Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Solidarity as Principle and Fundamental Social Virtue

SOLIDARITY IS ANOTHER GREAT principle of the Church's social doctrine. As a social principle, solidarity is the recognition that man is interdependent, that we are all responsible for all. It is an absolute rejection of individualism and any political, economic, or social theory based upon such a narrow view of man. These individualistic or atomistic theories hold or stress that we are only responsible for ourselves. On the other hand, solidarity recognizes that all men"are debtors of the society in which they have become part." (Compendium, No. 195)

Solidarity as a principle might be defined as an expression "in summary fashion the need to recognize in the composite ties that unite men and social groups among themselves, the space given to human freedom for common growth in which all share and in which they participate." It views "separation and fragmentation" among humans as something to be overcome. There is therefore an "intimate bond" between the principle of solidarity and the principle of the common good, the concept of the universal destination of goods, equality among men and peoples, and the efforts toward establishing peace in the world. (Compendium, No. 194)

Solidarity, however, may also be characterized as a virtue. In fact, it may be recognized as the "fundamental social virtue" one that is in the "sphere of justice" but extends out into friendship and even into love. In its sense as virtue, a habitual disposition in a person, solidarity is the virtue that involves "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."* (Compendium, No. 193)

Solidarity as a virtue is something that goes beyond mere justice: it goes beyond merely a firm resolution of giving each his due. It recognizes that we are our brother's keeper, that we must be committed to the good of our neighbor, and must resolutely try to be other-regarding, and less self-regarding. One must, as the Compendium says, be willing "to 'lose oneself' for he sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to 'serve him' instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage."* (Compendium, No. 193) Solidarity is a sort of blend between justice and love of neighbor. In terms of action, it "translates into the willingness to give oneself for the good of one's neighbor, beyond any individual or particular interest." (Compendium, No. 194)

Solidarity, while to some extent participating in the natural virtues of altruism and selflessness, is "undoubtedly a Christian virtue." There are so many points of contact between the social virtue of solidarity and charity, as to make it plain that solidarity, in its fullness and totality, is a Christian virtue and ought to be "the distinguishing mark of Christ's disciples." (Compendium, note 424) (quoting John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, No. 40)

Those with the virtue of solidarity are able to determine the proper order, that is to say, the proper structuring of political, economic, or social institutions. Those practiced in the virtue of solidarity are therefore able identify those "structures of sin" which detract from or violate the proper order. Identifying those "structures of sin" allows them to be overcome and changed, "through the creation or appropriation modification of laws, market regulations, and juridical systems," into properly ordered "structures of solidarity." (Compendium, No.193)

Solidarity--both as a principle and as a virtue--finds its greatest meaning and blooming, its sign, its model, its "unsurpassed apex of perspective" in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the"New Man, who is one with humanity even to the point of 'death on a cross'(Phil. 2:8)." (Compendium, No. 196) Jesus went far beyond justice into the realm of love and mercy, and, though God and under no obligation to any of mankind, was entirely Other-regarding. He called us friends. (John 15:9-18) He called us to be one, as He and the Father are one. (John 17:21) He gave us the great mandatum: to love one another as He loved us. (John 13:34-35) Christ's entire life was one lived for all men, for one and for all. In his life, he displayed in a most exemplary fashion, the virtue of solidarity. Jesus was solidarity in the flesh.

We can do no better than quote the closing paragraph of this section of the Compendium:

Jesus of Nazareth makes the connection between solidarity and charity shine brightly before all, illuminating the entire meaning of this connection: "In the light of faith, solidarity seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimensions of total gratuity, forgiveness and reconciliation. One's neighbor is then not only a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit. One's neighbor must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her; and for that person's sake one must be ready for sacrifice, even the ultimate one: to lay down one's life for the brethren (cf. 1 Jn 3:16).

(Compendium, No. 196)

*John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, No. 38. The term solidarity is of rather recent origin, derived from the French solidarité meaning "mutual responsibility," itself a borrowing from the "Encyclopédie" of 1765's term solidaire meaning "interdependent, complete, entire," all ultimately coming from the word solide meaning solid. Building on notions of "friendship" found, for example, in Aristotle, the principle of solidarity goes beyond this understanding. As the Church's social doctrine developed, Popes struggled with this concept, to formulate it and to give it a name. It is found "though not yet with that explicit name," for example, in Pope Leo XIII's Rerum novarum under the concept of "friendship." Pope Pius XI refers to this principle under the moniker "social charity." Pope Paul VI hearkened the principle in his broad conception of a "civilization of love." Originally conceived as a "law" by Pope Pius XII, who first used the term in his encyclical Summi Pontificatus, No. 35 ("The first of these pernicious errors, widespread today, is the forgetfulness of that law of human solidarity and charity which is dictated and imposed by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men, to whatever people they belong, and by the redeeming Sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ on the Altar of the Cross to His Heavenly Father on behalf of sinful mankind."). Since first used by Pius XII, it has expanded to the broader concept of "principle." For the history behind this term, see Compendium, Note 421.

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