Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

6/11/2014 (1 month ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When the right views government itself as the problem, the right goes wrong. When the left offers federalized government as the solution, the left goes wrong.

There has been an increasing discussion of solidarity these days. It is long overdue. We are our brother and sisters keeper. However, there has been very little discussion about the principle of subsidiarity. My experience has been that many Catholics do not even know that there is such a principle within the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. Instead, they borrow rhetoric from the political left or the political right in discussing - or dismissing - the proper role and function of government. When they do only that, they fail to offer a Catholic contribution to a much needed discussion of the proper role of government.

God governs. He invites us all into this effort. We were made to give ourselves in love and service to the other; to form families, associations, societies and communities of interest - and to build mediating associations through which governing occurs most effectively, compassionately and fruitfully. Each in their proper role, the participants in the overall governing enterprise are empowered to serve the common good while respecting the role of the individual,enterprise, freedom, and the primacy of the family. Catholics should affirm that we are not fully human unless we are in relationship with one another. We are, by both nature and grace, social.

God governs. He invites us all into this effort. We were made to give ourselves in love and service to the other; to form families, associations, societies and communities of interest - and to build mediating associations through which governing occurs most effectively, compassionately and fruitfully. Each in their proper role, the participants in the overall governing enterprise are empowered to serve the common good while respecting the role of the individual,enterprise, freedom, and the primacy of the family. Catholics should affirm that we are not fully human unless we are in relationship with one another. We are, by both nature and grace, social.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/11/2014 (1 month ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: subsidiarity, solidarity, social justice, social doctrine, libertariansim, socialism, distributivism, economics, liberal, conservative, left, right, government, mediating associations, Deacon Keith Fournier


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - There has been an increasing discussion of solidarity these days. It is long overdue. We are our brother and sisters keeper. However, there has been very little discussion about the principle of subsidiarity.

My experience has been that many Catholics do not even know that there is such a principle within the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. Instead, they borrow rhetoric from the political left or the political right in discussing - or dismissing - the proper role and function of government.

When they do only that, they fail to offer a Catholic contribution to a much needed discussion of the proper role of government.

If you listen to some on what is called the political right you often hear a version of libertarianism which can become anti-government. It places the individual at the foundation of an understanding of freedom. It sees freedom as a freedom from and not a freedom for. In fact, it is predicated on a poor anthropology.

Finally, this kind of individualism is at odds with the helpful insights, so well summarized in the Catholic Catechism, which I offer at the end of this article.

Often the proponents of this sort of autonomous individualism paraphrase the American founders to imply that the existence of government itself is the problem.

For example, some quote slogans such as "he who governs best governs least", the source of which is unclear, and use it to hide an actual disdain for government.

I certainly understand a suspicion of big government, especially an overly federalized government - in fact I share it.

However, sometimes this kind of language reveals a failure to understand the need for - and value of - government itself. When the right views government itself as the problem, the right goes wrong.

If you listen to some on what is often called the political left, they want to federalize everything. They think that our obligation in solidarity always means establishing more federal government programs. When the left offers federalized government as the solution, the left goes wrong.

They have forgotten the role of the individual, the family and mediating institutions - and their vital roles in governing.  Further, they can tend lose sight of our personal obligation to promote the common good - by substituting big government for personal obligation and charity.

Finally, those who promote big government solutions as the answer to the social obligation are wrong when they question the empathy of anyone who disagrees with them on the efficacy or compassion of big government.

Those on the political left who support a collectivist and statist model of government can end up threatening human freedom, initiative, creativity and the human flourishing which they all promote.

They can also end up undermining the role of mediating institutions, the first of which is the family, the smallest governing unit and first vital cell of society.

An overly federalized form of big government is a disaster waiting to happen morally, politically, socially and economically. The bad fruit is all around us as our own nation moves toward a form of collectivism. 

Catholics should affirm that governing is actually meant to be something good. They should forge a new language for a public debate on this vital area of public policy.

God governs. He invites us all into this effort. We were made to give ourselves in love and service to the other; to form families, associations, societies and communities of interest - and to build mediating associations through which governing occurs most effectively, compassionately and fruitfully.

Each in their proper role, the participants in the overall governing enterprise are empowered to serve the common good while respecting the role of the individual,enterprise, freedom, and the primacy of the family.

Catholics should affirm that we are not fully human unless we are in relationship with one another. We are, by both nature and grace, social.

Freedom and human flourishing are not found in a notion of the isolated individual as the ground of human freedom. We were made for communion.

We truly are neighbors and we truly are called to stand together in solidarity. We truly are responsible for one another and must build societies which further humanize us and enable us to live in peace together.

The first society is the family. It is there where we learn socialization and are schooled in the virtues which make good citizenship even possible. Thus the family must always be the guide, polestar and measuring stick for any broader social or governing structure.

The family is the first government, the first school, the first church and the first mediating institution. 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 question of governance really comes down to whether government is good, in several senses. Here are but a few.

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 and method of governing proposed 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 citizens?

Is the means and method 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 associations by deferring first to them, providing assistance and help before assigning the task it attempts to accomplish to the centralized or federal government? (Subsidiarity is derived from the Latin subsiduum - to provide help or assistance- not usurp)

Catholics should be leery of the rhetoric of the right when it mis-characterizes government as somehow dangerous, freedom robbing - or even downright evil.

We should also be leery of the rhetoric of the left when it promotes forms of collectivism as government.

It is time for Catholics to take the principles set forth in the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church and lead a discussion of good government which serves the common good.

We need good government.

Good government recognizes fundamental human rights, the first of which is the right to life, as endowed by the Creator and not manufactured by civil government. The proper role of government is to secure and protect those rights and not violate or usurp them.

Good government acknowledges the vital and indispensable role of mediating institutions and associations in governance, beginning with the family. It includes churches, charities, associations, and local governing bodies.

It defers to and respects their function and does not usurp their primacy.

The family and other mediating institutions are the best place for government to first occur. 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.

Now, let's consider an application of what I have proposed in my discussion above. What follows is my personal opinion.

Beside the horrid violation of the fundamental human right to life and the right to religious freedom which infects the "Affordable Care Act", thereby rendering it an unjust law, I have long maintained that it also violates the principle of subsidiarity.

It is NOT an example of good government. In fact, the HHS Mandate is but one example of what can happen when big government is left unchecked.

We certainly need to reform health care in the United States of America. However, we need a vehicle for the delivery of health care services which defers to the family, utilizes the mediating associations and respects human and economic freedom.

It will be through a discussion of good government and subsidiarity, that an alternative to the massive federalized model of the Affordable Care Act can be found.

The Federal Government should be the last place, not the first place, to which we should look in our efforts to fashion a truly just and humane society.

It is also the last place we should look to as we build an effective and just model of self government. Does it have a role? Yes, but the principle of subsidiarity must always be carefully applied and all forms of collectivism must be rejected.

I certainly hope some discussion of the proper role and means of governance comes up in the 2014 Congressional campaign and the 2016 presidential campaign which follows immediately on its heels.

It is desperately needed. Catholics should lead the way in offering such a discussion if we really care about furthering the true common good.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes some observations concerning society. I conclude with them:

"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 government 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)

---


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


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More U.S.

Deacon Keith Fournier: The Courage of the Catholic Bishops, Religious Liberty, Hobby Lobby and ENDA Watch

Image of Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate. Deacon Fournier is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Theology and Philosophy, BA), the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University (Theology of Marriage and Family, MTS), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (JD). He has completed requirements for the PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America and is writing the PhD dissertation on the teaching of St. John Paul II.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Catholic Bishops are doing an excellent job standing up for Religious liberty as a fundamental human right. One of my growing concerns is that many Catholics do not even read what they are saying. Sadly, in a propagandized media where sound bites substitute ... continue reading


Thousands of Christians Flee Under Death Threat From Tyrannical Caliph and ISIS Jihadists Watch

Image of (Pictured: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, or Caliph Ibrahim) At first, Christians were ordered to gather in a central place to receive the directive from the self appointed Caliph. Understandably, given the track record of this maniacal tyrant, few did. So, the text of the statement was issued as a formal declaration to all Christians - We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of Jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

By now, everyone who is in anyway concerned about what is happening to Christians in Iraq has heard the horrific news. The madman who claims to be a descendant of Mohammed, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi - who in his delusion and grandiosity has taken to calling himself ... continue reading


Catholic Bishops Decry Obama's LGBT executive order as imprudent act of religious discrimination Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth have been strong in their condemnation of President Obama's legislation on LGBT employees. "Today's ... continue reading


A Tribute to Protestant Bishop Tony Palmer, Friend of Francis and Champion of Christian Unity Watch

Image of The late Bishop Tony Palmer with Pope Francis- He was catapulted into prominence in the broader Christian community when, while meeting with his friend the Pope in January, he was given a recorded message from Francis to deliver to a large group of charismatic, evangelical protestant leaders who gathered in the United States. The video went viral. It moved millions to sincere prayer for the healing of the divisions in the broken Body of Christ and is prompting a renewed commitment to common apostolic action between Christians.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I never personally met Bishop Tony Palmer. However, I look forward to spending an eternity in the full communion of God's love with him. I appreciated his Christian courage and felt that his efforts were prophetic. He wrote his life - and lived his ministry - ... continue reading


Exclusive: Tribute to Bishop Tony Palmer, A Life Dedicated to Unity Watch

Image of (Pictured: Left to Right - Dirk West, Matteo Callisi, Bishop Tony Palmer, and Deacon Darrell Wentworth) - Faith to Bishop Tony Palmer was a dynamic, lived experience and, as a result, his life built up the whole Body of Christ and tore down the walls some have built to separate us from each other! What a legacy! A true example of living Jesus' prayer in John 17! (Deacon Darrell Wentworth)

By Deacon Darrell Wentworth

Monday, July 21, 2014, was supposed to be like most Mondays - the start of a work week. But Deacon Keith Fournier sent me a text informing me that my friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, had died. Shock went through my body as I processed that news; then disbelief as I ... continue reading


Anarchy in Chicago! Weekend of crime tears city apart Watch

Image of The weekend of July 18 saw the death of five people and the wounding of 47 in Chicago.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There were 47 shooting victims in Chicago this weekend, five of which ended up being fatal, statistics from the Chicago Police Department report. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chicago officials met on July 21 to discuss the city's recent surge in gun ... continue reading


The Contraceptive New York Nanny, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The idea that the government is now in the business of arm-twisting women not to have more children - immediately after childbirth - is morally obnoxious and socially disturbing. It is so apt that this is happening in a city where its mayor lusts for abortion ... continue reading


Building a culture of life: Colorado clinic takes brave stand Watch

Image of Inspired to bring their mission home to Colorado, they decided to start a natural women's health clinic that would uphold the dignity of women and give them the care they deserve.

By CNA/EWTN News

A Colorado women's health clinic seeking to offer natural care that respects human dignity has drawn praise for helping to build up a culture of life. (CNA/EWTN News) - Authentic women's care "is essential to the pro-life movement," said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, ... continue reading


When more than 80 percent of California faces extreme drought -- the spigots remain open Watch

Image of At the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, fountains are still operating. The one change is that they turn off at mid-morning, and haven't been running full-time since the spring.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Extremely dry conditions in the state of California has 80 percent of the so-called Golden State in extreme drought conditions. Many couldn't tell the difference in many urban areas: Sprinklers go full blast on many lawns, and lots of waters goes wasted by ... continue reading


IT'S ABOUT TIME: Rick Perry deploys national guard to halt southern invasion! Watch

Image of Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border, in an effort to stem the flood of illegals that have crossed over throughout 2014.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In an effort to stem the influx of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children that have been entering the United States illegally in 2014, Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13
1 The word of Yahweh came to me, saying,2 ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 36:6-7, 8-9, 10-11
6 your saving justice is like towering mountains, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:10-17
10 Then the disciples went up to him and asked, 'Why ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 24th, 2014 Image

St. John Boste
July 24: One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He was born at ... 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