by Cristina Odone BISHOP John Jukes, head of the Bishops' World of Work Comittee, has welcomed the House of Lords decision last week curtailing Sunday trading as a victory for "family life and justice at work".
Bishop Jukes, auxiliary in Southwark, told the Catholic Herald that although the Bishops' committee would probably review the issue of Sunday trading "and its many complications" at their forthcoming meeting, he was certain that the bishops' "general agreement was to keep Sunday special".
By restoring local councils' power to issue High Court injunctions against Sunday traders without fear of being liable for compensation claims, the House of Lords last Thursday placed a further obstacle in the way of shopping on the Sabbath.
The five Law Lords who unanimously overturned last year's Court of Appeal ruling were praised by the operations director for the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, David Blackmore. He said that the ruling "marks the turn of the tide on the Sunday issue." Though at present a number of leading national supermarkets and DIY shops are open to customers on Sunday, many view the Lords' decision as a serious deterrent to other shops trading on Sunday.
A spokesman for C&A, the retail chain owned by the Dutch Catholic Brenninkrneyer family, said that C&A will not consider opening on Sundays. He pointed out that this decision was not based on the Brenninkmeyers' Catholic values, but rather on "commercial interest: it is not
commercially viable to trade on Sunday: and it is an illegal action".
Despite the House of Lords ruling, the majority of local authorities are waiting for the European Court decision, in the autumn, on Sunday trading. The European Court will rule on a test case between the DIY chain, B&Q and Stoke on Trent and Norwich Councils. This will test whether Sunday trading restrictions in England and Wales are in opposition to EC law, which prohibits barriers to free trade between EC member states.
The European court decision "will certainly give us some sort of lead", agreed Bishop Jukes. who pointed out that Cardinal Hume had made his own views on the importance of keeping Sunday special clear in numerous specches.
A member of the bishops' committee for European Affairs, Mr George Bull, said that although his committee was waiting for the European Court's decision, "all of our Christian instincts tell us that it is right to keep a day for prayer, consonant with the biblical tradition." Mr Bull was quick to point out that many Sunday worshippers were guilty of hypocrisy, however: "Those of us who slip into Tesco after Mass should examine our consciences," he said.
Shops in three predominantly Catholic EC countries Italy, France and Belgium are closed on Sunday, and paid employment is prohibited.
The Keep Sunday Special Campaign is urging local authorities to prepare legal cases in order to enforce the law.