Pope Francis: The Discomfort of Solidarity

BY CHRIS KERRJune 20, 2013

It’s hard to believe it has been 100 days since Pope Francis become the leader of the global Catholic Church.  In a short time, he has moved many people to explore new ways of thinking about the Catholic faith.  As someone who works for  a social justice organization that partners with the Jesuits, I am not going to lie – It’s been pretty darn exciting!  To hear Christ’s Gospels illuminated in unique ways through his words and actions gives me great hope for the work of the Church and of course ISN.

One comment from Pope Francis that caught my ear and my heart a few weeks ago is as follows:

(Catholic News Service)

“The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started a throwaway culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies, and it is being promoted!

In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules.”

Pope Francis | May 16, 2013 | Papal Audience at Vatican

Pope Francis’ suggestion that “solidarity” is often considered “counterproductive” rings true in many realms of today’s world.  Advocates of the economically poor and marginalized often experience the discomfort that exists when solidarity creeps too far into discussions about the economy, the role of government, and at times even the church.  It might come about in the midst of a conversation on how to respond to a growing population of people who are homeless or spending priorities of a community, city, or even country.   Why does the plight of our sisters and brothers and of creation make us so uncomfortable?

How can we take this spirit of solidarity and dignity that Pope Francis suggests is being challenged in society and ensure that it is more present in contemporary debates on issues like the Farm Bill and Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

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