Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 11, 2009
Solidarity and participation key to social teaching
“When we first got together, we put together a list at the parish of ‘What do you need?’ and that was totally the wrong way to do it.”
Workshop presenters included Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil, Bob McKeon from the Office of Social Justice, and Michael Walters of the Greater Edmonton Alliance.
McKeon spoke on Catholic social teaching, and explained some of the defining principles such as human dignity, common good, solidarity and participation.
Belief in the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all Catholic social teaching.
The Catholic Church teaches that through words, prayers and deeds one must show solidarity with the poor. This virtue was articulated by Pope John Paul II, amplifying the concept of the common good.
McKeon also spoke on the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization that can be done as well by a smaller and simpler one. In other words, functions of government, business and other secular activities should be as local as possible.
“Decisions should be made at the most appropriate levels in society. Decisions should be made closest to those who might be affected. So whether I go back to school or not is not debated in the Alberta legislature,” said McKeon.
“Decisions are made in the family. Decisions are made in the neighbourhood. Decisions can be made in our own parish. Decisions should be made as close as possible to the people involved.”
In polis (state or society), the market, government and civil sector are inextricably linked, said Walters.
“We are not anti-market, anti-government. We are pro-balance,” said Walters, whose work with GEA focuses on areas of faith, labour, small business and community.
Building new relationships creates new imaginations, Walters said, emphasizing the importance of partnering with others.
“There’s this house, this project in our neighbourhood, where all these people are going to be thrown out on the street. We need to do something about this,” he said, using a hypothetical example.
“Before we rush in, let’s consider what other organizations in the community might care about this. Before we go screaming off on our own, let’s go talk to them and build relationships with them.
“The Presbyterians down the road — they might care about this. Or the community league might care. We build these new relationships to create new imaginations.”
This method of taking action proved successful in the redevelopment of Strathearn Heights. By partnering with the apartment owners, tenants’ committee and Habitat for Humanity, GEA was able to find a way to create 438 affordable housing units in central Edmonton.
Walters’ iron rule of social justice is “Don’t do for others what they can do for themselves” – an adage that he is using in GEA’s latest venture, Sustainable Works. This is an initiative that proved successful in Washington and is now expanding into four other cities.
The project combines GEA’s values of creating affordable housing, creating living wage jobs and being strong stewards of the planet. It involves the retrofitting of 800 to 2,400 homes and commercial properties in Edmonton, Seattle, Portland and Tacoma.
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