the Catholic Bible shows Jesus took a similar view. So what's the punishment for a mortal sin? Without a good excuse ' for example, ignorance or a pathological disorder ' then the Catholic Church says sinners should brace for "eternal hell". That's unless, of course, they repent and promise to change their ways.
Verdict: Faithful account

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