8.4.2 Solidarity and Eucharist

Back to 8.4.1

Unit 8 Contents

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But in reaction to CST’s vision, many people would object: isn’t all this hopelessly unrealistic, indeed utterly naive?  Why talk about human dignity and the common good, etc., when it’s clear that human societies are basically contests for power in which people use all kinds of means to get as much of what they want from others for themselves?

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Reflection

If you were asked to respond to that objection, how would you do so?

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In concluding the module, here are two points which can help us to see how people can, in practice, make a contribution to developing society to become one in which there is greater possibility to ‘live life to the full’.

The first brings in again the principle of ‘solidarity’.  This makes clear that CST is not remotely naive about its vision.  Solidarity is a matter of persevering commitment to the common good – it therefore brings us back to the common good which was a main focus in the discussion of the principles of CST in Unit 2 (see 2.2.7).  The main point this makes is simple.  The common good has no chance of coming to exist if people are not committed to acting in ways that will bring it about.

It is certainly true that many people are not committed in that way.  Beyond this, there can be great social evils – irreducibly common bads, we could say – such as societies built on slavery, on mere maximization of return to capital, or on racism.  If you have studied Unit 5, you know that CST uses the language of ‘social sin’ and ‘structural sin’ to describe these.  There is no denial in CST of these realities.

The objection that CST’s vision is hopelessly unrealistic is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It invites just giving up in the face such evils and injustices.  In radical contrast, what is needed is, precisely, the practice of solidarity – committed work for the common good.  Pope John Paul II described solidarity as “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.” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, #38, italics added)

The Church calls for the practice of solidarity, however grim and oppressive things might be – such as in the Communist regime of 1950s Poland in which the future Pope’s own discipline of solidarity was forged.  The emphasis on this principle, which CST describes also as a moral virtue – that is, a quality of character that needs to be formed in us – surely manifests a clear-eyed realism about the common good.  This can exist only to the extent that people, depending on the grace of God, are radically committed to bringing it into being.

But how can we become people who have such qualities as this?

With this question we come to the second point.  It arises from one of the simplest yet also most distinctive things that the Church can offer just by being the Church, the community of those who worship God as God is revealed in Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit.  We can be formed as persons capable of acting for the common good through our regular participation in the worship of the Church, in the liturgy.  Each part of Eucharistic worship – the gathering together, the confession, the praise of God, the hearing of God’s word, the sharing of the peace, the receiving of the body and blood of Christ, the sending out – can contribute to our formation as persons who live by the Spirit of Christ.

The point here is not that our worship is an instrument we use to achieve that result.  The Church gathers each week simply to praise God and share fellowship in Christ and by the Spirit.  But when the Church does this in faith, and as people receive from God through word and sacrament and one another, we are formed as persons who can practise solidarity and all the virtues, and make some contribution to the common good.

A short chapter by Rodica Stoicoiu in the book edited by McCarthy, from which you have read several chapters during study of the module, begins to explore this.  We conclude with this.

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Reading (7pp)

Rodica Stoicoiu, ‘Eucharist and Social Justice’, pp. 45-51 in McCarthy, ed., The Heart of Catholic Social Teaching, (Chapter 3)

At May 2014, this chapter can be accessed at Google Books and the link above should take you directly to it. If it does not, go to McCarthy, Heart of CST and search inside using “high voice” (with double quotation marks).

Note

The chapter’s endnotes are not accessible online.

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End of 8.4.2

Go to 8.4.3 Review and discussion of Unit 8

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