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Editorial: Superstorm Sandy, Solidarity, Subsidiarity and Good Government

By Keith A Fournier
October 31st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)


In the wake of the suffering of the people of New York, New Jersey - and the entire Eastern Seaboard - the Editorial page of the New York Times chose political propaganda and politics as usual over compassion and solidarity.  While the sitting President acted in a manner appropriate to his office - and the Governors and local municipalities acted in a manner appropriate to their own - the New York Times did not.

NEW YORK CITY, NY (Catholic Online) - In the wake of the suffering of the people of New York, New Jersey - and the entire Eastern Seaboard - the Editorial page of the New York Times chose political propaganda and politics as usual over compassion and solidarity. 

In a Tuesday, October 30, 2012 editorial entitled A Big Storm Requires Big Government the newspaper accused the Republican candidate for President, former Governor Mitt Romney, of wanting to eliminate disaster coordination by the Federal Government. Of course, the charge is untrue.

Efforts to paint Gov. Romney as a monocle wearing "monopoly man" through caricature and accuse him of having no compassion for the poor, the elderly and the needy, have not worked. So, the paper misused Superstorm Sandy to allege that the candidate did not want to deliver water to the thirsty, food to the hungry or hospital care to the injured.

They should be ashamed. Sadly, the notion of shame seems to be on its way to being politically incorrect along with common sense and responsible journalism.

Fortunately, no similar accusations came from President Obama. While he was busy doing what is proper to his office - like authorizing assistance to Governors like Chris Christie, a Republican Governor who is known for his bluntness - he received appreciation.

Gov. Christie thanked the President for signing a disaster declaration and expediting federal assistance on "CBS This Morning" The Governor noted "Cooperation from the President of the United States has been outstanding. He deserves great credit."

National tragedies are an opportunity for Americans to demonstrate our solidarity. The Catholic Catechism notes "The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of "friendship" or "social charity," is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood." (See, CCC #1939 - 1942) National challenges bring out our National character.

The New York Times Editorial was a "cheap shot". While the sitting President acted in a manner appropriate to his office - and the Governors and local municipalities acted in a manner appropriate to their own - the New York Times did not.

Mitt Romney, the Presidential candidate, cancelled campaign appearances and directed his campaign busses be used to deliver needed supplies to those affected by the storm! He demonstrated his proper participation as a responsible candidate in this crisis and revealed his character.

Each participant - in their proper way - showed solidarity. Each participated in the task of self government at the foundation of the American experiment. So too did the individuals, charities, churches, religious institutions, families and other mediating institutions which participated in meeting the needs of those who were placed in need by Superstorm Sandy.

Our model of self government and our character as a free and good people was revealed once again. 

The Editorial evinces the mistaken notion embraced by some on the political "left" who seem to believe that the only approach to governing is to federalize everything. We must never forget nor usurp the vital role of mediating institutions in governing. To do so does not serve the common good.

For the Times Editorial to cast aspersions on Mitt Romney and question his empathy was wrong. Sadly, it reveals a trend in some elitist media circles to denigrate anyone who disagrees with them and dares to offer a differing model of governance than the one they endorse. 

Catholic citizens affirm that governing is meant to be 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 to build mediating associations.

We are not fully human unless we are in relationship with one another. Freedom and human flourishing are not found in a notion of the isolated individual as the ground of human freedom. We are one another's neighbors and called to stand together in solidarity.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that "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." (CCC, Article 1, #1878 - 1885)

We are responsible for one another. We build societies to further humanize us, enable us to live in peace together and promote human flourishing. The family is the first government, the first school, the first church and the first mediating institution.

It is in the family that we learn socialization and are schooled in the virtues which make good citizenship even possible. All other government must defer to this first cell of social government and move out - or up - from there, never usurping the primacy of the family.

The family, other mediating institutions, local and State governments are the place for governing to first occur - not the Federal government. It's role is to support and empower them. This model of good government acknowledges our obligations in solidarity to one another, and to the poor, but always respects and applies the principle of subsidiarity.

Through their proper role, each governing entity is empowered to serve the common good. Superstorm Sandy can teach us all a lesson in solidarity, subsidiarity and Good Government. Let's hope that lesson  includes the editorial department of the New York Times.

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