November 6, 2012 is election-day. Catholic social teaching has been a widely debated topic as parties from all corners of the political arena have attempted to apply one principle or another to their respective position. As voters prepare to cast their ballots on this day, they should examine carefully each politician’s position on various issues in light of Catholic social teaching. Each voter casts his/her ballot according to the dictates of his/her own conscience.
The protracted election season may lead some observers to despair that our nation is profoundly and irreparably divided. Indeed, all of the rancor and politicking seems to divide rather than unite us. Solidarity is an important countervailing principle to this sense of disunity. In defining this term, John Paul II proclaimed in his 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, “we are all really responsible for all” (#38). Whatever the outcome of the elections, from the local to the national races, our day-to-day interactions matter.
Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, outlined one particular approach to solidarity in his “easy essay” entitled “Better or Better Off.” Maurin’s personalist approach to solidarity is worth contemplating as we move into life post-election.Better or Better Off 1. The world would be better off, if people tried to become better. 2. And people would become better if they stopped trying to be better off. 3. For when everybody tries to become better off, nobody is better off. 4. But when everybody tries to become better, everybody is better off. 5. Everybody would be rich if nobody tried to be richer. 6. And nobody would be poor if everybody tried to be the poorest. 7. And everybody would be what he ought to be if everybody tried to be what he wants the other fellow to be.
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
See: Peter Maurin, Easy Essays, Sheed and Ward, 1936.
John Paul II, Solicitudo rei socialis (1987).