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Rafael Domingo Oslé
Head of the Chair Álvaro d'Ors of the University of Navarra.
The idea of solidarity is as old as the Bible, the Greek Philosophy and the Roman Law, the three great pillars of Western civilization, and has served the cause of phenomena as disparate as the birth of workers' unions in the social movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the cohesion of the Marxist social classes, the promotion of Italian fascism, the construction of the European Union or the fall of communism in Poland. The new commandment to love one another as Jesus Christ loved us (John 13:34) changed forever the approach and the framework of social charity and human fraternity, endowing solidarity with a divine intensity.
The Roman Law calls joint and several liability(in solidum) that which is shared entirely and at the same time by several debtors, several creditors, or several offenders in some obligations arising from a stipulation or a civil offense, for example. This joint and several liability passed into the French Code of 1804, and is still present after the reform of 2016. Under the influence of the French Code, solidarity has passed into the European and Latin American civil codes influenced by it and has expanded in the field of continental law. European Union law has incorporated the principle of solidarity as a fundamental pillar of its law.
The book of Genesis (1:26-28; 5:1-3; and 9:6) affirms that man was made in the image and likeness of God. Christian theologians have analyzed this passage in depth and have found in it a foundation for human dignity. But therein lies also the foundation for solidarity. If human dignity is the status that corresponds to human beings because they are created in the image of God, solidarity is the shared responsibility that derives from being bearers of that divine image.
Without justice, there is no solidarity, but solidarity goes beyond human justice. Solidarity touches charity.
he word solidarity, derived from the Latin solidus (solid), has the freshness of the revolutionary, the richness of the classic and the strength of the necessary. Although the word was pronounced for the first time in French(solidarité) and in the framework of the French Revolution, the idea of solidarity is as old as the Bible, the Greek Philosophy and the Roman Law, the three great pillars of Western civilization.
In recent centuries, however, the word solidarity has been linked to social movements and has acquired a more marked ethical-political character to the point of becoming one of the basic principles of the social and political organization of the most advanced democratic societies. The idea of solidarity has served the cause of phenomena as disparate as the birth of workers' unions in the social movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the cohesion of Marxist social classes, the promotion of Italian fascism, the construction of the European Union or the fall of communism in Poland.
In the second century B.C., the ancient Roman-African slave and comedian Terentius masterfully summed up the profound meaning of human solidarity: "I am man: nothing human is alien to me" (Heauton Timorumenos, 1.1.77). The revolution of love that Jesus Christ brought to the world elevated love in solidarity to the point of divinizing it and turned it into a sign of identity of Christian life and internship . The new commandment to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34) changed forever the approach and the framework of social charity and human fraternity, endowing solidarity with a divine intensity. Hence, we can speak of a specifically Christian solidarity that illuminates and enhances secular solidarity. Here lies, in part, the success of the concept of solidarity, which, while it is at home in a secularized society, also fully satisfies the highest Christian ideals.
Like a snowball that grows and solidifies as it falls down the slope and drags materials with it, the idea of solidarity has been enriched over the centuries. Solidarity has been applied in the most diverse fields and has been the subject of study by different branches of knowledge, among others: law, Philosophy, sociology, anthropology, political science, theology, International Office, health sciences, Chemistry, biotechnology, and, of course, architecture, which requires solid materials in construction, as Vitruvius explained (De Architectura 7.1.1), in the first century BC.
Responsibility shared in full
The word solidarity is used, more or less technically, in the most varied areas of law, both private and public. But beyond all technicalities and any differences lies the central intuition that gave rise to the term solidarity in Roman Law. The Roman Law calls solidary (in solidum) that liability which is shared entirely and at the same time by several debtors, several creditors, or several delinquents in some obligations arising from a stipulation or a civil offense, for example.
The Roman jurist Gaius, in his well-known Institutions, resorts eight times to the expression in solidum. For example, in Institutions 3.121, Gaius tells us that, before the emperor Hadrian changed the law by means of an epistle, the sureties were fully liable, that is, jointly and severally, for the debts of the principal debtor, and that the creditor could take direct action either against the debtor or against each of the sureties for the total debt. Another example is found in Institutions 4.71, where Gaius explains that when a father of a family puts his son under authority or his slave in charge of a maritime or land business, the responsibility is joint and several(in solidum). But the idea that underlies and unifies the various cases is always the same: a unity of performance and a capacity to demand or respond for the whole, because, although there is a plurality of persons, the performance is unique(plures in unum). Therefore, if a person obliged in unum dies, the remaining persons will continue to be liable for the whole.
Although with different nuances, this joint and several liability passed into the French Code of 1804, and is still present after the reform of 2016. Thus, art. 2013.1, for example, provides that "solidarity between debtors binds each of them to the entire debt. The payment made by one of them releases all of them with respect to the creditor". Under the influence of the French Code, solidarity has passed into the European and Latin American civil codes influenced by it and has expanded in the field of continental law.
This joint and several responsibility was also received by the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, although with certain limitations. For example, the responsibility for pastoral care can fall jointly and severally on two or more priests (Canon 517 §1). The founding idea of solidarity has been expanding and making its way into Administrative Law and international law, among other rights, even though it often clashes head-on with the principle of State sovereignty. European Union law has incorporated the principle of solidarity as a fundamental pillar of its law.
The image of God is shared in solidarity
This juridical idea of plurality in unity, of responsibility derived entirely from the unity of performance, is the same idea that underlies solidarity in Christian theology because of the surprising conceptual proximity between theology and law.
The book of Genesis (1:26-28; 5:1-3; and 9:6) affirms that man was made in the image and likeness of God. Christian theologians have analyzed this passage in depth and have found in it a foundation for human dignity. But therein lies also the foundation for solidarity. If human dignity is the status that corresponds to human beings because they are created in the image of God, solidarity is the shared responsibility that derives from being bearers of this divine image. Each human being is the bearer not of a piece or fraction of the image of God, but of the whole of it. Indeed, humanity does not bear millions of images of God, but a single one, for the image of God is one and indivisible.
If the image of God is one and shared, we all have the responsibility to live according to God's will, to exercise our freedom and fulfill our obligations by identifying with it. To the extent that human beings act in greater solidarity with others, they also discover their radical unity with all bearers of the divine image. Therefore, as we shall see, solidarity admits many intensities, since it permeates all dimensions of human existence. In this sense it can be said that solidarity is a radically spiritual concept.
Christians also know that this image of God is that of a Trinitarian God, who is Love, that is, infinitely supportive. This idea of solidarity can also be applied to the Christian God, elevated to an infinite scale, since the same and unique divine nature is shared in solidarity (in its entirety) by three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore, the whole of the divine work, creative, redemptive and sanctifying, even if it is attributed more specifically to one divine person, is profoundly solidary. This is how John Paul II, called the pope of solidarity, explained it: "Over and above human and natural bonds, so strong and profound, a new model of unity of the human race is perceived in the light of faith, in which solidarity must ultimately be inspired written request . This supreme model of unity, a reflection of the intimate life of God, One in three Persons, is what we Christians express by the word communion"(Sollicitudo rei socialis, 40).
For St. Paul, to share the image of God is to share the image of Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). This identification with Christ leads us to behave in solidarity, as Christ did in his earthly years. The Gospel has left us impressive examples of this, but there is a phrase of Jesus Christ that condenses in a very particular way what we have been saying: whenever you did it to one of them - the stranger, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick - "you did it to me" (Matthew 25:31-46). This explains why the first Christian communities adopted a way of living in solidarity that was very different from the general culture of their time, and why they enjoyed sharing their goods and riches with the community (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37). As a recent document of the Greek Orthodox Church rightly states, "After the conversion of Emperor Constantine, no change in imperial policy was more significant, as a concrete expression of the social consequences of the Gospel, than the vast expansion of the Church's provision for the poor, with great material support from the State" (Greek Orthodox Archdioceses of America, For the Life of the World. Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church, n. 33).
Protestant Christian theology has elaborated and emphasized the covenants with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Moses as concretizations of the solidarity of God with men and of men among themselves. The covenant with God is one, the same for all, so that all human beings are jointly responsible for its fulfillment. A covenant is more solidary and, therefore, stable and lasting than a contract, which usually depends more on concrete circumstances of the moment and can be altered by them(rebus sic standibus). For that reason, the rupture of an alliance is always unsolidarity; not, however, that of a contract, which can be dissolved by mutual dissent.
Being bearers of the image of God serves to identify human beings as persons, but not to standardize them. The image of God is a source of pluralism and diversity, since it is the image of a living God staff and triune. The idea of personhood is essentially rooted in relationship and diversity. Each person is different from the others. Precisely this difference makes it possible to affirm that, although God is the Absolute One, a distinction of three divine persons is possible based on their relations of origin: the Father generates, the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds. Made in the triune image of God, each member of humanity is different and must be protected in that difference. This diversity enriches human society and supports pluralism as a political value. Pluralism is based on unity, because the former comes from the latter, not the other way around. Pluralism is the way of living unity in diversity in democratic political societies. Individuals do not determine their fulfillment and flourishing staff by stipulating a minimum hypothetical contract for living in society. Unity is not contractual nor is it based on a conception of the self independent of any conception of the good, but is deeper than all that: unity is the unity of the image of God reflected in every human being within the political community. The unity of the image of God is pre-contractual, pre-political and pre-juridical. It transcends, precedes and shapes any subject organization of democratic societies.
The growing awareness of humanity's interdependence and the growing conviction of the unity of reality invite us to think that solidarity is called to play a central role in the important social, ecological, economic and digital transformations facing humanity in the 21st century, which is precisely called the century of solidarity .
Solidarity is a shared responsibility and, therefore, a requirement that is gradually discovered to the extent that the human fraternity born of common divine filiation is more deeply felt. Solidarity is a daily conquest, which demands a search for the common good and a profound respect for the dignity of each person. Without justice, there is no solidarity, but solidarity goes beyond human justice. Solidarity touches charity. Solidarity grows in persons, societies and cultures, that is, solidarity becomes more solidary the closer it comes to the ideas of love, service and gratuitousness. The full implementation of solidarity requires a profound spiritualization of society. Therefore, in the development of solidarity, Christianity and law must go hand in hand.