ECCLESIA IN AMERICA


CHAPTER V
THE PATH TO SOLIDARITY
"By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35)

Solidarity, the fruit of communion

52. "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40; cf. 25:45). The awareness of communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters, for its part the fruit of conversion, leads to the service of our neighbors in all their needs, material and spiritual, since the face of Christ shines forth in every human being. "Solidarity is thus the fruit of the communion which is grounded in the mystery of the triune God, and in the Son of God who took flesh and died for all. It is expressed in Christian love which seeks the good of others, especially of those most in need". 195

For the particular Churches of the American continent, this is the source of a commitment to reciprocal solidarity and the sharing of the spiritual gifts and material goods with which God has blessed them, fostering in individuals a readiness to work where they are needed. Taking the Gospel as its starting-point, a culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast, especially refugees forced to leave their villages and lands in order to flee violence. The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples. 196

The Church's teaching, a statement of the demands of conversion

53. At a time when in the sphere of morality there is a disturbing spread of relativism and subjectivism, the Church in America is called to proclaim with renewed vigor that conversion consists in commitment to the person of Jesus Christ, with all the theological and moral implications taught by the Magisterium of the Church. There is a need to recognize "the role played by theologians, catechists and religion teachers who, by setting forth the Church's teaching in fidelity to the Magisterium, cooperate directly in the correct formation of the consciences of the faithful". 197 If we believe that Jesus is the Truth (cf. Jn 14:6), we cannot fail to desire ardently to be his witnesses in order to bring our brothers and sisters closer to the full truth that dwells in the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead for the salvation of the human race. "In this way we will be able to be, in this world, living beacons of faith, hope and charity". 198

The Church's social doctrine

54. Faced with the grave social problems which, with different characteristics, are present throughout America, Catholics know that they can find in the Church's social doctrine an answer which serves as a starting-point in the search for practical solutions. Spreading this doctrine is an authentic pastoral priority. It is therefore important "that in America the agents of evangelization (Bishops, priests, teachers, pastoral workers, etc.) make their own this treasure which is the Church's social teaching and, inspired by it, become capable of interpreting the present situation and determine the actions to take". 199 In this regard, special care must be taken to train lay persons capable of working, on the basis of their faith in Christ, to transform earthly realities. In addition, it will help to promote and support the study of this doctrine in every area of the life of the particular Churches in America, especially in the universities, so that it may be more deeply known and applied to American society. The complex social reality of the continent is a fruitful field for the analysis and application of the universal principles contained in this doctrine. To this end, it would be very useful to have a compendium or approved synthesis of Catholic social doctrine, including a "Catechism", which would show the connection between it and the new evangelization. The part which the Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes to this material, in its treatment of the seventh commandment of the Decalogue, could serve as the starting-point for such a "Catechism of Catholic Social Doctrine". Naturally, as in the case of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, such a synthesis would only formulate general principles, leaving their application to further treatment of the specific issues bound up with the different local situations. 200

An important place in the Church's social doctrine belongs to the right to dignified labor. Consequently, given the high rates of unemployment found in numerous countries in America and the harsh conditions in which many industrial and rural workers find themselves, "it is necessary to value work as a factor of the fulfillment and dignity of the human person. It is the ethical responsibility of an organized society to promote and support a culture of work". 201

The globalization of solidarity

55. As I mentioned earlier, the complex phenomenon of globalization is one of the features of the contemporary world particularly visible in America. An important part of this many-faceted reality is the economic aspect. By her social doctrine the Church makes an effective contribution to the issues presented by the current globalized economy. Her moral vision in this area "rests on the threefold cornerstone of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity". 202 The globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor who must be allowed to take their place in such an economy, and the requirements of the international common good. For "the Church's social doctrine is a moral vision which aims to encourage governments, institutions and private organizations to shape a future consonant with the dignity of every person. Within this perspective it is possible to examine questions of external debt, internal political corruption and discrimination both within and between nations". 203

The Church in America is called not only to promote greater integration between nations, thus helping to create an authentic globalized culture of solidarity, 204 but also to cooperate with every legitimate means in reducing the negative effects of globalization, such as the domination of the powerful over the weak, especially in the economic sphere, and the loss of the values of local cultures in favor of a misconstrued homogenization.

Social sins which cry to heaven

56. The Church's social doctrine also makes possible a clearer appreciation of the gravity of the "social sins which cry to heaven because they generate violence, disrupt peace and harmony between communities within single nations, between nations and between the different regions of the continent". 205 Among these must be mentioned: "the drug trade, the recycling of illicit funds, corruption at every level, the terror of violence, the arms race, racial discrimination, inequality between social groups and the irrational destruction of nature". 206 These sins are the sign of a deep crisis caused by the loss of a sense of God and the absence of those moral principles which should guide the life of every person. In the absence of moral points of reference, an unbridled greed for wealth and power takes over, obscuring any Gospel-based vision of social reality.

Not infrequently, this leads some public institutions to ignore the actual social climate. More and more, in many countries of America, a system known as "neoliberalism" prevails; based on a purely economic conception of man, this system considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples. At times this system has become the ideological justification for certain attitudes and behavior in the social and political spheres leading to the neglect of the weaker members of society. Indeed, the poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. 207

On the basis of the Gospel, the best response to this tragic situation is the promotion of solidarity and peace, with a view to achieving real justice. For this to happen, encouragement and support must be given to all those who are examples of honesty in the administration of public finances and of justice. So too there is a need to support the process of democratization presently taking place in America, 208 since a democratic system provides greater control over potential abuses.

"The rule of law is the necessary condition for the establishment of an authentic democracy". 209 For democracy to develop, there is a need for civic education and the promotion of public order and peace. In effect, "there is no authentic and stable democracy without social justice. Thus the Church needs to pay greater attention to the formation of consciences, which will prepare the leaders of society for public life at all levels, promote civic education, respect for law and for human rights, and inspire greater efforts in the ethical training of political leaders". 210

The ultimate foundation of human rights

57. It is appropriate to recall that the foundation on which all human rights rest is the dignity of the person. "God's masterpiece, man, is made in the divine image and likeness. Jesus took on our human nature, except for sin; he advanced and defended the dignity of every human person, without exception; he died that all might be free. The Gospel shows us how Christ insisted on the centrality of the human person in the natural order (cf. Lk 12:22-29) and in the social and religious orders, even against the claims of the Law (cf. Mk 2:27): defending men, women (cf. Jn 8:11) and even children (cf. Mt 19:13-15), who in his time and culture occupied an inferior place in society. The human being's dignity as a child of God is the source of human rights and of corresponding duties". 211 For this reason, "every offense against the dignity of man is an offense against God himself, in whose image man is made". 212 This dignity is common to all, without exception, since all have been created in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Jesus' answer to the question "Who is my neighbor"" (Lk 10:29) demands of each individual an attitude of respect for the dignity of others and of real concern for them, even if they are strangers or enemies (cf. Lk 10:30-37). In all parts of America the awareness that human rights must be respected has increased in recent times, yet much still remains to be done, if we consider the violations of the rights of persons and groups still taking place on the continent.

Preferential love for the poor and the outcast

58. "The Church in America must incarnate in her pastoral initiatives the solidarity of the universal Church towards the poor and the outcast of every kind. Her attitude needs to be one of assistance, promotion, liberation and fraternal openness. The goal of the Church is to ensure that no one is marginalized". 213 The memory of the dark chapters of America's history, involving the practice of slavery and other situations of social discrimination, must awaken a sincere desire for conversion leading to reconciliation and communion.

Concern for those most in need springs from a decision to love the poor in a special manner. This is a love which is not exclusive and thus cannot be interpreted as a sign of partiality or sectarianism; 214 in loving the poor the Christian imitates the attitude of the Lord, who during his earthly life devoted himself with special compassion to all those in spiritual and material need.

The Church's work on behalf of the poor in every part of America is important; yet efforts are still needed to make this line of pastoral activity increasingly directed to an encounter with Christ who, though rich, made himself poor for our sakes, that he might enrich us by his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). There is a need to intensify and broaden what is already being done in this area, with the goal of reaching as many of the poor as possible. Sacred Scripture reminds us that God hears the cry of the poor (cf. Ps 34:7) and the Church must heed the cry of those most in need. Hearing their voice, "she must live with the poor and share their distress. By her lifestyle her priorities, her words and her actions, she must testify that she is in communion and solidarity with them". 215

Foreign debt

59. The existence of a foreign debt which is suffocating quite a few countries of the American continent represents a complex problem. While not entering into its many aspects, the Church in her pastoral concern cannot ignore this difficult situation, since it touches the life of so many people. For this reason, different Episcopal Conferences in America, conscious of the gravity of the question, have organized study meetings on the subject and have published documents aimed at pointing out workable solutions. 216 I too have frequently expressed my concern about this situation, which in some cases has become unbearable. In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: "In the spirit of the Book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations". 217

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans". 218 On the broadest level possible, it would be helpful if "internationally known experts in economics and monetary questions would undertake a critical analysis of the world economic order, in its positive and negative aspects, so as to correct the present order, and that they would propose a system and mechanisms capable of ensuring an integral and concerted development of individuals and peoples". 219

The fight against corruption

60. In America too, the phenomenon of corruption is widespread. The Church can effectively help to eradicate this evil from civil society by "the greater involvement of competent Christian laity who, thanks to their training in the family, at school and in the parish, foster the practice of values such as truth, honesty, industriousness and the service of the common good". 220 In order to attain this goal, and to offer enlightenment to all people of good will anxious to put an end to the evils resulting from corruption, there is a need to teach and make known as widely as possible the passages of the Catechism of the Catholic Church devoted to this subject, while making Catholics in the different nations better acquainted with the relevant documents published by Episcopal Conferences in other countries. 221 With such training, Christians will contribute significantly to resolving the problem of corruption, committing themselves to put into practice the Church's social doctrine in all matters affecting their lives and in those areas where they can be of help to others.

The drug problem

61. With regard to the serious problem of the drug trade, the Church in America can cooperate effectively with national and business leaders, non-governmental organizations and international agencies in developing projects aimed at doing away with this trade which threatens the well-being of the peoples of America. 222 This cooperation must be extended to legislative bodies, in support of initiatives to prevent the "recycling of funds", foster control of the assets of those involved in this traffic, and ensure that the production and marketing of the chemical substances from which drugs are obtained are carried out according to the law. The urgency and the gravity of the problem make it imperative to call upon the various sectors and groups within civil society to be united in the fight against the drug trade. 223 Specifically, as far as the Bishops are concerned, it is necessary " as the Synod Fathers suggested " that they themselves, as Pastors of the People of God, courageously and forcefully condemn the hedonism, materialism and life styles which easily lead to drug use. 224

There is also a need to help poor farmers from being tempted by the easy money gained from cultivating plants used for drug-production. In this regard international agencies can make a valuable contribution to governments by providing incentives to encourage the production of alternative crops. Encouragement must also be given to those involved in rehabilitating drug users and to those engaged in the pastoral care of the victims of drug dependence. It is fundamentally important to offer the proper "meaning of life" to young people who, when faced with a lack of such meaning, not infrequently find themselves caught in the destructive spiral of drugs. Experience shows that this work of recuperation and social rehabilitation can be an authentic commitment to evangelization. 225

The arms race

62. One factor seriously paralyzing the progress of many nations in America is the arms race. The particular Churches in America must raise a prophetic voice to condemn the arms race and the scandalous arms trade, which consumes huge sums of money which should instead be used to combat poverty and promote development. 226 On the other hand, the stockpiling of weapons is a cause of instability and a threat to peace. 227 For this reason the Church remains vigilant in situations where these is a risk of armed conflict, even between sister nations. As a sign and instrument of reconciliation and peace, she must seek "by every means possible, including mediation and arbitration, to act in favor of peace and fraternity between peoples". 228

The culture of death and a society dominated by the powerful

63. Nowadays, in America as elsewhere in the world, a model of society appears to be emerging in which the powerful predominate, setting aside and even eliminating the powerless: I am thinking here of unborn children, helpless victims of abortion; the elderly and incurably ill, subjected at times to euthanasia; and the many other people relegated to the margins of society by consumerism and materialism. Nor can I fail to mention the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty when other "bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons. Today, given the means at the State's disposal to deal with crime and control those who commit it, without abandoning all hope of their redemption, the cases where it is absolutely necessary to do away with an offender "are now very rare, even non-existent practically'". 229 This model of society bears the stamp of the culture of death, and is therefore in opposition to the Gospel message. Faced with this distressing reality, the Church community intends to commit itself all the more to the defense of the culture of life.

In this regard, the Synod Fathers, echoing recent documents of the Church's Magisterium, forcefully restated their unconditional respect for and total dedication to human life from the moment of conception to that of natural death, and their condemnation of evils like abortion and euthanasia. If the teachings of the divine and natural law are to be upheld, it is essential to promote knowledge of the Church's social doctrine and to work so that the values of life and family are recognized and defended in social customs and in State ordinances. 230 As well as protecting life, greater efforts should be made, through a variety of pastoral initiatives, to promote adoptions and to provide continuing assistance to women with problem pregnancies, both before and after the birth of the child. Special pastoral attention must also be given to women who have undergone or actively procured an abortion. 231

How can we fail to thank God and express genuine appreciation to our brothers and sisters in the faith throughout America who are committed, along with other Christians and countless individuals of good will, to defending life by every legal means and to protecting the unborn, the incurably ill and the handicapped" Their work is all the more praiseworthy if we consider the indifference of so many people, the threats posed by eugenics and the assaults on life and human dignity perpetrated everywhere each day. 232

This same concern must be shown to the elderly, who are often neglected and left to fend for themselves. They must be respected as persons; it is important to care for them and to help them in ways which will promote their rights and ensure their greatest possible physical and spiritual well-being. The elderly must be protected from situations or pressures which could drive them to suicide; in particular they must be helped nowadays to resist the temptation of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Together with the Pastors of the People of God in America, I appeal to "Catholics working in the field of medicine and health care, to those holding public office or engaged in teaching, to make every effort to defend those lives most at risk, and to act with a conscience correctly formed in accordance with Catholic doctrine. Here Bishops and priests have a special responsibility to bear tireless witness to the Gospel of life and to exhort the faithful to act accordingly". 233 At the same time, it is essential for the Church in America to take appropriate measures to influence the deliberations of legislative assemblies, encouraging citizens, both Catholics and other people of good will, to establish organizations to propose workable legislation and to resist measures which endanger the two inseparable realities of life and the family. Nowadays there is a special need to pay attention to questions related to prenatal diagnosis, in order to avoid any violation of human dignity.

Discrimination against indigenous peoples and Americans of African descent

64. If the Church in America, in fidelity to the Gospel of Christ, intends to walk the path of solidarity, she must devote special attention to those ethnic groups which even today experience discrimination. Every attempt to marginalize the indigenous peoples must be eliminated. This means, first of all, respecting their territories and the pacts made with them; likewise, efforts must be made to satisfy their legitimate social, health and cultural requirements. And how can we overlook the need for reconciliation between the indigenous peoples and the societies in which they are living"

Here I would like to mention that in some places Americans of African descent still suffer from ethnic prejudice, and this represents a serious obstacle to their encounter with Christ. Since all people, whatever their race or condition, have been created by God in his image, it is necessary to encourage concrete programs, in which common prayer must play a part, aimed at promoting understanding and reconciliation between different peoples. These can build bridges of Christian love, peace and justice between all men and women. 234

In order to attain these goals it is essential to train competent pastoral workers capable of employing methods already legitimately "inculturated" in catechesis and the liturgy, avoiding a syncretism which gives only a partial account of true Christian doctrine. Then too, it will be easier to provide a sufficient number of pastors to work with the native peoples if efforts are made to promote priestly and religious vocations within the midst of these very people. 235

The question of immigrants

65. In its history, America has experienced many immigrations, as waves of men and women came to its various regions in the hope of a better future. The phenomenon continues even today, especially with many people and families from Latin American countries who have moved to the northern parts of the continent, to the point where in some cases they constitute a substantial part of the population. They often bring with them a cultural and religious heritage which is rich in Christian elements. The Church is well aware of the problems created by this situation and is committed to spare no effort in developing her own pastoral strategy among these immigrant people, in order to help them settle in their new land and to foster a welcoming attitude among the local population, in the belief that a mutual openness will bring enrichment to all.

Church communities will not fail to see in this phenomenon a specific call to live an evangelical fraternity and at the same time a summons to strengthen their own religious spirit with a view to a more penetrating evangelization. With this in mind, the Synod Fathers recalled that "the Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of non-legal immigration". 236

Migrants should be met with a hospitable and welcoming attitude which can encourage them to become part of the Church's life, always with due regard for their freedom and their specific cultural identity. Cooperation between the dioceses from which they come and those in which they settle, also through specific pastoral structures provided for in the legislation and praxis of the Church, 237 has proved extremely beneficial to this end. In this way the most adequate and complete pastoral care possible can be ensured. The Church in America must be constantly concerned to provide for the effective evangelization of those recent arrivals who do not yet know Christ. 238

 

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