A Taste of THE CHURCH’S BEST-KEPT SECRET #5

Published September 18, 2020

Here’s the last taste of my latest book, The Church’s Best-Kept Secret: A Primer on Catholic Social Teaching.  

You can buy the book either in hard copy here:

…Or you can order it on Kindle here.

To celebrate, I’m posting some little tastes from the book, which lays out the four pillars of Catholic Social Teaching: the Dignity of the Human Person, the Common Good, Subsidiarity, and Solidarity. This is from the discussion of Solidarity.

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What is Solidarity?

Pope St. John Paul II tells us:

[Solidarity] 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.”

As with the Dignity of the Human Person, the Common Good, and Subsidiarity, Solidarity is rooted in Scripture. And, as ever, Solidarity does not contradict but harmonizes with the other principles of Catholic Social Teaching. So when Paul tells the Athenians, God “made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the bound­aries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him” (Acts 17:26–27), not only is he affirming a biblical teaching about the Dignity of the Human Person that dates back to Genesis 1, but he is also insisting that we all have a share in the Common Good God wills for us, and are all born to actively and personally participate in it. Solidarity empha­sizes the universality and interdependence of God’s provision for each member of the human race, as well as his call to us to play an active role in that provision.

One in Adam

Christian faith begins, therefore, with a communal and familial understanding of the human race; because the human race springs from “one”—both the one God in whose image we are made, and the “one flesh” union of Adam and Eve, from whom the human race inherits its glorious yet fallen image.

The Faith insists that God begins with his natu­ral creation and that his grace builds on this nature. Therefore, the Church’s social teaching applies naturally not merely to Christians but to the whole human race since the whole human race is made in God’s image and likeness. That is why the pagan Terence knew as well as the authors of Scripture the goods of human love, family, and a meal with friends—as well as the evils of murder, or a broken family, or theft.

This is why the Fourth through the Eighth Commandments don’t tell Israel (or anybody else) some­thing they didn’t already know. Everybody has always known we are to honor our father and mother (and by extension our family, our neighbor, and our country). Everybody has always known that murder, adultery, steal­ing, and bearing false witness are wrong. Scripture itself makes this clear by telling us stories about Ham who insulted his father Noah (Genesis 9:20-27), Cain the mur­derer (Genesis 4:8-16), and the attempted adultery and vengeful act of false witness against Joseph by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39)—all of which occurred centuries before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses.

So the point of this portion of the Ten Commandments is not to say that at Sinai God revealed these things to be sins, but rather to ground these universally known moral facts in God. Contempt for parents, murder, adultery, theft, and bearing false witness are bad because they harm the creature made in God’s image. And since we are those creatures, sooner or later we have to acknowledge that we must do unto others as we would have them do unto us (see Matthew 7:12). We must forgive as we have been forgiven and we must be good to the stranger, the orphan, and the widow since we too can easily be in the same circumstances.

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By the way, on Saturday, September 19 at 1 PM Eastern/10 AM Pacific, I will be having a Facebook livestream to talk about the book and take questions! Hope to see you there!

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