Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Case of Solidarity

In Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (par. 38), John Paul II famously wrote:

When interdependence becomes recognized in this way, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a "virtue," is solidarity. This then 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.

More recently, building upon the work of his predecessor, Benedict XVI wrote in Caritas in Veritate (par. 38) that “[s]olidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone” such that “it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State.”

Robby’s posts (here and here) encouraging members and readers of MOJ to contribute to the relief efforts reflect the moral fact that we – each of us – has a non-delegable responsibility to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti recover from the tragedy that has overtaken their country.  At the same time, the scope of the disaster is so great that, as the principle of subsidiarity suggests, governments and international organizations have a critical – an indispensable – role to play in providing relief services and supplies, in coordinating their provision, and in creating the conditions under which they can be provided.

Yesterday, President Obama announced a number of steps that the United States is undertaking in response to the earthquake that crippled Haiti on Tuesday and the horrific suffering that has taken place in its aftermath.  These measures include not only money, but the deployment of an aircraft carrier and other vessels, detachments of U.S. soldiers and Marines to secure the area so that rescue efforts can take place in a safe and orderly fashion.  (See here, here and here).  All of this is welcome news.

There is no truly compelling reason to aid the people of Haiti based solely on national self-interest.  True, they are a nation in our own "backyard," a little more than 700 miles from South Florida.  But we could safely ignore the plight of the inhabitants of Haiti without fear of major repercussions.  Given our newfound concern with respect to illegal immigrants and the control of our borders, the United States could take effective steps to prevent the influx of refugees from Haiti, and the American public has proven itself to be either blithely unaware of or content in its indifference to the criticisms of other nations.  So we could, if we wished, sit by and watch the corpses rot in the streets, and instead concentrate on our own problems.

 The fact that we (as a nation and as individuals) are responding to the crisis in such a generous fashion shows that a commitment to solidarity is still at work in the American people.  It shows that, notwithstanding the culture of death, the natural law is imprinted on people’s hearts, and the seeds of the Gospel are resilient.

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