The Case for a Consistent Ethic of Solidarity

In Commonweal, Cardinal Blase Cupich discusses the legacy of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life approach and outlines his views of a consistent ethic of solidarity:

…Catholic social teaching would not and could not be fitted into the partisan political framework that governs American public life, then or now.

Yet this also explains the hostility to the consistent-ethic-of-life approach. It asserts that the integrity of Catholic social teaching cannot be contoured to political divides. It asserts that Catholics are called to allegiance to their faith before allegiance to their partisan worldview. And it asserts that the integrity of Catholic teaching must not be undermined by diminishing the importance of key social teachings in political life, even to advance important political goals….

Let me now offer some examples of what an ethic of solidarity consistently applied to the range of issues of our day looks like. The principle of solidarity would critique a narrow approach to the economy that uses a one-dimensional measure of the economic growth of a nation, singularly defined by profits, that promotes policies that maximize the freedom of markets and individual choice, and that believes that market forces left to themselves are the best—indeed, the only—arbiters of economic progress. This narrow approach has produced “an economy that kills,” as Pope Francis has said. In its place, a consistent ethic of solidarity would argue that inclusion and economic security for all are the measures of economic health and the criteria for economic decision-making. Solidarity produces the kind of social-market economy that John Paul II advocated, which involves, as Pope Francis noted, passing from a liquid economy “directed at revenue profiting from speculation and lending at interest, to a social economy that invests in persons creating jobs and providing training.”

Solidarity also challenges a transactional approach to international relations. I have already quoted from John Paul II’s Sollicitudo rei socialis, which called world leaders to recognize the interdependence of all members of the human family and to promote a solidarity that serves peace and human development and unites rich and poor in a relationship that lifts up the most vulnerable….

Surveys show that if you ask the average American how much of our federal budget is spent on international assistance, they answer between 20 and 25 percent. If you ask them, how much the U.S. should spend, they say 10 percent. When they find out that non-military international aid is less than 1 percent, they are incredulous. What would it mean if funding levels actually reflected the values average Americans say they want embodied in our government expenditures?…

The number of abortions has gone down significantly in the United States, but the violence of abortion continues to haunt our society, and there are new pressures to require cooperation with what we believe is the taking of innocent human life. Our nation is still divided about whether decent healthcare is a human right or a commodity that depends on personal resources. In some states assisted suicide is advocated, in the knowledge that the pressures to end life will probably be more severe on the poor, the isolated, those with disabilities, and those without access to palliative care. The question of national priorities continues to haunt us as leaders advocate steep increases in military spending, renewed investment in nuclear arms, and cuts in the safety net at home and in diplomacy and development around the world. And so, again, no one should be surprised if voices are raised in opposition to an ethic of solidarity, for when consistently applied, it will make demands on us all.

You can read the full article here.