The 7 Themes of Catholic Social Teaching: Solidarity — Catholic Women in Business (2024)

“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” (Pope St. John Paul II).

After delving into the first five themes of Catholic Social Teaching—namely, the dignity of the human person; the call to family, community, and participation; rights and responsibilities; the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable; and the dignity of work and rights of workers—we have now arrived at the sixth theme: solidarity.

As we explore the Church’s teaching on solidarity, we will also discover that none of her teachings on our social responsibilities is mutually exclusive of the others. Rather, they reinforce each other; in following one, we necessarily are following the others. For example, when caring for an infant, we are at once serving the poor and vulnerable, honoring our commitment to our family, and acting in solidarity with the little one.

Bone of My Bone

After God created the first human person in the second account of creation, we read, “The Lord God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him’” (Genesis 2:18).

In creating a helpmate for Adam, God demonstrated to us that we were not created to be solitary beings. Rather, humans are social creatures through and through. God gave us to one another as companions, to accompany each other as we journey through life and grow in virtue. It was not enough to be surrounded by animals and plants in a garden; God created another human creature to accompany Adam.

However, we discover God did not create another Adam to accompany Adam. Instead, He created Eve as an ezer kenegdo. “Ezer” is the Hebrew word for “one who helps” and is used 21 times in the Old Testament, usually in reference specifically to the Lord. The root word of “kenegdo” is “neged,” which has multiple meanings, including “counterpart over and against.” From this translation of the Hebrew text, we understand Eve as Adam’s helpmate: By her creation as unique from Adam, she challenges Adam to see things differently, to love more fully, and to grow.

Since our first parents were created sinless, it is counterintuitive that they would have shortcomings. Indeed, they were created for love, in love, and to love, and the requisite for such love is freedom, which means they had to learn to choose love and learn how to love. As St. Irenaeus says in Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, “Man was a child, not yet having his understanding perfected; wherefore also he was easily led astray by the deceiver.” Eden was, thus, created by God as a school of love for Adam and Eve. It was there, St. Irenaeus says, they were to learn how to love as God loves.

As we read a bit further in the second chapter of Genesis, we hear Adam’s response to his ezer kenegdo: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). God created Eve from the rib of Adam, so in a very real way, Eve was a missing part of Adam—a bone of his bones. What’s more, in his reception of Eve as his helpmate, Adam recognizes in her not an abstraction or a replica of himself but as “other”—as ishshah, “woman, counterpart of man.”

To be sure, woman is “other” not in a utilitarian sense but, as Saint John Paull II wrote in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis:

Solidarity helps us to see the “other”—whether a person, people or nation—not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our “neighbor,” a “helper” (cf. Gen 2:18-20), to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.

In Adam’s response to Eve, we see that God has woven into the very fabric of our being the need for solidarity: a call to recognize that we were all created in the image and likeness of God and that, as God is the Divine Gardener, we are called to be sowers in His garden, cultivating each other to grow in love and virtue.

Becoming Integrated Persons

In this reflection on the creation of Adam and Eve, we are called to hold two seemingly opposing ideas in strong tension with one another: to recognize ourselves in each other and yet reverence each other as other. Just as Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy of the paradoxes of Christianity, the Church regularly holds two ideas in tension, “like two strong colours, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink.” In this same vein, we must resist the temptation to collapse these two aspects of our calling upon one another.

We discover the exemplar par excellence in the Triune God—One God, Three Persons—which is a mystery, to be sure. However, in his 1996 Communio article “Truth and Freedom,” Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) provides us with an important insight:

[God] is by his very nature entirely being-for (Father), being-from (Son), and being-with (Holy Spirit). Man, for his part, is God’s image precisely insofar as the “from,” “with,” and “for” constitute the fundamental anthropological pattern. Whenever there is an attempt to free ourselves from this pattern, we are not on our way to divinity, but to dehumanization, to the destruction of being itself through the destruction of the truth.

Each of us was loved into existence and created in the image and likeness of God. Each of us is called from eternity to love and to serve God and each other. And, in a postlapsarian world, all of us are sinners and, therefore, sojourners traveling together to our Heavenly Homeland.

Furthermore, the virtue of solidarity, as Saint John Paull II wrote in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 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.”

We have a grave responsibility not only for those formally entrusted to our care, such as our children and other family members, but also for those indirectly entrusted to us—people whom we encounter in various ways, such as our co-workers, the grocery store cashier, and the commenter on our Facebook post.

Radical Inclusivity

It’s a hard battle to constantly hold our anthropological nature of “from, with, for” not only in tension but also at the forefront of our heart—and to resist the temptation to be self-serving, self-aggrandizing, and self-centered. Unfortunately, as Ratzinger wrote, the alternative—not to enter into this arena courageously—is the destruction of humanity and “a rebellion against truth, which consequently leads man … into a self contradictory existence which we call hell.”

Entering into this arena is much like C.S Lewis’ description of the Incarnation in Mere Christianity:

Jesus entered the world so anonymously and clandestinely - as a baby born to insignificant parents in an out-of-the-way corner of the Roman Empire - because he was a warrior compelled to slip quietly behind enemy lines.

God became man, taking the form of a slave, disregarding equality with God and emptying himself (Phillippians 2:5-7) out of love for us, precisely because He did not want Heaven without you, me, or anyone else.

Christ’s example of radical inclusivity, which is part and parcel of the virtue of solidarity, begins with the Incarnation and stretches to his various countercultural actions, from healing a man with leprosy (Mark 1:40-45), keeping company with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:29), to breaking the law on the Sabbath by healing a man (Matthew 12:9-14).

Solidarity calls us to be radically inclusive for the same reason Jesus was: to ensure the safe return of our fellow sojourners (our fellow sinners) to our Heavenly Homeland. To embrace this calling wholeheartedly and courageously, we first need to embrace our role as ezer kenegdo to our fellow human persons, which means being helpers who challenge each other to grow in love and virtue.

Second, we must embrace and hold in tension our threefold “from, with, for” human anthropology, which at once recognizes our common createdness in the image and likeness of God, our brokenness, and our unique talents and vocations that fill out the tapestry of the Church specifically—and the human family more broadly. When we live in this way, we make present to the world the radical inclusivity that is the Triune God, in Whom all creatures find their Home.

Vanessa Crescio is an accountant with Lipic’s Engagement. She earned an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, an MTS from Newman University, and worked in the real estate and banking industries prior to serving in business roles at the parish and archdiocesan levels. She is interested in thinking through co-responsibility in the Church and developing leadership programs to form Catholics to serve the Church with not only their knowledge, skills, and abilities but with the servant heart of Christ. Read more of her writing at FRESHImage, and follow her on Instagram.

The 7 Themes of Catholic Social Teaching: Solidarity — Catholic Women in Business (2024)
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