The crisis of solidarity

Joint document: our ethical responsibilities

In the recent years, European societies have had to face “a growing gap between the rich and the poor”. The “Churches are very concerned about the tendency of some of their prosperous members to disengage from solidarity”. This is the denunciation contained in the document “Do Not Deny Justice to Your Poor People”, in the chapter devoted to “Our ethical requirements: responsibility for our neighbour and universal human dignity”, drafted by the Caritas Europa, by the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CSC of CEC), by the Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences in the European Community (Comece) and by Eurodiaconia, presented on 30th September in Brussels. The responsibilities of the rich. “As Christians – says the document – we do believe in the responsibility of the rich and of all in sharing the burdens in a society. Governments should counter the consolidation of a small privileged financial “elite” and take measures to avoid more pressure being put on a “middle class”, while very high earners continue to find ways to avoid their necessary contribution to an inclusive society”.Equal rights, equal dignity. The common standpoint shared by the Christian organization assumes that “each person possesses inalienable value, sovereign personal identity, God-given “gifts” and potential. No-one may be considered to be without rights and the dignity and honour of every individual must always be respected”. All Christian traditions in Europe have always sided with “weaker members of the community, taking into consideration their vulnerability and neediness”. Social justice and interdependence. Social justice – the document explains “implies acknowledgement of the interdependence of human beings. All human beings have therefore a common responsibility towards each other, a common vocation to build one human community in which all – individuals, peoples and nations – conduct themselves and develop according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility”.The preferential option for the poor. From the standpoint of Christian ethics, “the poor are the criterion for measuring justice”. Hence, “all social, political and economic action should be judged by the extent to which it concerns, benefits and empowers the poor”. “A just society – it is underscored – enables people to recognise their individual talents, to develop them, to use them for themselves and for others and to participate actively in society”. In this sense, poverty as “a denial of just distribution and participation is an offence to human dignity”. That is why the Churches have always committed to a “preferential option for the poor”, based on three guidelines: “to overcome exclusion and involve everyone in the life of society; to commit oneself to see things from the perspective of people living in the shadow of affluence; to commit the well-off to share, and enter into an effective alliance of solidarity”. Therefore, they underscore, “the costs of the economic crisis must be borne above all by those best able to shoulder them”.A just society… Just as everyone is entitled to political participation, the document states further on, “everyone has the right to participate in social, cultural and economic life. Social justice is not exhausted by caring individually for the disadvantaged, but aims at the removal of the structural causes of poverty and at enhanced participation in social and economic processes”. “A just society – it is underscored – is capable of supporting its people, empowering them in the use of their individual talents and abilities, and to be as self-sufficient as possible in earning their own living while being supportive of others”. “Justice” also implies “the comprehensive involvement of everyone in a democratic society: in education, economic activity, social security and other expressions of solidarity”. Social justice requires “social institutions be organised in a way that guarantees to all persons the ability to participate actively in the economic, political, and cultural life of their society”. This principle should be “taken into account also through tax policies in European Union Member States”. “Unfair tax competition among Member States – it is stated – can endanger the just redistribution of resources and the provision of strong social protection systems”.

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