Saturday, January 7, 2017

Solidarity and the "structures of sin"

1. In solidarity we are solid, together; we have bonding. When we say we are "in solidarity" with others, we are SOLID WITH THEM, we are united and bonded with them. 

2. In solidarity we say that social members have a MUTUAL UNITY. We are together. We do not work egoistically, selfishly. We are turned to the needs of others. Hopefully we can OVERCOME OUR INEQUALITY IN ACCESS TO THINGS THAT MAKE US FULLY HUMAN--THAT MAKE US BLOOM. 

3. Actually, the notion of solidarity has been used as far back as the Vatican II council. Among the signs of the times, said Gaudium et spes, is the "solidarity of people" (GS# 46). The document Gaudium et spes criticized individualism that rejected social solidarity that served to improve conditions of life (see GS# 30). 

4. Pope Paul VI later ephasized the hopes of a world that would be more united, in solidarity, where people will be fraternal with each other. Solidarity, according to Pope Paul VI was a duty (see Populorum progressio #43 and 64). 

5. It was Pope John Paul II who really went deep into the notion of solidarity. He was Polish and for many years the workers of Poland were so exploted and marginalized. So the workers formed a union which they called "Solidarnosc". It was the union of workers in their combat to have their rights recognized. So Pope John Paul II really was strongly influenced by this notion of unity--solidarity.

6. For Pope John Paul II solidarity required INTERDEPENDENCY among people. It required that THERE BE STRONG LINKS among people (see Sollicitudo rei socialis # 40). 

7. Pope JohnPaul II appreciated the solidarity among the poor. He was impressed by their mutual support (see SRS 39). This is because PEOPLE HAVE FELT THE INJUSTICES AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS striking them. (See SRS # 38)

8. For Pope JohnPaul II the basic reason why there is solidarity is because WE ARE ALL HUMANS (see SRS#40). We all "in the same boat". Solidarity means that other people are humans too; they are persons; they are EXACTLY AS WE ARE, OUR RESEMBLANCE. So we do not exploit people and use them like tools (see SRS #39). Remember what we said in Moral Theology. The sense of morality arises when we realize: I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON HERE. It is true people must be interdependent. But this is not simply because people want to be together. Solidarity is not just a choice of social members. IT IS ALSO WILLED BY GOD. Dignity, rights and obligations and fraternal living in society is in God's plan. From the Old Testament all the way to Jesus, we see the importance of society as solid and fraternal, filled with justice and concern for each other. God willed it this way. The Covenant he made with the people of Israel has been marked by the requirement of solidarity. 

9. Solidarity is not a sentimental feeling of being together and nice and tender to each other. Solidarity is A PERSEVERING DETERMINATION TO WORK FOR THE COMMON GOOD. It takes effort. I requires struggle and working hard for the common good. Why? It is not just about nice feelings, IT IS ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY. Each is responsible for all (see SRS# 38). This responsibility includes making sure that rights and dignity are respected; that social institutions respect rights and dignity; that people are respected as humans. 

10. St. Thomas Aquinas, as far back as the medieval times, already had in mind this notion of solidarity. For him--and for scholastic philosophers--the dignity of the human REJECTS THE ISOLATION OF EACH ONE. Human dignity is community dignity; to respect the human is, at the same time, to make sure that the human is respected in community. So each person must be seen IN UNION WITH EVERYONE ELSE. There must be a solidarity in the community. 

11. This is also Biblical, given the image of "Body" (see 1 Co 12). We form a body and each member is of dignity. There is no single part that has no dignity. THE FACT OF EVERYONE HAVING DIGNITY REQUIRES SOLIDARITY. 

12. Solidarity goes together with subsidiarity. We have studied subsidiarity. In subsidiarity, we said, we contribute to the capacities and competence of others; we empower them so that they can participate in social life and work for the common good of all. In subsidiarity nobody is zero--everyone has something to share. 

13. Solidarity needs movement. It will dry up if it has no subsidiarity. Why? The links we tie in solidarity does not mean that some of us will do nothing and just expect the aid and service of others. Subsidiarity means EMPOWERING OTHERS and making sure that they be in charge of decision making and actions too. Subsidiarity wants that ALL SOCIAL MEMBERS PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL LIFE. Solidarity without subsidiarity will spoil people. 

14. Pope John Paul II has emphasized that THE GOVERNMENT MUST BE IN SOLIDARITY WITH ITS CITIZENS, and with the poor in particular. 

15. The governments of our countries cannot just give favor to a few--like the rich--and neglect others. It will be a violation of justice if the government favors only a few. Let us quote Pope John Paul II:

16. "The more that individuals are defenseless within a given society, the more they require the care and concern of others, and in particular the intervention of governmental authority" (Centesimus annus # 10). The pope adds that government must determine "the juridical framework within which economic affairs are to be conducted" (CA #15). The economic world should not be absolutely free. The government should offer legal support especially for those who will be marginalized by the economic order.

17. Solidarity is a Christian virtue. It is the mark of Christian behaviour in society to respect interdependence, reciprocity, fraternity, and the work for the building of institutions oriented for the common good of all. 

18. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the fraternity in solidarity. (See Caritas in veritate # 13). Given the struggles of poor socities today, it is solidarity, according to Pope Benedict XVI, that will help. So many people suffer hunger. They need the solidarity of those who have the resources. Let us quote Pope Benedict XVI:

19. "Life in many poor countries is still extremely insecure as a consequence of food shortages, and the situation could become worse: hunger still reaps enormous numbers of victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their place at the rich man's table, contrary to the hopes expressed by Paul VI.64 Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church, as she responds to the teachings of her Founder, the Lord Jesus, concerning solidarity and the sharing of goods" (CV # 27). 

Structures of Sin

A little of bit of history

1. In South America in the 1970's there were conferences organized by the Bishops of Latin America. Tow major conferences were held, one in Medellin (1969) and another in Peubla (1979).
2. They were moments of reflections of the Bishops as the Bishops were interpreting the conditions of South America in the light of the Gospel. 
3. In Medellin the Bishops has the following insights.   a. Jesus Christ came to liberate humanity from the hold of sin;   b. the root causes of slavery today is the unbalance freedom of the human being   c. evil is a result of what people do; it is not a fatality   d. there is the need to denounce and fight against sin, especially the sin that creates institutional violence.   e. we need conversion in Christ.
4. In Puebla, ten years later, the Bishops were so worried about the increasing violence in their countries. They asked if God really wanted that. The answer is, of course, no.    a. at the time of creation God wanted to impart to all the goods of the earth, there was already love and justice at that moment; the love and justice must be found in society today   b. sin is an anti-history, it is an obstacle in the love between God and us    c. sin is a breaking away from the plan of God, and this explains the many violence and injustice in society.
5. Note then that for the Bishops, sin is a REFUSAL TO RELATE WITH GOD who has entered into Covenant with us. Sin is a force that dehumanizes people. This is why God gave us his Son. 
6. The Bishops spoke of the relationship between persona sins and social sins. There is a strange "solidarity" between the two. According to the Bishops, the personal sins people do create a society marked by sin. Society looks sinful because of the personal sins of people. 

Pope John Paul II

1. Pope John Paul II was from Poland and he had the experience of the workers' struggle against the exploitation there. The workers organized a movement called "Solidarnosc" or solidarity. So the Pope was so influenced by the notion of solidarity. To the reflections of the Bishops of South America, Pope John Paul II added his notion of "STRUCTURES OF SIN". Insociety, he said, there is a strange imbalance that affect human dignity and this is because of evil committed by people. Sin, in society, has reached structural proportions.
2. For the Pope, personal sins are at the bottom of social injustices. Like all theologians, the Pope said that SIN IS ALWAYS PERSONAL and the results of social injustice are coming from personal sins. Sin is a distortion of the image of God; it is a perversion of human dignity; it is a source of alienation because the human has forgotten how he/she is loved by God. IN SOCIETY SIN HAS ATTAINED STRUCTURAL PROPORTIONS. As a result of personal sins, SOCIAL LIFE HAS BECOME MARKED BY INJUSTICE. So there is what the Pope called as "structures of sin".
3. The sins committed personally have a social impact. STRUCTURES OF SIN ARE THE EXISTING PRACTICES AND INSTITUTIONS that direct our lives. The structures are already there, existing, and we experience them as BEYOND WHAT WE CAN DO. For Pope John Paul II those structures can still be changed and modified; and they are results of the many accumulated personal sins of people.
4. So many things are contrary to the Gospel and the Spirit. Part of the mission of the Church is to DISCERN situations marked by sin and combatting them to build a more human society marked by human dignity.
5. Pope John Paul II wrote an exhortation, Reconciliation and Penitence. There he really emphasize the place of personal sins. The big sins we experience in society are really from personal sins, he wrote. Social sin is about certain practices that are contrary to God's design, such as war and inequality. It is very hard to say who exactly are the persons responsible. Social sin is AN ACCUMULATION AND CONCENTRATION OF PERSONAL SINS. They may have been done by   a. people who deliberately do bad things;    b. people who can do good things but mit doing good things ad stay indifferent to bad things;   c. people who say all is useless, there is nothing we can do in society to improve it;    d. people who do not like to choose higher values.
6. The tendency of some people is to say that the problems and injustice are due to society--the structures and institutions. Some people want to exonerate themselves from personal responsibility in personal sin. So they say: "there is nothing we can do, it is i society already". The Pope finds this wrong.
7. Leter the Pope wrote his encyclical Solicitudo rei socialis. There he added insights on his notion of sin and structures of sin. Sin, he said, is an obstacle to real development: an obstacle to human blooming. Our being image of God is deformed, so too is our social life. and development. Sin form CONCRETE PERSONAL ACT THAT BECOME SO FIXED IN SOCIETY IT IS NOW HARD TO ABOLISH THEM. We are "in solidarity" with the conditions of sin.
8. We are "in solidarity" with the obstacles to common good and promotion of human dignity; we are "in solodarity" with structures that oppose the common good. WE ARE INSIE THE STRUCTURES OF SIN, WE CONTRIBUTE TO THE STRUCTURES AND THE STRUCTURES STAY EVEN AFTER WE DIE. 
9. What we need is a conversion. Conversion involves an awareness of the conditions of evil AND THE CHANGE OF ATTITUDE TO OVERCOME OBSTACLES THAT DEHUMANIZE US. There are structures that may look very hard to denounce and fight against, but conversion calls us to move in that direction.


1. How does this connect with the notion of SOLIDARITY? We said that solidarity is the interdepence of people in society. BUT THERE IS AN INTERDEPENCE BASED ON SIN; A SOLIDARITY BASED ON SIN. In conversion, therefore, we need to SHIF FROM ONE SOLIDARITY TO ANOTHER, MOVE AWAY FROM INHUMAN SOLIDARITY AND MOVE TO A MORE AUTHENTIC SOLIDARITY. We "de-solidarize" from structures that destroy the common good and we re-align with solidarity for the common good.
2. We can do this because of conversion, yes, and also because our faith tells us that history is not a fate, it is not enclosed, IT IS OPEN TO THE REIGN--THE KINGDOM--OF GOD. We are willing to realign our solidarities because we want to move forward to the Kingdom.

3. There is one final point we can mention. Pope John Paul II knew how hard this was. So he opened the door by ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS. He said sorry to all people harmed by the personal sins of Christians even from the past. See Tertio millenio adveniete and Incarnationis mysterium. 

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