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Sirico Parables book

Religion & Liberty: Volume 11, Number 5

Solidarity: The Fundamental Social Virtue

    Families are bound together in love and solidarity. Every individual family is called to be a rich expression of that love and solidarity and a witness of the same to the world. Furthermore, the human person participates in the broader human family by his own nature. Our humanity is shared, and our reality as persons immediately and irrevocably links us to the rest of the human community. Yet, for participation to be most meaningful, it must be consciously practiced and chosen. The willingness to practice participation while striving for social justice is the social virtue of solidarity.

    Solidarity is, therefore, the acceptance of our social nature and the affirmation of the bonds we share with all our brothers and sisters. Solidarity creates an environment in which mutual service is encouraged. It also the social conditions in which human rights can be respected and nurtured. The ability to recognize and accept the whole range of corresponding duties and obligations that are embedded in our social nature can occur only in an atmosphere enlivened by solidarity.

    As a virtue, solidarity's context is freedom and justice. Our solidarity with all of the human family implies a special commitment to the most vulnerable and marginalized in our midst. The natural unity of the human family cannot be fully realized when people suffer the ills of poverty, discrimination, oppression, and social alienation, leading to isolation from the larger community. But our response of love must be voluntary to be virtuous. In a special way, solidarity encourages striving for relationships that tend toward equality on the local, national, and international levels. All members of the human community must be brought as fully as possible into the circle of productive and creative relationships.

    In the strict sense of the term, the most genuine and meritorious solidarity is not coerced. Historically, coerced solidarity denied responsible freedom and worked as an affront to human dignity. One cannot force, through political means, the acceptance of our shared responsibilities to one another in love. At the same time, no society may neglect the requirements of justice, particularly social and economic justice toward the poor. Society may appropriately direct the actions of its members to fulfill the obligations owed in justice to all persons. We especially listen to the cries from the most vulnerable among us.

    The true communion of solidarity incorporates the reciprocity of men and women, most strikingly in marriage. Men and women share many characteristics, yet their differing strengths, interests, and emphases create a diversity that becomes a source of enrichment and unity. Solidarity is more fully achieved when the reciprocal differences of men and women are seen as an affirmation of the equal dignity of each.

    In addition, solidarity's surest foundation is faith. A true humanism implies love and respect for each and every individual human person. In a fallen world, however, it is only the recognition of the common fatherhood of God and brotherhood in Christ that will ensure the realization of this important principle. Solidarity is a social virtue that bears many fruits and blessings, which come in a variety of forms and affect all of life. Solidarity yields a healthy society, a thriving economy, care for those on the margins, and structures that protect the family.

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    Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president emeritus and the co-founder of the Acton Institute. Hereceived his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990.