What is Solidarity

Bulletin Q&A Article, published 4-16-23:

What is meant by solidarity?

As an ordination present, Jenni made me a stole to use when I presided at baptisms. It has colorful handprints of all my children and godchildren and of my parents and godparents—all those that I had a part in their baptisms and those that had a part in mine. (It has now been replaced with a stole with the footprints of our twelve grandchildren.) I use this stole when celebrating baptisms to help explain the extended family nature of the sacrament. Through our baptism we are all brothers and sister of Jesus; adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. Our family extends throughout the world, to rich and poor alike. I become a brother to the one being welcomed into the Church.

The Catechism equates solidarity with terms such as “friendship” or “social charity” (CCC #1939). But it is a charity based on our belief and understanding that we are all one family. We need to work together, as every successful family does, to help each other during our journey on earth.

In his encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,St. Pope John Paul II writes: “It is above all a question of interdependence, sensed as a system determining relationships in the contemporary world, in its economic, cultural, political and religious elements, and accepted as a moral category. When interdependence becomes recognized in this way, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a ‘virtue,’ is solidarity. This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all” (SRS #38).

Solidarity, as a virtue, is a commitment to the common good, not just our own self-interests. John Paul II says that the two main obstacles to making that commitment are “desire for profit” and “thirst for power.” These two obstacles have grown in importance in our increasing secular world, and the Church seems to be the lone voice calling us to virtue. It is a call to voluntary charity based on love of our man, not forced redistribution based on socialistic government policies that dictate how people should be helped. Solidarity must be balanced with another Catholic social teaching, subsidiarity.

Subsidiarity is a principle that states that decision and policy making is most effective when made at the local level by the people directly affected. The Catechism says this about subsidiarity: “Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good (CCC #1883).

We are called to help people help themselves.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *