Written by Megan Kennedy-Farrell
Four minutes into his surprise talk, Pope Francis spoke these words to scientists and creators of new technology gathered at the annual TED conference in April 2017. As I listened to his words, I thought about how Solidarity Bridge lives out the basic tenets of Catholic social justice through its efforts to equip Bolivian medical communities.
Catholic social justice tradition names several categories of justice, including distributive justice. Distributive justice teaches that the Earth and its goods are God’s common provision for all and that, as one human family, we share in these gifts. We live in an era of steady advances in science, medicine and technology. In his talk, Pope Francis challenges us to ask, Who benefits from these developments? Who has access to their life-saving advances? And who is left out or excluded?
Solidarity Bridge medical programs seek to progressively improve both the quality of and access to surgical care in Bolivia. The need is urgent, since surgical resources that easily treat disease and debilitating accidents in the United States remain inaccessible for the vast majority of the people in Bolivia. Laparoscopic surgery, for example, only requires small incisions resulting in less pain, lower risk of infection, and faster recovery time. But this equipment has not been readily available to all surgeons in Bolivia. And patients, even in public hospitals, are generally required to provide some of the supplies needed for their own surgery—anything from IV solution to a pacemaker lead.
Because Solidarity Bridge believes that the goods of the Earth (including medical care and equipment) belong to us all, equipping Bolivian hospitals and surgeons with needed instruments and supplies is essential to our mission. We dedicate time and resources to procuring specialized surgical equipment and supplies, ranging from pacemakers and laparoscopic instruments to aneurysm clips and spinal cord implants.
“How wonderful would it be,” Pope Francis says, “if solidarity, this beautiful and at times inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic, and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples, and countries.” Solidarity Bridge’s equipping efforts are one way of concretizing solidarity into specific action, one way of bridging the resource divide between nations.