To develop the “duty of solidarity,” Saint Pope John Paul II underscored the urgency of connecting action for justice to faith. For him, solidarity was the structural response demanded by Gospel love. Solidarity, as a social principle, involved fundamental economic and social changes. What does this solidarity require?
John Paul’s answer connects us directly to the preferential love of the poor, a theme we have heard anew from Pope Francis, or, as John Paul describes them, “God’s beloved poor”:
It is above all a question of interdependence, sensed as a system determining relationships in the contemporary world in its economic, cultural, political and religious elements, and accepted as a moral category. 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. [Solicitudo, 40, emphasis added]
So, as we reflect this Easter Monday on social and political realities of our community, country, and world, it is not enough to bemoan this or that action by others. We have to make our own the “firm and persevering determination” to act on behalf of others in the interest of the common good.
Fr. Fred Kammer, S.J., J.D., is a priest, an attorney, and a member of the Central and Southern Province of the Jesuits. He has been director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) since March 2009. JSRI works to transform the Gulf South through action research, analysis, education, and advocacy on the core issues of poverty, race, and migration. The Institute is a collaboration of Loyola University New Orleans and the Society of Jesus rooted in the faith that does justice. Fr. Kammer is the editor and regular contributor to JSRI’s publication “Just South” and writes regular columns on Catholic Social Teaching and current issues.
From 2002 to 2008, Kammer was the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province, guiding their post-Katrina recovery and service to the devastated region’s poor and needy. From 1992 to 2001, he was the President/CEO of Catholic Charities USA, the nation’s largest voluntary human service network. Kammer has worked in a number of programs for the underprivileged, both as a lay volunteer, an attorney, an advocate, and an administrator. From 1990 to 1992, he was the Policy Advisor for Health and Welfare Issues, Department of Social Development and World Peace, U.S. Catholic Conference. Prior to that, from 1984 to 1989, he was Executive Director of Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge, Inc. Earlier, from 1977 to 1983, he was Director of the Senior Citizens Law Project of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Fr. Kammer is a former member of the Ignatian Solidarity Network board of directors.
Kammer’s first book, “Doing Faithjustice: An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought,” was published by Paulist Press in 1991. The book is considered by many to be essential reading for those committed to the “faith that does justice” and is used as a textbook for social justice and morality classes in high schools and colleges. He is also the author of “Salted with Fire: Spirituality for the Faithjustice Journey” and most recently, “Faith. Works. Wonders.: An Insider’s Guide to Catholic Charities.”