Charitable work of the Brotherhoods: more than just solidarity

When the priceless action of the Brotherhoods in favor of the most needy is known, there is a danger of assimilating the brotherhoods to NGOs, that is why it is convenient to reflect on the differences between charity, solidarity and social action.

November 16, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
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Not many years ago, at a time when the role of the brotherhoods in today's society was being questioned, I had the opportunity to conduct a study on the amount of aid devoted by the brotherhoods to charity. It was limited to the city of Seville and the results were surprising for some: more than five million euros, and that the work only collected the aid that was quantifiable, the others were left out; but how much is a hug worth, "it is the first time that someone gives me a hug in exchange for nothing", a lady who had had a complicated past commented excitedly to a volunteer. How do you value a moment of company to a person who lives alone, with no one to take care of her? These intangibles were left out of the study.

I have data indicating that if this research were done today, after the health crisis, the results would be almost double. This is something that the fraternities can be satisfied with, since one of their missions is to promote charity, but it entails a danger: reducing charity to figures, the greater the volume of aid, the more charitable a fraternity is. This way we run the risk of assimilating the brotherhoods to NGOs, which is why we should reflect on the differences between charity, solidarity and social action, three distinct but complementary concepts.

Charity

It is a theological virtueIt is the virtue of the Faith, Hope and Charity, instilled by God in our soul on the day of baptism (Faith, Hope and Charity), although maintaining it and growing in it depends on ourselves. It is the virtue by which we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God, inasmuch as they are dear to God. Charity can only be understood starting from God, who is Love. 

Human love, lived as a total, free and gratuitous donation, because only from freedom can love be possible. It has the capacity to bring the person to his or her fullness, to make him or her happy, because what frustrates a life is not pain, but the lack of love.

Solidarity

It is a human virtueIt is the awareness of being linked to others through God, and the decision to act in coherence with this mutual linkage. It is the awareness of being linked to others through God, and the decision to act in coherence with this mutual link. "It is not a superficial feeling for the ills of so many people, near or far.

On the contrary, it is the firm and persevering determination to work for the common good, that is, for the good of each and every one of us. To be aware that we are all truly responsible for everyone" (John Paul II). It has its foundation in divine filiation. We are all children of God and share the same dignity. This is the only way to understand Solidarity correctly, not with a horizontal vision, but with the awareness of being linked, through Christ, to others.

Solidarity cannot be assimilated to charity. Solidarity is justice, charity is love. Justice alone is not enough, human dignity demands much more than justice: it demands charity, it demands love. Love for the other contained in the love of God.

Social Action

It is an activity consisting of the distribution and application of the material resources obtained from the generosity of the brothers and collaborators.

Social action is not an end in itself, that would be social assistance or philanthropy: it is the consequence of the exercise of Charity on the part of the brothers and donors and an expression of their Solidarity.

This threefold distinction is clearly shown in the Gospel, in the multiplication of the loaves:

Christ felt compassion for those who followed him because they had not eaten for a long time: Charitylove of God.

"You give them something to eat," he says to the apostles, it is your responsibility to care for the needs of others: Solidarity.

He then encourages them to manage this attention: to look for resources (they get five loaves and two fish) and to organize the distribution of food (make groups of fifty, distribute and collect): Social Action.

Reducing the promotion of charity in the fraternities to social actions carried out only out of solidarity is misleading and condemns the fraternities to the role of subsidiaries responsible for the maintenance of the welfare state is misleading and denaturalizes the mission of the fraternities. On this issue it is also essential to have a rigorous foundation of its conceptual model in order to have clear ideas.

The authorIgnacio Valduérteles

D. in Business Administration. Director of the Instituto de Investigación Aplicada a la Pyme. Eldest Brother (2017-2020) of the Brotherhood of the Soledad de San Lorenzo, in Seville. He has published several books, monographs and articles on brotherhoods.

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