Subsidiarity and the Social Doctrine

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money [to spend]." Margaret Thatcher

“Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” G. K. Chesterton

Subsidiarity in the Gospels

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A study guide for Subsidiarity with His Holiness Benedict XVI using his address to the 14th Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences


The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was established in 1994 by Pope John Paul II. It is headquartered in the Casina Pio IV in the Vatican.

The four fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 160-163).

“Inspiring Christians to embrace more readily their obligation to enhance solidarity with and among their fellow citizens, and to act upon the principle of subsidiarity by promoting family life, voluntary associations, private initiative, and a public order that facilitates the healthy functioning of society’s most basic communities.”

U.S. Constitution History:
A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it."

The word "republic" comes from the Latin res publica — which means simply "the public thing(s)," or more simply "the law(s)." As opposed to a pure democracy which always ends in mob, I mean, majority rule.

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Ben Franklin at the birth of our nation.

Outline by Paragraphs

1) The Academy is committed to research, dialogue, and teaching in the areas of law, economics, politics and the various other social sciences.
2) The purpose of Catholic social teachings is to foster sustainable growth, development, and protecting the environment, reduce inequalities in distribution, and expanding education opportunities.
3) Defining Human dignity, common good, solidarity, and subsidiarity.
4) Simple definitions are only the beginning to understanding the social doctrine.
5) A graphic analogy of the fundamental principles of social teaching.
6) These fundamental principals have the potential to place humanity to its supernatural destiny.
7) The eyes of faith to see solidarity with the whole earth and with heaven.
8) The viewing the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity in light of the Gospel.
9) Subsidiarity encourages men and women to enter freely into life-giving relationships.
10) Jesus has taught us how to live here on earth and has shown us the way to perfect communion with one another and God.

"But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm... But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity."
James Madison, Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788

Using the Pope’s Cover for analysis and application of Subsidiarity.

Read Luke 10:25-37 and the Pope’s cover.

Benedict chooses the Good Samaritan parable to introduce Catholic social doctrine. The topical relevance is clear; to become a brother to all we meet. The Church teaches that we must provide for our neighbors through works of Mercy. There are fourteen such works. Spiritual works include convert, instruct, counsel, comfort, bear wrongs, forgive, and pray. Corporal works are to feed, give drink, clothe, shelter, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. In these fourteen works we also have a blue print for examples in subsidiarity.

Just imagine how many of the works of Mercy could have been performed by all three who passed by instead of just several works by the Good Samaritan alone. The good works by the Samaritan may have been wasted because the other two didn’t attempt to convert, instruct, counsel, forgive, or pray for example. This is a great example of subsidiarity in the Gospel! Society and its works start and end at the lowest order. And everyone has been given special and different talents in works of mercy.

This Samaritan parable was a response from Jesus to a Jewish lawyer who was testing him and trying to justify himself. Why didn’t Jesus just tell the lawyer to petition the Roman authorities to legislate a welfare state to provide for all of the down trodden? Being a lawyer Jesus could have asked him to author the legislation himself. The Rabbi and the Levite where prominent members in Jewish society, Jesus could have admonished them for lack of political will or government oversight in protecting and providing for its people and visitors. No, Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself and all of humanity is your neighbor. Works of Mercy is where the rubber hits the road and any assistance from any higher order is just that---assistance.

Not living out all four foundamental principals of the social doctrine whether by neglect or by our choosing we have robbed and plundered our heritage along with our neighbor.

Questions for understanding

1.) Review the outline provided, does the Pope highlight any possible forms of government? Why or why not? CCC 2245, 2246
2.) Study the two Graphics at the beginning of this study guide. If any of the four fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching are neglected or missing in application how healthy will the tree of life be? How well will the beach house stand up to storms?

A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
James Madison, Federalist No. 51, February 8, 1788
There are certain social principles in human nature, from which we may draw the most solid conclusions with respect to the conduct of individuals and of communities. We love our families more than our neighbors; we love our neighbors more than our countrymen in general. The human affections, like solar heat, lose their intensity as they depart from the centre... On these principles, the attachment of the individual will be first and for ever secured by the State governments. They will be a mutual protection and support.
Alexander Hamilton, speech at the New York Ratifying Convention, June, 1788

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