Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

4/3/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

Subsidiarity begins with the recognition that, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says - Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative (1883).

Because of the ongoing furor about who caused the holiday traffic jams in northern New Jersey, much of what Gov. Christie has done well as governor has been forgotten. But, as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie has distinguished himself in two ways as a Catholic politician. Not only is he pro-life, but he is aggressively pursuing a set of policies grounded in the principle of subsidiarity.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie


By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (

4/3/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: subsidiarity, solidarity, government, social doctrine, Chris Christie, Culture, Deal W. Hudson

WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - Because of the ongoing furor about who caused the holiday traffic jams in northern New Jersey, much of what Gov. Christie has done well as governor has been forgotten.

But, as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie has distinguished himself in two ways as a Catholic politician. Not only is he pro-life, but he is aggressively pursuing a set of policies grounded in the principle of subsidiarity.

At a time when most prominent Catholic politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, have advocated federal government solutions to problems like health care, Gov. Christie led in the opposite direction in 2010 by releasing a New Jersey Privatization Task Force Report.

In the 57-page report, the Task Force proposes privatizing the state's motor vehicle inspections, housing construction inspections, turnpike toll booths, state parks, psychiatric hospitals, as well as contracting for highway maintenance work, and outsourcing workers' compensation claims and all pension, payroll, and benefit payment systems.

These recommendations, according to Christie, have saved New Jersey taxpayers over $200 million a year.

Next to the humanity of the unborn life, the principle of subsidiarity is the tenet of the Church's social teaching most ignored by Catholic politicians.  However, unlike the 6th commandment - "thou shall not kill" - subsidiarity must be applied prudentially. The principle itself is simple, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a com-munity 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 #1883)

Indeed, the Catechism is unambiguous in its claim that Catholics should uphold subsidiarity to offset one of the dangers of socialization, i.e., an "excessive intervention by the State" threatening "personal freedom and initiative" (CCC#1882-1883).

Christie has also sought to keep the burden of funding government from growing any further - he has proposed a constitutional amendment capping property tax increases at 2.5 percent above the prior year's receipts. Christie explains, "That's 2.5 percent growth in total for everything - municipal tax, county tax, and school tax. There is only one exception to this cap - to pay required debt service."

The New Jersey governor's further reliance on subsidiarity can be found in his 2010 speech supporting "parental choice" in education at American Federation of Children's National Policy Summit Dinner in Washington, DC. Legislation has already been introduced that would provide vouchers to students at "chronically failing schools," like the ones in Newark that Christie described as "absolutely disgraceful."

There were doubts raised during the campaign about Christie's pro-life commitment, but those credentials were solidified by his eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood from the 2011 New Jersey budget. State Democrats are already pushing to restore the more than $7 million in funding despite an $11 billion dollar deficit next year (the state has been on the verge of bankruptcy).

It's often said that some Catholic commentators focus too much on life and marriage issues, relegating prudential matters too far into the background. Gov. Christie's performance provides an opportunity to reflect on the longer view of a Catholic in politics, as well as a good reason not to count Christie out for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Gov. Christie represents a pro-life Catholic politician drawing upon the principle of subsidiarity to make budgetary and policy choices that look to the private sector, not the federal government, for solutions to pressing problems.

Those Catholic members of Congress, well over a majority of them, who supported the President in his passage of Obamacare, the 2010 Patient and Affordable Care Act, however, ignored the principle of subsidiarity, and now that the sign-up "deadline" has passed, the insurance debacle is a matter of public record.

I think of what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his eloquent passage about subsidiarity in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

Subsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies. Such assistance is offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own, and it is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others. By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state.

The Holy Father here articulates precisely the fear among many Americans fostered by the new health-care legislation in 2010; fears now becoming a reality as reports come in daily about the impossibility of joining online and the dramatic rise of individual, family, and business health insurance.  Any solution to the problems in our nation's health-care system that eliminates personal responsibility and participation is the opposite of what subsidiarity demands, and that solution is destined for failure.

Human well-being, as taught in the Catholic tradition, is always a product of action, of an individual's active participation in the acquiring of the basic goods necessary to life. Subsidiarity begins with the recognition that, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative" (1883).

One final point: Some commenters have muddied the waters by comparing the Church's teaching on subsidiarity to the non-negotiable moral teachings on abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage, implying that Catholics need not always add subsidiarity to their judgments about foreign policy.

It's true that the principle of subsidiarity is not a moral act, and thus is not comparable to an act like abortion. But it should never be ignored as a way of viewing the relationship between individual well-being and the various levels of institutions and governments that exert influence and authority over our thoughts and actions. Gov. Christie's success, due to employing subsidiarity in contrast to the massive failure of Obamacare due to its rejection of subsidiarity, proves once again the wisdom of Catholic social teaching.

If subsidiarity is forgotten, if individual liberty and responsibility are not protected, then tyranny is inevitable; and with tyranny will come heinous moral crimes as well. Subsidiarity acts as a kind of nonstop watchman of, and advocate for, human freedom.

Thus, to ignore the Church's principle of subsidiarity is no moral crime per se, but it encourages habits of dependency and the avoidance of responsibility that undermine human dignity.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.


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

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Politics & Policy

What to expect from tonight's debate: a Clinton charm offensive Watch

Image of If Hillary Clinton charms the audience, the nomination will be hers.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Tonight's first Democratic debate will be a make-or-break event for all of the contenders. In contrast with the Republican debates, where nearly three dozen people have cast their hat into the ring and all are simply jockeying for recognition, the first Democratic ... continue reading

Gennifer Flowers expresses her fears from the Clinton Crime Family Watch

Image of

By David Drudge, The California Network (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Gennifer Flowers is back in the spotlight and this time she is going after Hillary Clinton, referring to her claims that Clinton is campaigning on behalf of women "a joke." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Gennifer Flowers spoke out against Hillary Clinton last ... continue reading

All pork products banned from federal prisons, by order of Obama Administration Watch

Image of The Bureau of Prisons maintains the food supply of 206,000 federal inmates, and runs 122 federal penitentiaries. Inmates are served three meals a day. Authorities say that the pork ban was based upon a survey conducted by inmates.


In a move that seems suspiciously Muslim in nature, the Obama administration has banned all pork products in federal prisons. The federal Bureau of Prisons, a subdivision of President Barack Obama's Justice Department, is following the edict. The administration ... continue reading

NOT EVEN CLOSE: Obama administration falls short of ending child hunger in the U.S. Watch

Image of A pledge, on the part of U.S. President Barack Obama to eradicate childhood hunger in the United States by 2015, has fallen noticeably short.


A pledge, on the part of U.S. President Barack Obama to eradicate childhood hunger in the United States by 2015, has fallen noticeably short. "Needless to say, the nation is not close to eliminating childhood hunger in this - the target - year," Food Research ... continue reading

Kevin McCarthy quits speaker race amid allegations of affair with Renee Ellmers Watch

Image of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pictured with Renee Ellmers (R-NC)


According to Washington insiders, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is having an affair with Renee Ellmers (R-NC). McCarthy dropped out of the Speaker race, and may have done so because an unknown insider is circulating a surveillance video on Capitol Hill, of him dining with ... continue reading

President Obama faces uphill battle with Pacific Rim trade pact Watch

Image of The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being battered on both sides of the right and the left in the U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

United States President Barack Obama has hailed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the largest free-trade agreement in a generation, as its completions will open new markets for U.S. goods and services. While Obama says the agreement will give "our workers the fair ... continue reading

California Governor Jerry Brown signs 'End of Life Option Act' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the "End of Life Option Act" into law this week. While he remained largely ambiguous about the bill, he came forward with the statement that the "Crux of the matter is whether the state of California should continue to ... continue reading

Trans-Pacific Partnership faces criticism in Congress Watch

Image of Citizen protests the Trans Pacific Partnership (AFP).


The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership has been finalized and will be presented to business leaders by US President Barack Obama. However, Congress has already shown skepticism over the pact. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Twelve countries in the Pacific Rim ... continue reading

#IAmaChristian: Ben Carson honors the Oregon shooting's fallen students Watch

Image of Ben Carson (Facebook).


Nine were shot dead during the recent horrifying shooting at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon where a student claimed the gunman specifically targeted the religious. Following the claim, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson started a social ... continue reading

Supreme Court to render decisions on sensitive topics of abortion, birth control, race Watch

Image of An even more pressing issue to go before the court will be the issue of religious freedom coupled with President Obama's health care reform.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Supreme Court is rolling up its sleeves to render decisions that have long roiled the United States: abortion, birth control, religious freedom, and race. None of the pending decisions is likely to have the same import as the recent decision regarding ... continue reading

All Politics & Policy News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 1:16-25
16 For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel; ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:37-41
37 He had just finished speaking when a Pharisee ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 13th, 2015 Image

St. Edward the Confessor
October 13: Edward the Confessor was the son of King Ethelred III and his ... Read More