Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

7/18/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The principle of subsidiarity, a social ordering principle, lies at the heart of Catholic Social teaching

There is little discussion about the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic circles and virtually none in the national political debate. Many Catholics do not even know that there is such a principle within the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. Instead they have borrowed charged rhetoric from both the political left and the political right for far too long and failed to offer their unique contribution to the common good. We need an intelligent discussion of the underlying issue - what constitutes "good" governance - and Catholics can and should take the lead.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/18/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Social Justice, Social teaching, solidarity, subsidiarity, government, liberal, conservative, libertarian, democrat, republican, social teaching, good governance, charitu, philanthropy, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA  (Catholic Online) - In the aftermath of the US Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act it is time for a discussion about good government. After being told by the current Administration that the penalty for non-compliance with the "individual mandate" to purchase insurance was not a "tax", the Court found it to be a tax, in a dense majority opinion. Based upon that - and not based upon the Commerce Clause - the lawsuits failed to meet their intended goal of having the Act declared unconstitutional.

So, even though the Act does indeed require citizens to purchase a product or face a penalty (the individual mandate), since the penalties are a now called a "tax" by the Supreme Court; they fall under Congress' tax and spend power. The arguments over this dense opinion, its suspect evolution into the majority opinion, its convoluted rationale and its implications for the future of public policy are now academic. They will become fodder for law students and law review editors for years to come.  

The importance of the other lawsuits heading for the US Supreme Court becomes even more evident. They allege the Act is unconstitutional in its implementation. The HHS mandate requiring Church owned or related employers to purchase insurance which provides abortion inducing drugs, contraception and sterilizations, violates the Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment to the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution.

These lawsuits are correct in their analysis of this onerous mandate. It would compel Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and people of good will to violate their conscience and violate deeply held religious beliefs, or face an onerous  "tax" (government penalty) and persecution. This mandate must be opposed by every Catholic and other concerned Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will who respect the fundamental right to religious freedom.  

However, if this mandate were not at issue, the idea of federalizing the provision of health care cries out for discussion. It represents a massive increase in the role of the Federal Government. We have witnessed the dangers which accompany such an expansion when the administration in power has no respect for fundamental human rights such as the Right to Religious Freedom and the Right to Life.

Yes, we should all agree that there is a need for a better vehicle for the delivery of health care services to all of our citizens. The current approach truly does need reform and repair. However, I maintain that there should be a serious caution over "federalizing" the delivery of health care in the United States, for many reasons. 

Here is the policy question which needs to be asked; does centralizing the delivery of health care services through an increasingly bloated federalized bureaucracy violate the principle of subsidiarity, a social ordering principle which lies at the heart of Catholic Social teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes these astute observations:

"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)

There is little discussion about the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic circles and virtually none in the national political debate. My experience is that many Catholics do not even know that there is such a principle within the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. Instead they have borrowed charged rhetoric from both the political left and the political right for far too long and failed to offer their unique contribution to the common good. We need an intelligent discussion of the underlying issue - what constitutes "good" governance. Let me explain.

If you listen to some voices "on the right" in the debate over health care, you find a growing influence of a version of libertarianism which is anti-government. This is at odds with the insights summarized in the Catechism. Some paraphrase the American founders to imply that government is the problem. They quote phrases such as "he who governs best governs least", the source of which is actually unclear. The rhetoric can reveal a misunderstanding of both the nature and value of governance. When the right views all government as the problem, the right goes wrong.

If you listen to some of the voices "on the left", they seem to want to federalize everything. They question the empathy of anyone who disagrees with them. Those on the political left who actually want a collectivist and statist model of governance threaten human freedom and fail to understand and honor the role of mediating institutions, the first of which is the family, the smallest governing unit and first vital cell of society. Such an approach is a disaster waiting to happen morally, politically, socially and economically.

Catholics 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. In fact we are not fully human unless we are in relationship with one another. We are also one another's neighbors, called to stand together in solidarity.

The first society is the family wherein we learn socialization and are schooled in the virtues which make good citizenship even possible. It must always be the guide and measuring stick for any broader social and governing structure. The question should come down to whether the model or method of governance is "good", in several senses of the word.

Is it Moral? Does it recognize the existence of the higher law, the Natural Law which is a participation in God's Law? Does it affirm that there are self evident truths? Does it recognize the fundamental human rights with which we are all endowed and acknowledge that these rights are not given to us by civil government but by God? Does it affirm the nature and dignity of the human person as created in the Image of God?

Does the means of governance respect this dignity of every human person, recognize the primacy of true marriage and the family and society founded upon it and serve the true common good? Does it promote genuine human freedom, flourishing, creativity and initiative among the citizens?

Is the model and means of governing "good" in the sense of being effective, efficient and just? Does it respect the self government of each individual human person? Does it defer to the smallest social governing unit of the family? Does it respect the other proper mediating institutions and defer first to them before assigning the task it attempts to accomplish to the centralized or federal government?

We should reject the rhetoric of the right when rooted in a mischaracterization of governing itself as evil. We should reject the rhetoric of the left when it is statist and collectivist. It is time for Catholics to take the principles set forth in the Social teaching of the Catholic Church - which is neither left nor right - and offer models, methods and means of governance which can provide an alternative to the mistakes of both the left and the right.

We should propose a model of good governance. Good governance recognizes fundamental human rights, the first of which is the right to life, as endowed by the Creator and not manufactured by civil government. In fact, the very role of government is to secure and protect those rights and not violate or usurp them.

Good governance acknowledges the vital role of mediating institutions and associations in governance. The first is the family. It defers to and respects their function. They are the best place for governance to first occur. This model of governance respects both solidarity and subsidiarity.

Such an approach to good governance could help us to develop 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 is here that an alternative to replace this massive federalized model could be found.

The Federal Government should be the last place, not the first place, to which we look in our efforts to fashion a truly just society and an effective model of self government. Does it have a role? Yes, but the principle of subsidiarity must be applied. It is time to move beyond left and right. It is time for good governance.

---


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


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

Hillary Clinton caught in shameful lie on family's history Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As Hillary Clinton continues to shape her platform for presidency, she is reported as boasting her family's immigration history. During one of her first speeches as an official candidate, Clinton said that "all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States," ... continue reading


Federal government sets all-time record for tax revenue Watch

Image of We will not know how much additional tax revenue the Treasury pulled in until it releases its next daily statement tomorrow afternoon. Every dollar of it will add to the new record.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Tax day has arrived - and with the close of business on April 14, the Treasury brought in a record $1,477,901,000,000 since fiscal 2015. Began on October 1, 2014, these figures are courtesy of the Daily Treasury Statement. Despite this record tax revenue, the ... continue reading


INSANE: U.S. federal tax code is 74,608 pages long! Watch

Image of If the tax code continues to grow at the same pace it did over the last century, it will pass 100,000 pages in 2050.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If you had your taxes professionally prepared this year, you may now fully appreciate what your accountant or cleric did for you this year. The U.S. federal tax code is a whopping 74,608 pages long! Try to imagine trying to digest all the nuances that go along ... continue reading


'We're in uncharted territory here' U.S. official admits ISIS' reign of terror is crushing Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS continues, now with 62 countries working to put an end to ISIS. Canada has become the latest country to shoot airstrikes against ISIS. The fight against ISIS is being described as "off the charts historically." LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Who are Hillary Clinton's supporters? Well not women, and not young Americans: A look into Clinton's shocking Facebook following Watch

Image of Hillary Clinton is the favored Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2016, but Facebook demographics show she may have a long way to go.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hillary Clinton is the de facto face of the Democrat party's aspirations for the presidency in 2016, but you wouldn't know that by looking at her Facebook pages. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The single largest percentage of Clinton's fans aren't even from ... continue reading


Lois Lerner emails expose secretive IRS warnings Watch

Image of The lower-level employees

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former director of Exempt Organizations Unit at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Lois Lerner is reported as warning other IRS officials to manage the lower-level employees written conversations in 2013. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Lerner resigned from the ... continue reading


Rubio steps into spotlight for 2016 run Watch

Image of Florida Senator Marco Rubio will officially announce his intent to seek the Republican nomination for the president today, following months of speculation.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The question over which Republican will be the next to announce their intent to run for the nomination in 2016 has been answered, as Marco Rubio joins Senator Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in the race which will soon be flooded with even more competitors. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


COLD WAR NO MORE? U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro meet Watch

Image of Obama and Castro greeted each other courteously amid an explosion of camera flashes Friday night. The two sat at the same table but not directly next to one another.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United States and Cuba may not be the best of friends, but the meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro this past weekend marks a turning point in international relations. It was the first time that leaders from both ... continue reading


Putting the big bite on the top 20 percent: Unlucky few pay 84 percent of all U.S. income taxes Watch

Image of The U.S. federal income tax system is very progressive - higher income groups pay increasingly higher tax rates, and therefore disproportionately higher and higher shares of the total income taxes collected.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Who pays what in income taxes? According to a study in the Wall Street Journal, only 20 percent of all U.S. taxpayers pay 84 percent of all taxes owed. How does every day, ordinary taxpayer fit into this schema? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Individual ... continue reading


'I'm running for president' Hillary Clinton declares Watch

Image of While Hillary Rodham Clinton is courting the middle class with her presidential bid, both her and her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton remain among the wealthiest of Americans.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion," Hillary Rodham Clinton has declared. Saying that America's economy is "still stacked in favor of those at the top," according to a campaign video this past weekend. "I'm running for ... 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, Acts 6:1-7
1 About this time, when the number of disciples was ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
4 The word of Yahweh is straightforward, all he does ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:35-48
16 That evening the disciples went down to the shore ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 18th, 2015 Image

St. Apollonius the Apologist
April 18: Martyr whose Apologia, or defense of the faith, is considered ... 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