Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

4/11/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Often, voluntary associations cause social reform or promote charitable causes in an efficient manner, without the need of cumbersome government mechanisms

"The political community is responsible for regulating its relations with civil society according to the principle of subsidiarity." (Compendium, No. 419)  Government's role should be hands-off unless the various associations of which civil society is composed are unable responsibly to handle the matter, and any intervention should be one in aid, and not in replacement of, the activities of that part of civil association.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/11/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Common Good, social doctrine, State, Statism, colectivism, conservative, liberal, Andrew Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The political life is not all there is.  The political community finds itself within a greater reality, what the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church calls "civil society."

The Compendium defines civil society as the "sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to 'the creative subjectivity of the citizen.'" (Compendium, No. 185) (quoting JP II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 15). 

It also defines it a little more broadly as "the sum of relationships and resources, cultural and associative, that are relatively independent from the political sphere and the economic sector." (Compendium, No. 417) 

Civil society is, in a sense, an organic and therefore "messy" reality. That's why social scientists want to "rationalize" it, which usually means Statism and a loss of freedom.

"Civil society is in fact multifaceted and irregular; it does not lack its ambiguities and contradictions.  It is also the arena where different interests clash with one another, with the risk that the stronger will prevail over the weaker." (Compendium, No. 418)

Civil society, the greater, more fundamental reality, should therefore be distinguished from political and economic relationships, and its influence in the life of a people is frequently referred to as the "third sector."

The Compendium states: "The activities of civil society--above all volunteer organizations and cooperative endeavors in the private-social sector, all of which are succinctly known as the "third sector," to distinguish from the State and the market--represent the most appropriate ways to develop the social dimension of the person, who finds in these activities the necessary space to express himself fully." 

"The progressive expansion of social initiatives beyond the State-controlled sphere creates new areas for the active presence and direct action of citizens, integrating the functions of the State.  This important phenomenon has often come about largely through informal means and has given rise to new and positive ways of exercising personal rights, which have brought about a qualitative enrichment of democratic life." (Compendium, No. 419)

In our penchant for Statist solutions to our social problems, we seem completely to neglect the possible role of the "third sector" as a more humane, less bureaucratic, more responsive, and more efficient solution.  It is also a solution more in line with notions of subsidiarity.

Without some sort of ordering, civil society would proceed with an autonomy that may work at cross purposes with the common good.  Hence, civil society needs a political community, a political order, ultimately formalized into a State. 

The relationship between the political community and civil society (and hence the State and civil society) is threatened by two extreme ideologies, extreme individualism or atomism, on the one hand, and collectivism, on the other hand.  Though their view of the relationship between the individual and civil society are at opposite poles, they lead to the same practical result: the absorption of civil society into the political community.

The Church warns us to steer clear of these two ideologies and advocates a "social pluralism" which rejects both extremes, accepts that which is true in both, to the end of "bringing about a more fitting arrangement of the common good and democracy itself, according to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and justice." (Compendium, 417)

This area is a very broad area, and it presents a fertile area for the exercise of prudence.  We rarely have clearly right or clearly wrong answers.

Several truths must be kept in mind in understanding the relationship between the political community and civil society.  First, one should keep in mind that the political community "originates" from civil society. (Compendium, No. 417)  Second, the "political community and civil society, although mutually connected and inter-dependent, are not equal in the hierarchy of ends." (Compendium, No. 418)  In the hierarchy of ends, the political community is clearly subordinate to civil society.  The political community is "at the service of civil society."

Holding a proper understanding between civil society and the individual, helps us see that "in the final analysis" the political community will be at the service of "the persons and groups of which civil society is composed." (Compendium, No. 418)  Because the political community is subordinate to civil society, it is an error to see civil society as "an extension or a changing component of the political community."  To the contrary, it is civil society that "has priority" over the political community, "because it is in civil society itself that the political community finds its justification." (Compendium, No. 418)

The State is the formal expression of the political community, and it is charged with the task of providing an "adequate legal framework for social subjects," what we call its citizens, "to engage freely in their different activities."  The State and its agencies "must be ready to intervene, when necessary and with respect for the principal of subsidiary, so that the interplay between free associations and democratic life may be directed to the common good." (Compendium, No. 418).  To this degree, one might view the state as a "night watchman state," but, as we shall see, it is more than a "night watchman state" since it should promote the virtue of its citizens.

"The political community is responsible for regulating its relations with civil society according to the principle of subsidiarity." (Compendium, No. 419)  Government's role should be hands-off unless the various associations of which civil society is composed are unable responsibly to handle the matter, and any intervention should be one in aid, and not in replacement of, the activities of that part of civil association.

The Church discourages Statism, insists on the principle of subsidiarity, and its social doctrine actively supports and encourages the role of the "third sector" as the means of humanizing, de-bureaucratizing, de-politicizing and advancing the needs of persons within civil society.  It sees the third sector as the means also of removing the plague of extreme individualistic competition (dog-eat-dog) too often found in a disordered economic sector, and replacing it with more personalist notions of cooperation and solidarity.

"Cooperation, even in its less structured forms, shows itself to be one of the most effective responses to a mentality of conflict and unlimited competition that seems so prevalent today."  (Compendium, No. 420) 

In a special way, voluntary associations seem to "overcome ideological divisions, prompting people to seek out what unites them rather than what divides them."  Anyone who has had experience with voluntary associations knows how these tend to promote dialogue, cooperation, and bonds of solidarity.  (Compendium, No. 420) 

Often, voluntary associations cause social reform or promote charitable causes in an efficient manner, without the need of cumbersome government mechanisms.  For that reason the Church asks that we "look with confidence to the potentialities that thus present themselves" in such voluntary alliances, "and to lend their own personal efforts for the good of the community in general and, in particular, for the good of the weakest and the neediest.  In this way, the principle of the "subjectivity of society" is also affirmed." (Compendium, No. 420)

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


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


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

'The whole Bible is incredible': Donald trump ridiculed for not naming favorite Bible verse Watch

Image of Donald Trump claims the Bible is his favorite book.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During an interview with Bloomberg's Mark Halerin and John Heilemann, presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked to name his favorite Bible verse but refused to name one. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Seven minutes into the interview, Halerin told Trump, "You ... continue reading


EVERY 93 SECONDS: Foreign children born on U.S. soil Watch

Image of Children of immigrants born on United States soil appear to be wearing out their welcome, according to recent polls.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Children of immigrants born on United States soil appear to be wearing out their welcome, according to recent polls. It is estimated that a child of illegal immigrants is born every 93 seconds in the U.S. According to a 2011 Rasmussen Poll, only 28 percent of likely ... continue reading


Univision anchor Jorge Ramos EJECTED from Donald Trump press conference Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Go back to Univision," GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump told Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos at an Iowa press conference. Well regarded by his peers, there was no gravitas afforded Ramos at the event, as a security guard escorted him away. The occasion ... continue reading


The do-nothing Boehner is not only stupid, he's pro-Planned Parenthood - revealed by his incestuous political relationship with an abortion-affiliated adviser Watch

Image of Boehner makes a lot of money off Obamacare and other investments in the medical industry, thanks to his privileged position in Congress.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Charlotte Ivancic, Health Policy Advisor to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), is leaving his office to work for a lobbying firm. Ivancic is the older sister of Cate Dyer, the CEO of StemExpress. Dyer was caught discussing the sale of aborted children on video by the ... continue reading


When it comes to illegal immigration, EVERYBODY WINS! Except you, of course you lose Watch

Image of Attitude is everything.

By David Drudge, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Americans tend to agree we need some kind of immigration reform, but they can't agree on how bad the problem is, or even what that reform should look like. Here is a story that will shock you into thinking harder about the problem. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


It has happened before: President Bill Clinton PARDONED former CIA Director for home computer Classified Document mess Watch

Image of In truth, Hillary Clinton's current controversy over keeping sensitive, classified information on home computers had its basis in which her husband, former president Bill Clinton pardoned former CIA director John Deutch . who likewise kept classified material on unsecured, private computers.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In truth, Hillary Clinton's current controversy over keeping sensitive, classified information on home computers had its basis in which her husband, former president Bill Clinton pardoned former CIA director John Deutch who likewise kept classified material on ... continue reading


Federal judge states Hillary Clinton's private emails violated policy Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"We wouldn't be here today if this employee had followed government policy," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, in reference to Hillary Clinton's recent email fracas, said. Controversy continues to swell over Clinton's email. Some argue that she violated government ... continue reading


POLL: Majority of Republican voters think Donald Trump is a likely presidential candidate Watch

Image of According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, 57 percent of all registered Republican voters say Donald Trump will likely be on the presidential ticket next year.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said many outrageous things that have deftly expressed the American public's dissatisfaction with domestic policy. There are still many people who think it is all grandstanding on Trump's part, but according to a ... continue reading


'I'd say 'ISIS wants to get you'': Presidential candidate Donald Trump says he will warn Pope Francis that ISIS is out to get him Watch

Image of Donald Trump says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in his typical style made quite a few jaws drop in an interview on CNN this week. Reporter Chris Cuomo asked the billionaire what he would say to Pope Francis come his visit to the U.S. in September. In a roundabout way, ... continue reading


NEW EMAIL SCANDAL: Thousands of emails State Department said didn't exist 'magically' appear Watch

Image of The State Department has turned up a massive cache of Reines' emails. Philippe Reines rose to the rank of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State while Clinton was at the helm.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has yet another email scandal in the wings. Gossip Web site Gawker requested emails from Clinton's previous media handler Philippe Reines under the Freedom of Information Act in 2013. The State Department said that they ... 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, Jeremiah 1:17-19
17 'As for you, prepare yourself for action. Stand up ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 29th, 2015 Image

St. Sabina
August 29: St. Sabina's feast day is August 29th. We know St. Sabina only ... 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