Posts tagged with: Patrick Brennan

Blog author: jballor
Friday, December 7, 2012

Patrick Brennan graciously noted my engagement with his piece on subsidiarity, charitably calling it “substantive.” He takes issue, however, with my pace Brennan.” He rightly responds that “the very point of the book to which my chapter is a contribution is a ‘comparative’ perspective on subsidiarity.” He continues, “My assigned task in writing the chapter was to tell the what subsidiarity means in Catholic social doctrine, period.”

To clarify, it seems to me that Brennan is quite ably articulating and explicating a particularly vigorous and metaphysically robust version of subsidiarity often associated with Catholic social teaching, and particularly the neo-Thomist revival of the previous two centuries. My quibble, and I’m not sure if it amounts to much more than that, is with the idea that this is identical to “what subsidiarity means in Catholic social doctrine, period.”

In the papers linked in the previous post I do make more specific claims with respect to subsidiarity in “other” traditions, particularly the Reformed. But given the shared medieval (and even to a great extent the early modern) background and the diversity there, I do wonder whether that more robust, ontologically-freighted version of subsidiarity is the only version at play in the specifically Roman Catholic tradition, either before or after 1891.

Earlier this week we noted that Patrick Brennan posted a paper, “Subsidiarity in the Tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine,” which unpacks some of the recent background and implications for the use of the principle in Catholic social thought. As Brennan observes, “Although present in germ from the first Christian century, Catholic social thought began to emerge as a unified body of doctrine in the nineteenth century….” Brennan goes on to highlight the particularly Thomistic roots of the doctrine of subsidiarity, “a new idea creatively culled from the depths of the Catholic philosophical and theological tradition that had roots in Greek philosophical speculation.”

While recognizing the innovativeness of Taparelli’s thought and the genius of 19th and 20th century revivals of neo-Thomism, it is also worth noting the basic “catholicity,” or universality, of a doctrine like subsidiarity within the broader Christian tradition. If Christian social thought has been around since the first century, then so have its constitutive elements, in more or less developed form. And pace Brennan, it is not clear to me that there is one univocal version of subsidiarity, at least as it arises out of the early modern period.

With this in mind, I have just posted two papers that explore the early modern backgrounds of subsidiarity and related concepts like natural law which focus particularly on the provenance of these ideas in the Reformed tradition.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

“The world thinks of the state’s sovereignty in terms of power; Catholic social doctrine understands the state to be in service to all,” says Patrick Brennan, a professor of law at Villanova University. Brennan has a new paper, ‘Religious Freedom,’ the Individual Mandate, and Gifts: On Why the Church is Not a Bomb Shelter.’ From the abstract:

The Health and Human Services’ regulatory requirement that all but a narrow set of “religious” employers provide contraceptives to employees is an example of what Robert Post and Nancy Rosenblum refer to as a growing “congruence” between civil society’s values and the state’s legally enacted policy. Catholics and many others have resisted the HHS requirement on the ground that it violates “religious freedom.” They ask (in the words of Cardinal Dolan) to be “left alone” by the state. But the argument to be “left alone” overlooks or suppresses the fact that the Catholic Church understands that it is its role to correct and transform society, not merely to be left alone in a gilded cage. This paper uses the HHS mandate as a vehicle by which to clarify the Catholic understanding of the ideal — but currently mostly unachievable — relationship between Church and state: the state should receive its principles from the Church, not the Church from the state. Social justice and subsidiarity disallow a state that reduces the Church to the status of a bomb shelter. Leviathan is happy to have the Church out of sight and out of mind.

You can download the paper here.