Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

12/8/2011 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The first question we should ask is whether government is good, in a dual sense of the word, meaning both moral and efficient.

We need to ask whether the exercise of governance respects the family first and then the other proper mediating institutions - and defers first to them before assigning the task it attempts to accomplish to a higher level of government. The last level of governing should be the federal government. When the mediating institutions are bypassed, the common good is not served and subsidiarity is not afforded its rightful place.

On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, I heard Glenn Beck's radio interview of Newt Gingrich

On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, I heard Glenn Beck's radio interview of Newt Gingrich

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/8/2011 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, socialism, collectivism, conservative, liberal, progressive, subsidiarity, freedom, campaign 2012, government, health care, Deacon Keith Fournier


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, I heard Glenn Beck's radio interview of Newt Gingrich. I knew that Glenn Beck was not a fan of the Republican primary Presidential candidate, so I listened closely. What I heard in the exchange revived a long held concern I have with some aspects of what is being called "conservative" politics these days. 

What is needed in campaign 2012 is a discussion of whether there can be such a thing as "good" government. Clearly, from the tenor of the interview, Glenn Beck seems to think not - while Newt Gingrich disagrees.  After Beck's interview of Newt Gingrich he interviewed Michelle Bachmann who called Gingrich a "frugal socialist". Though that comment will garner sound bites in the press, it was inaccurate. 

We need a discussion of the social ordering principle of subsidiarity. Many Catholics do not even know that there is such a principle within the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. Instead they join in the charged rhetoric from both the political left and the political right concerning the role of government. They too often end up adopting it as their own - instead of offering the Nation an alternative which includes the principle of subsidiarity.

The current administration is rapidly expanding the role of the Federal Government in the United States. The most recent example was the passage of what is wrongly called "health care reform". In addition to obvious dangers within the legislation which threaten human life in the womb - and its failure to respect conscience and religious freedom - the federalized approach to health care delivery itself raises important questions concerning the nature, size and role of government.

Yes, we should acknowledge our obligation to one another in solidarity - we are our brother/sister's keeper. However, we should then ask, is the centralizing of the delivery of needed health care services through a federalized bureaucracy the best response to that obligation? Or is it a violation of the principle of subsidiarity?  

It is time for Catholics to propose an alternative to the "government is always bad" notion which is prevalent in some conservative circles as well as the collectivism model of governing  being called "progressive" by the left these days. We should propose a model of good government; an alternative to the mistakes of both the left and the right.  

To view government as a "problem"- in and of itself - is at odds with the insights which are summarized in the Catholic Catechism concerning the human person, the family and human society: 

"All men are called to the same end: God himself. There is a certain resemblance between the union of the divine persons and the fraternity that men are to establish among themselves in truth and love. Love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God. The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation.

"A society is a group of persons bound together organically by a principle of unity that goes beyond each one of them. As an assembly that is at once visible and spiritual, a society endures through time: it gathers up the past and prepares for the future. By means of society, each man is established as an "heir" and receives certain "talents" that enrich his identity and whose fruits he must develop. He rightly owes loyalty to the communities of which he is part and respect to those in authority who have charge of the common good.

"Each community is defined by its purpose and consequently obeys specific rules; but "the human person . . . is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions. Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man; they are necessary to him. To promote the participation of the greatest number in the life of a society, the creation of voluntary associations and institutions must be encouraged "on both national and international levels, which relate to economic and social goals, to cultural and recreational activities, to sport, to various professions, and to political affairs.

"This "socialization" also expresses the natural tendency for human beings to associate with one another for the sake of attaining objectives that exceed individual capacities. It develops the qualities of the person, especially the sense of initiative and responsibility, and helps guarantee his rights. Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative.

"The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."

"God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

"The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order. (CCC, Article 1, #1878 - 1885)

Some on the political right sound as though any government is the problem. That is how I heard Glenn Becks' comments Tuesday morning. Michelle Bachmann's quick characterization of Newt Gingrich as a "frugal socialist" did not help the discussion. There is much about both Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann I admire. However, in this area, they are not addressing the real issues. When the right views all government as the problem, the right goes wrong.

Yet, even worse, are the many on the political left who want to federalize everything. They question the empathy of anyone who disagrees with their collectivist and statist model of big federalized governance. Such an approach is a disaster waiting to happen morally, politically, socially and economically.

An overly centralized or collectivized approach to government threatens human freedom, stunts human flourishing, stifles creativity, can discourage and even punish initiative and fails to understand the proper governing role of mediating institutions, the first of which is the family, the smallest governing unit and first vital cell of society.

As Catholics seeking to enter this discussion we should begin with the positive; governing is something good. God governs and invites us all into this effort. We were made to give ourselves in love and service to the other; to form societies and communities of interest and association where we can flourish in authentic human freedom. They must be governed.

The first question we should ask is whether government is good, in a dual sense of the word, meaning both moral and efficient.

Does it recognize the existence of a higher law and fundamental human rights which have their source not in civil government but in the very nature and dignity of the human person as created in the Image of God?

Does the model and means of governance respect the dignity of every human person, recognize the primacy of the family and truly serve the common good? Does it promote genuine human freedom, creativity and initiative?

Is the means of governing "good" in the sense of being effective, efficient and just? Does it respect the individual human person? Does it defer to the smallest governing unit of the family? Is it closest to those being governed and include them in the process by participation?

The first society is the family wherein we learn socialization and are schooled in virtues. It is also the first government. It must always be the guide and measuring stick for any broader social and governing structure. When another government usurps its primary role, injustice and disorder result, the common good is not served and subsidiarity is not afforded its rightful place.

We next ask whether the other exercise of governance respects the other proper mediating institutions beyond the family and defers first to them before assigning the task it attempts to accomplish to a higher level of government. The last level of governing should be the federal government. When the mediating institutions are bypassed, the common good is not served and subsidiarity is not afforded its rightful place in our social order.

Good government recognizes fundamental human rights, the first of which is the right to life. These rights are not conferred by the State but, as properly affirmed by the American founders, endowed upon us by God. The role of the State is to recognize and protect those rights and not usurp them.

Good government acknowledges the primary role of the mediating institutions and associations beginning with the family in the process of governing and supports their role as the best place for governance to first occur. Then, it fosters government from bottom up to top, looking last to the federal government.

For example, such a model of good government would foster a vehicle for the delivery of services such as health care which defers to the family and the mediating associations while also respecting human and economic freedom. It can be done.

Notice, I come to the conclusion that the Federal Government should be the last place, not the first place, to which we look in our efforts to fashion an effective model of self government. However, getting there is what matters most. Does it have a role? Yes - but the principle of subsidiarity must be carefully applied.

It is time for a discussion on good government. The dialogue between Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich prepared the ground for such a discussion and the election of 2012 might depend upon it.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

Is it official? Obama worst president in U.S. history as report shows he does not attend briefings Watch

Image of Obama may be the most apathetic--or incompetent president in U.S. history. He is certainly the least effective since Carter.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A report has revealed that President Obama has attended less than half of his daily intelligence briefings, which explains why he has underestimated the Islamic State. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A Government Accountability Institute report shows that Obama has ... continue reading


Why did Obama lie to the American people about ISIS? Watch

Image of Obama blamed his failure on ISIS on the intelligence community.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama has found someone to blame for the rise of the Islamic State, and it's the intelligence community that supports him. According to Obama during a 60 Minutes interview, the intelligence community failed to warn him of the rise of the Islamic State. LOS ... continue reading


From the Values Voter Summit: Values, Citizenship and Hope Watch

Image of The birth certificate of this nation was called a Declaration of Independence because it declared independence from an unjust civil ruler. It did not declare independence from a just God.

By Keith A. Fournier

I write from Washington DC where I have been participating in the Values Voter Summit cosponsored by numerous organizations, associations and alliances dedicated to the moral values which ensure a truly free society. I was invited to participate by my friend, a ... continue reading


As the Election Season Begins, Time for a New Christian Social Movement Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

As the political season in the United States of America moves into full gear with the midterm elections opening up into the 2016 presidential campaign, my mind turns again to political and social participation. I will attend the Values Voter Summit this weekend ... continue reading


Too hot in the kitchen? Eric Holder resigns Watch

Image of Eric Holder may be fleeing the heat he's feeling for his refusal to cooperate with Congress.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Eric Holder is preparing to announce his resignation as attorney general, following a five-and-a-half year stint fraught with controversy. WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Eric Holder, 63, will be announcing his resignation as attorney general after more than five ... continue reading


'The alarm bells keep ringing' says Obama at climate change summit in New York Watch

Image of Actor Leonardo DiCaprio was among the hundreds of international leaders and spokespeople who attended the global climate change summit held in New York.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During the United Nations Climate Summit meeting in New York on September 23, President Obama appealed to the international community to make greater strides towards creating and enforcing carbon caps, explaining that climate change is happening at a faster pace ... continue reading


Rockefellers to sell investments in fossil fuel to switch to 'clean energy' Watch

Image of From left to right: Stephen Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, the chair of the fund, and Steven Rockefeller, a son of Nelson Rockefeller and a trustee of the fund, in New York, Sept. 16, 2014.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a bold move that illustrates just how far climate change has reached the public's consciousness, heirs to the Rockefeller family have announced that they intend to sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy. The announcement is a ... continue reading


CAN'T KEEP UP: So many employees leaving Department of Homeland Security, it poses risk to U.S. Watch

Image of The vacating of those in top management positions in the Department of Homeland Security has helped slow the rollout of key cybersecurity initiatives.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Department of Homeland Security, or DHS has seen an exodus of employees over the past four years. According to officials, this is leaving the United States open to potential terrorist strikes and cyber-attacks. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Employees ... continue reading


Shell game in Kansas - why Democrats don't have to win Kansas to win the Senate Watch

Image of Independent investor Greg Orman seems to have the advantage in the newly-reshaped senate race.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The race for Senate in Kansas may suddenly be the most crucial contest in the nation as Republicans scramble to protect their longtime incumbent, Bob Dole is back on the campaign trail, Democrats are being as quiet as possible about not having a candidate, and a ... continue reading


Are they on to something? Judicial Watch says terrorists are operating in Mexico Watch

Image of Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat who represents El Paso in the U.S. House of Representatives, called the area offices of various government agencies in response to a report that Middle Eastern terrorists were operating across the border in Mexico.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Judicial Watch, a controversial Web site that maintains that Middle Eastern terrorists are operating just cross the border from the United States from Mexico is evidently stirring up waves. Federal law enforcement sources in El Paso, Texas say that a United ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Job 9:1-12, 14-16
1 Job spoke next. He said:2 Indeed, I know ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 88:10-11, 12-13, 14-15
10 Do you work wonders for the dead, can shadows rise ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:57-62
57 As they travelled along they met a man on the road ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 1st, 2014 Image

St. Therese of Lisieux
October 1: Generations of Catholics have admired this young saint, called ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter