Solidarity Flows From Faith
Solidarity helps us transcend cultural, political, social and geographic boundaries to embrace the other as thyself. Solidarity is Radical.
WHERE DOES SOLIDARITY COME FROM?
As with all CST, the principle of solidarity has its roots in scripture. For at the Last Supper Jesus said:
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
We should remember that solidarity flows from faith: “Love of neighbour… consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 18)
How is this possible? “This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 18)
HOW DOES SOLIDARITY PLAY OUT PRACTICALLY?
Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that, as Pope St. Paul VI indicated we should search for the causes of underdevelopment “…first of all, in the will, which often neglects the duties of solidarity…” (Caritas in Veritate, 19)
Our Church holds that “the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order.” (Caritas in Veritate, 19) So, while it is true that “Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations.” (Pope St. Paul VI, 66)
“In the last analysis, they are to be found in a current self-centeredness and materialistic way of thinking that fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
Solidarity transcends cultural, political, social and geographic boundaries – to embrace the other as thyself.
Indeed, solidarity is radical (but not in a political or ideological sense).
“Love of neighbour… consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 18)
The principle of solidarity is truly radical. At the Last Supper Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John, 13:34)
This is a radical charge because how does God love us? – Unremittingly. It is no longer “love our neighbor as ourself” but rather, “love our neighbor as God loves us.”
We must internalize just how radical the principle of solidarity really is. In his second encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie.” (Spe Salvi, 38)
Think about that for a moment. If the principles we are describing do not stand above our own comfort – let alone our physical wellbeing – we are told that our life becomes a “lie”!
And a bit later Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Let us say it once again: the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity.” (Spe Salvi, 39)
This also makes it clear that solidarity is not an ideological or political principle. It is a Catholic principle based on and emanating from faith. Absent that, it is not the solidarity of CST. (See also, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1948)
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)