Posts tagged with: subsidiarity

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Today at Ethika Politika, I examine the longstanding claim of the Roman Catholic Church that the universal character of the common good in our present era necessitates a world political authority. The problem, I argue, lies in the tradition’s too closely identifying the good of political communities with the common good.

The recently canonized Pope John XXIII, for example, states that “[p]ublic authority” is “the means of promoting the common good in civil society” (Pacem in Terris, 136, emphasis mine). And Pope Benedict XVI continued the call made by John XXIII for a “world political authority” in Caritas in Veritate, specifically recommending that the U.N. be “vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights” (57, emphasis mine). The problem with the U.N., to the popes, is that it is not powerful enough.

In response, I write,

I would worry about a U.N. or any other global political authority endowed with such great power and means. If nation states have failed to ensure the global common good, as the pope admits, why should we expect a global government to be free from error in this regard? The only difference would be that the mistakes of such politicians would necessarily have global consequences. I like my U.N. nearly ineffective and mostly powerless, thank you very much. If anything, to ensure subsidiarity, the larger the political authority, the less power and means it should have. (more…)

innovation educationIt is not often that Sojourners president Jim Wallis puts forth ideas that align with those of the Acton Institute. However, in a recent interview, Wallis (touting his new book, Uncommon Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided) said that he recognizes that there are three keys to ending poverty: work and economic activity, innovation, education. He also says his hometown of Detroit has a big lesson to teach us:

Detroit shows that the government isn’t enough,” said Wallis. “The book talks about how we’ve got to talk about the common good as societal ethic which means our congregations, our neighborhood organizations, our non-profits, the private sector … and government.”

What Wallis is talking about, of course, is subsidiarity: the tenet of Catholic social teaching that says the smallest and closest entity to a problem should be the one to take care of the situation. A family raises a child, not the state. A school board decides curriculum, not the national government. Wallis wants to split issues and ideas into “conservative” and “liberal” camps, but really there are only good ideas and bad ones. For instance, he says personal responsibility is a “conservative” fix for poverty, and “social responsibility: taking care of not just ourselves but taking care of each other” is a “liberal” idea. Yet both of these are part of subsidiarity: we take care of ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our communities. (more…)

stronger economyIs a “profit alone” mentality enough for a business or for a nation? If the economy is running well, should we bother to look any deeper, or just leave well enough alone?

Carly Andrews, at Aleteia, says profit alone isn’t good enough, based upon a presentation that professors Alberto Quadrio Curzio and Giovanni Marseguerra made at a recent Vatican conference. The pair spoke primarily about three parts of Catholic social teaching that they believe would help the global economy.

Examined first is the issue of subsidiarity. This is the teaching that says those closest to an issue or problem should be the ones to deal with it. For instance, local church food banks are best equipped to assess needs in their area, know where to get food, what types of food are best for their consumers, etc.

In a call for subsidiarity we therefore see a call – to some extent – for government decentralization, that is, a limited government, allowing for an increase in personal freedom and responsibility, which prof. Curzio and Marseguirra claim puts the “creativity of the person” into action, “stimulating the participation of social intermediary bodies, including communities, in the production of goods and services and constructing and aggregating in solidarity.”

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buddiesThere is a lot of talk about “closing the gap” and overcoming “income inequality.” Some of it is pure socialism: Redistribute! Redistribute! Others look for ways to create jobs and help people create new financial opportunities for themselves.

But what about the simple gift of friendship?

At The American Conservative, Gracy Olmstead suggests that friendship can bridge income gaps, and creates safety nets for people in ways government and even private agencies cannot. We all have close friends and family we know we can count on, but Olmstead (quoting Richard Beck) says “weak ties” must not be overlooked. “Weak ties” would be that sorority sister you actually haven’t laid eyes on in 12 years, but talk to daily on Facebook, or that second cousin you only see at family weddings and funerals.

Weak ties—distant relatives, acquaintances from our neighborhood or past—are usually more diverse in their background, tastes, and employment. This wider “social web” gives us philanthropic ammunition: when you see someone in need, you don’t just bring your own talents and gifts to the table. You bring everyone you’ve ever met—”Bluntly, you might not be able to help this person in a particular situation but you might know someone else who can. In sacramental friendships you are bringing the gift of your weak ties.”

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Religion & Ethics Newsweekly featured the following video on Dorothy Day. Her cause for canonization in the Catholic Church has been championed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who says Day’s life represents so much of the struggle of our times.

So there was sexual immorality, there was a religious search, and there was a pregnancy out of wedlock and an abortion. Her life, of course, like Saul on the way to Damascus, was radically changed when she became introduced to Jesus Christ and his church, and after that she became an apostle.

The Catholic Worker Movement, which Day founded, continues to feed people across the globe, and has never received government funding. It remains both a local organization, staffed by neighborhood folks, and an international community, reaching nations like Uganda and Scotland. Day is described in this piece as an “independent woman” who looked for guidance from the community of saints.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, December 13, 2013

Concepts you should know about, explained in five minutes (or less).

Leo Linbeck III, President and CEO of Aquinas Companies, provides a description of subsidiarity and its importance in American governance.

Tea-Party-Catholic-196x300Kathryn Jean Lopez, at National Review Online, has interviewed Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, on his newest book, Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Human Flourishing, a Free Economy and Human Flourishing. To begin, Lopez asks Gregg about the title of the book.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Tell us about the title of the book. Does the Tea Party have anything to do with the Catholic Church?

SAMUEL GREGG: Tea Party Catholic itself has very little to say about the contemporary tea-party movement. But for those Americans who haven’t imbibed Progressivist ideology and who don’t think that the real America began when Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, the expression “tea party” is an especially evocative phrase. It immediately conjures up in people’s minds the American Revolution, the American Founding, and the American experiment in ordered liberty.

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Fr. C John McCloskey, research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, recently reviewed Sam Gregg’s Tea Party Catholic at the National Catholic Register. In “Life, Liberty and Faith,” McCloskey says, “Gregg builds an argument for free economy and human flourishing that is a must-read, regardless of your political affiliation or whether you are Catholic or a serious Christian concerned about the rapidly diminishing religious liberty in the United States.”

McCloskey points out at the book focuses on the only Catholic founding father, Charles Carroll. He quotes a letter that Carroll wrote to James McHenry, “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time.” The review continues:

In short, Carroll is telling McHenry (and us), that, for a free country to flourish or even survive over the centuries, its populace has to live a Christian life and strive to follow the commandments and the beatitudes as they come down to us from Scripture, based on the authority of the Catholic Church (even though Carroll does not mention Catholicism by name in the letter to McHenry).

Gregg argues for a return to the concept of subsidiarity for human flourishing.

He writes, “Though an important form of social organization, government is only one of a number of communities and should not displace or absorb the responsibilities properly assumed by individuals, businesses, clubs and other forms of non-state association. Subsidiarity tells us we should not automatically look to government. … When no other group can render assistance in the appropriate form of help, the state may need to become involved.”

Gregg makes his case well that only religiously derived morals, faith and economic liberty can bring the United States out of the death spiral in which it is caught.

Spread the word.

Read the entire review here. For a free excerpt and more information about the book, visit TeaPartyCatholic.com

greek foodGreece is, economically, a mess. With a youth unemployment rate exceeding 65 percent, leaving two-thirds of the nation’s young people unable to find a job, there is not much to celebrate in a country where family life – like many cultures – revolves around meals. Greece is also facing a sharp decline in population. Here is a story of what happens when people who love to cook, but have no one to cook for, meet people who love to eat, but have little money for food. (more…)

Helping Hands sculpture, Mandela Gardens, Leeds - DSC07707Earlier this week, Elise noted an essay by Rev. Schall, which asked, “Do Christians Love Poverty?”

Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Reporter also responded to the piece, with the comment, “Almost everything about this essay is obnoxious.”

But I think Winters really misses the central insight of Schall’s piece, which really is an Augustinian point:

A person who sorrows for someone who is miserable earns approval for the charity he shows, but if he is genuinely merciful he would far rather there were nothing to sorrow about. If such a thing as spiteful benevolence existed (which is impossible, of course, but supposing it did), a genuinely and sincerely merciful person would wish others to be miserable so that he could show them mercy!

Thus Augustine explores the implications of such “spiteful benevolence,” which I understand to be the basic point of Schall’s piece. Schall therefore wonders, “Do Christians love poverty as such, as a positive good? Do they want people to be poor so that they can be loveable?”

The spiritual danger of a love for others turning into a lust for dominating power is a real one, even if Winters doesn’t acknowledge it. What Augustine and Schall are really looking for is an attitude toward help that humanizes, one that doesn’t foster dependency in order to keep people in a state of misery, intentionally or not, directly or indirectly. This reality is the kind of loving help that the doctrine of subsidiarity is supposed to engender.

One of the implications of this insight that there is spiritual danger in doing good is that we should always be asking whether our helping is actually hurting.