A Tremendous Paradox 




Crisis of Universal Solidarity 

The world in which the Church lives and acts is held captive by a tremendous paradox.  Never before have the forces working for bringing about a unified world society appeared so powerful and dynamic; they are rooted in the awareness of the full basic equality as well as of the human dignity of all.  Since men are members of the same human family, they are indissolubly linked with one another in the one destiny of the whole world, in the responsibility for which they all share. 

The new technological possibilities are based upon the unity of science, on the global and simultaneous character of communications, and on the birth of an absolutely interdependent economic world.  Moreover, men are beginning to grasp a new and more radical dimension of unity; for they perceive that their resources, as well as the precious treasures of air and water -- without which there cannot be life -- and the small delicate biosphere of the whole complex of all life on earth, are not infinite, but on the contrary must be saved and preserved as a unique patrimony belonging to all mankind. 

The paradox lies in the fact that within this perspective of unity the forces of division and antagonism seem today to be increasing in strength.  Ancient divisions between nations and empires, between races and classes, today possess new technological instruments of destruction.  The arms race is a threat to man's highest good, which is life; it makes poor peoples and individuals yet more miserable, while making richer those already powerful; it creates a continuous danger of conflagration, and in the case of nuclear arms, it threatens to destroy all life from the face of the earth.  At the same time new divisions are being born to separate man from his neighbor.  Unless combated and overcome by social and political action, the influence of the new industrial and technological order favors the concentration of wealth, power and decision-making in the hands of a small public or private controlling group.  Economic injustice and lack of social participation keep a man from attaining his basic human and civil rights. 

Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World, 1971. 
Edited by David J. O'Brien and Thomas A. Shannon, Renewing the Earth (Garden City, NY Image Books, 1977) p.391-392.