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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Which Founding Father was Catholic?

"Charles Carroll is relatively unknown among American Catholics, yet he was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence. Why don't Catholics know about this Catholic Founding Father?

Thanks, Josh, very much for interviewing me, especially about a subject as important as Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Certainly, in his own time, Carroll was well known. John Adams even believed he would be remembered as one of the great founders, one of the greatest men of his day. Given that Adams had men such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in mind, this is not faint praise. At the time, the Carrolls (Charles and his cousin John the first Roman Catholic bishop in America) were also regarded as the two great leaders of Roman Catholics in America.

But, I think Roman Catholics are as susceptible to memory loss as any other American. So, as with most Americans, American Catholics have unfortunately forgotten their history. A couple of excellent books on Catholic history in America exist – I think immediately of John McGreevy’s American Catholicism.

But after a while it wasn’t much of a secret that Charles Carroll was “First Citizen.”

Without question, Josh. While anti-Catholicism continued, to be sure, Carroll almost single-handedly proved to the Maryland population that a Catholic could be a good citizen, an intelligent citizen and a defender of liberty."

"Your book is called American Cicero. Why do you think this is apt title for Charles Carroll?

Throughout the entirety of Charles Carroll’s life, he regarded Cicero as one of his two closest friends. His other close friend was his father. Carroll believed himself to be in constant conversation with Cicero because of Cicero’s works, which Carroll considered the second greatest set of writings in history, bested only by the Bible. In this, Carroll – in his life, his mind, and his soul – almost perfectly blended the humane with the Christian, forming a solid Christian Humanism and offering a serious Christian Humanism to the first fifty years of American history and culture.

One can see Cicero’s influence on Carroll in the American’s defense of the republic and traditional republicanism, in his understanding of liberty and order, and in his very humane perception of the world.

Did other Founding Fathers hold Carroll in high esteem, or was he considered an outcast because of his Catholicism?

Both. The Founders, as far as I know, greatly respected Carroll. Adams called him one of the best of his generation; Washington considered him a friend and a vital political ally; Jefferson sought him out for financial advice; Madison turned to him and the Maryland Senate Carroll created as the model for the U.S. Senate; and Hamilton thought he might be the best successor to Washington as president. Regardless, it’s very difficult to find unadulterated praise of Carroll. For, no matter what Carroll’s virtues, the other Founders always had to add “... for a Papist” when describing him.

In addition to buying your book, what other ways can Catholics promote the life of this great Catholic American patriot?

Oh, I like this suggestion, Josh! Thanks.

The best way to honor Carroll, at least from my perspective, would be to honor what he believed in. Catholics should be taking the lead in a revival of the liberal arts, republican theory and constitutional reform, and ideas of order and liberty. Our Church, after all, not only sanctified the pagan world and the classical learning of antiquity, but it also reached out to the pagan cultures of the world, baptizing them, bringing them into a universal understanding of the humane and just.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of English Roman Catholicism. After all, English Roman Catholics include King Alfred, Thomas a Becket, John of Salisbury, Thomas More, John Fisher, Cardinal Newman, G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Christopher Dawson. Throw in Evelyn Waugh and Alec Guinness and the many figures Joseph Pearce has so brilliantly written about in Literary Converts, and the jaw simply drops. And why not? It seems to be a perfect combination – the Catholic traditions of education and justice mixed with the humanism, common law rights and constitutionalism of the English. For Carroll, the American Revolution reformed, purified and returned the inherited English constitution and liberties to first principles. This was our inheritance and this is our greatness. It’s a beautiful burden to carry to the modern and post-modern world."

The complete Joshua Mercer interview with American Cicero author Dr. Bradley Birzer

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Human Community

It is often said that the Church should stay out of politics. And indeed the Church should refrain from partisan politics — explicitly favoring one candidate or party over another. In another sense, the Church must remain in politics, that is, the principled quest for a just and humane society that serves the common good. This is because, ultimately, we can only find happiness in community, in association with other persons endowed by God with life and dignity and called to friendship with him. In truth, the one God is a community of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since we are made in God’s image, and since Christ in some way has united himself to each person, human fraternity is modeled to some extent on the oneness of the Holy Trinity. Here we find the ultimate basis for the link between love of God and love of neighbor (Compendium, 401).
The Rule Of Law
In countries like the United States, there are intense debates about the size and scope of government institutions and programs. These debates, however, are sure to go awry when we forget that “the human person is and ought to be the principle, the subject, and the end of all social institutions” (402). In other words, social institutions should exist for the good of human beings — not the other way around. All human beings need social institutions, beginning with the family and extending to the local civic community and one’s nation. We are also increasingly linked to the international community.
Over time, the Church took up and refined the principle of subsidiarity to protect the human person from being overwhelmed and harmed by large, faceless, bureaucratic institutions and structures. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “a community of a higher order should not assume the task belonging to a community of a lower order and deprive it of its authority” (403). The most basic human structure is the family, based on the marriage of a man and woman. It is in the interest of all, including the state, that family life be strong. And as a rule, the state should not preempt parental authority, as happens for instance when laws permit minors to procure abortions without parental notification. In a well-functioning society, institutions such as national and regional governments assist and support families and local governments so that they can function well.
Because of the reality of sin, human society will always be less than perfect and even deeply flawed. Nonetheless, the cause of human freedom must be won over in every age, and instead of becoming cynical, we must continue to seek what is authentically good for ourselves, our families and our society. This means giving priority to “ethics over technology,” and acknowledging “the primacy of the person over things” and “the superiority of spirit over matter” (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 16). To retrieve these values and keep them from becoming lost, we stand in continual need of repentance, and the Church must often stand in the breach to call for changes in laws and social structures. Furthermore, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in his first encyclical, even the most just society would still require charity — providing basic necessities to those in need in a spirit of love and human respect (Deus Caritas Est, 28; Compendium, 404).
The Common Good
Many people today distrust or disrespect authority. Yet, in God’s plan, every human community, from the largest to the smallest, needs legitimate authority (405). Of course, authorities do make mistakes and sometimes break faith. The legitimate exercise of authority includes the personal integrity of leaders and requires that the common good is sought using morally licit means. Laws that are unjust and immoral “are not binding in conscience” (406). Lastly, governments are to be constituted and to function by the free decisions of citizens, and leaders should respect “the rule of law” rather than imposing their own will on others.
It is not only leaders of social institutions that have a responsibility to seek the common good; all of us must do so by living up to our vocations, by doing our work well, and by being loyal and engaged citizens. The common good is all those conditions which enable individuals and groups within society to flourish. It is best secured in communities that defend the dignity of individual citizens and promote various social institutions that truly assist citizens, while calling them to seek the good of the nation and the world as a whole (407-410).
In such a society, where authority is exercised well and wisely, social justice is more likely ensured. In other words, society is better able to help individuals and groups attain what is their due, such as the freedom to speak freely in the public square and the opportunity to pursue beneficial goals (411).
The attainment of the common good and genuine social justice is based on human solidarity. We are bound together because all persons are created in God’s image, endowed with a rational soul, share the same nature and are called by Christ to happiness in heaven (412, 414). Despite this fact, there is a growing disparity between the rich and poor, affecting millions of people. We cannot be complacent about these inequities, which are contrary to the Gospel. Instead, we must work for a more just and humane society and practice generous charity. Indeed, the principles of the Knights of Columbus — charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism — track closely the Church’s social teaching and call us to work for the common good of all.

Knights Of Columbus
Supreme Chaplain Bishop William E. Lori

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is the USCCB's problem with subidiarity?

On May 21, 2010, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a media statement which sought to identify the way forward for Catholic engagement in the healthcare debate in light of the passage of healthcare legislation. The USCCB stresses that at the core of the bishops’ advocacy throughout the debate was a concern for three principles: (1) the protection of innocent life from the use of lethal force from conception to natural death; (2) the maintenance of conscience protections; and (3) the realization of universal access to healthcare for all, especially the poor and migrants. These, the USCCB stresses, will remain at the forefront of its contributions to the healthcare discussion. The USCCB consequently asks America’s “Catholic community to come together in defense of human life, rights of conscience and fairness to immigrants so we will have a health care system that truly respects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all.”

All this is well and good. Unfortunately, there is no mention in this text of a concern voiced by a good number of Catholic bishops throughout the debate: an assessment of whether the recent healthcare legislation can truly be said to reflect adherence to the principle of subsidiarity. For anyone who needs a reminder of what this principle means, here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (CCC 1883):

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’.

It’s important to note that subsidiarity is not an “anti-government” or “anti-state” principle. Indeed it affirms that there is a role for government because (1) there are some things that only governments can and should do and (2) sometimes the state does need to intervene when other communities are unable to cope temporarily with their particular responsibilities. Nor, it should be added, does subsidiarity always translate into the very same policy-positions, precisely because some elements of the common good are in a constant state of flux.

That said, it’s puzzling to say the least that the USCCB, both during and after the healthcare debate, is not in the habit of referencing subsidiarity as a vital principle for Catholics to reflect upon as they consider the implications of what few now question amounts to the massive expansion of Federal government control over healthcare in the United States. Contrary to what some Catholics imagine (especially the professional social justice activists who dissent from fundamental church dogmas and doctrines while casting anathemas against anyone who disagrees with their own prudential judgments on any number of economic issues), striving to widen access to healthcare need not automatically translate into the state assuming a dominant role.

In their important joint pastoral letter of August 22, 2009, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph listed subsidiarity as a vital principle upon which Catholics should reflect when thinking about health care reform. They even described subsidiarity as “the preamble to the Work of Reform”. Elsewhere in the document the bishops spelt out what this means for healthcare reform:

The right of every individual to access health care does not necessarily suppose an obligation on the part of the government to provide it. Yet in our American culture, Catholic teaching about the ‘right’ to healthcare is sometimes confused with the structures of ‘entitlement.’ The teaching of the Universal Church has never been to suggest a government socialization of medical services. Rather, the Church has asserted the rights of every individual to have access to those things most necessary for sustaining and caring for human life, while at the same time insisting on the personal responsibility of each individual to care properly for his or her own health.

During the healthcare debate, a considerable number of Catholic bishops expressed similar views. Bishops Walker Nickless of Sioux City, for example, was very specific:

… the Catholic Church does not teach that ‘health care’ as such, without distinction, is a natural right. The ‘natural right’ of health care is the divine bounty of food, water, and air without which all of us quickly die. This bounty comes from God directly. None of us own it, and none of us can morally withhold it from others. The remainder of health care is a political, not a natural, right, because it comes from our human efforts, creativity, and compassion. As a political right, health care should be apportioned according to need, not ability to pay or to benefit from the care. We reject the rationing of care. Those who are sickest should get the most care, regardless of age, status, or wealth. But how to do this is not self-evident. The decisions that we must collectively make about how to administer health care therefore fall under ‘prudential judgment.’ [I]n that category of prudential judgment, the Catholic Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care. Unlike a prudential concern like national defense, for which government monopolization is objectively good – it both limits violence overall and prevents the obvious abuses to which private armies are susceptible – health care should not be subject to federal monopolization.

Preserving patient choice (through a flourishing private sector) is the only way to prevent a health care monopoly from denying care arbitrarily, as we learned from HMOs in the recent past. While a government monopoly would not be motivated by profit, it would be motivated by such bureaucratic standards as quotas and defined ‘best procedures,’ which are equally beyond the influence of most citizens. The proper role of the government is to regulate the private sector, in order to foster healthy competition and to curtail abuses. Therefore any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect. Private, religious hospitals and nursing homes, in particular, should be protected, because these are the ones most vigorously offering actual health care to the poorest of the poor.

These and similar views expressed by many bishops were dismissed as “libertarian” by whatever’s left these days of the Catholic left – as if only libertarians could possibly believe that limiting government power and encouraging private sector and civil society solutions to genuine social and economic problems are good things.

The truth, however, is that the USCCB’s professional social justice bureaucrats have a long history of playing down or even ignoring the implications of the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity isn’t, for example, even listed as one of the “Themes of Catholic Teaching” on the Justice, Peace and Development section of the USCCB’s website. It is long past the time for that to change.

Samuel Gregg

The Principle of Subsidiarity

One of the key principles of Catholic social thought is known as the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.

This is why Pope John Paul II took the “social assistance state” to task in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

In spite of this clear warning, the United States Catholic Bishops remain staunch defenders of a statist approach to social problems. They have publicly criticized recent congressional efforts to reform the welfare system by decentralizing it and removing its perverse incentives. Their opposition to the Clinton Administration’s health care plan was based solely upon its inclusion of abortion funding. They had no fundamental objection to a takeover of the health care industry by the federal government.

Why the troubling contradiction between Papal teaching and the policy recommendations of the U.S. Bishops? Part of the problem may rest with the reliance the Bishops have placed upon commentators such as Monsignor George Higgins. In the spring of 1994 Monsignor Higgins gave a lengthy talk on the principle of subsidiarity to the Albert Cardinal Meyer Lecture series. Higgins stated that the “principle of subsidiarity is concerned with the relationship of the state to other societies, not with the nature of the state itself.” This view is wrongheaded. Subsidiarity applies to all human institutions, including the state. When the federal government usurps the rights and responsibilities of state and local governments, a flagrant violation of the principle of subsidiarity has occurred. If upper echelon bureaucrats in a Cabinet department operate in a top-down manner and deny any flexibility to their subordinates, the effectiveness of this department will be diminished. Higgins’s interpretation of subsidiarity exempts the internal operation of the various levels and branches of government from any critical scrutiny.

The ultimate purpose of Higgins is to defend the welfare statist philosophy which he and his allies in organized labor have advocated for decades. This leads to serious distortions in his analysis of the principle of subsidiarity, especially in his treatment of Alexis de Tocqueville. Higgins cites de Tocqueville’s praise for voluntary associations as part of a larger discussion in which he endorses an enhanced role for government in fighting poverty. But Higgins ignores other aspects of Tocqueville’s work which would devastate his thesis. As Russell Kirk observed, Tocqueville strongly opposed the centralizing impulse which afflicts modern democracies. In accord with subsidiarity, true democracy is a product of local institutions and self-reliance. Consolidation is the weapon of tyranny, but the friend of liberty is particularism. “Among the public men of democracies, there are hardly any but men of great disinterestedness or extreme mediocrity who seek to oppose the centralization of government; the former are scarce, the latter powerless.”

Monsignor Higgins, by contrast, fails to even mention the relationship between federal, state, and local governments. Any extended discussion of the principle of subsidiarity which neglects to consider the respective roles of the state and federal governments in the American system is radically flawed. As our founding fathers made clear in The Federalist Papers, the U.S. Constitution was designed to leave many issues of great importance in the hands of the states. The federal government was to do only those things which the individual states could not effectively do for themselves. The subsidiarity principle was at work in the foundation of our nation. But from the New Deal era onwards, there has been a steady growth in federal power at the expense of the states. This has sparked a renewed interest in the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all powers not delegated to the federal government to the states.

But there is another area of Alexis de Tocqueville’s thought which runs directly counter to Monsignor Higgins’s argument. Higgins is defending the Welfare State, the prospect of which Tocqueville dreaded. Tocqueville described the system which he foresaw in terms which are chillingly similar to modern society. He predicted that modern democratic government would degenerate into a huge, paternalistic state which would guide the individual in all of his affairs and insure that all of his needs were met. “For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances; what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?”

Tocqueville strongly opposed this system because it kept the citizens in perpetual childhood. Pope John Paul II criticized the Welfare State in Centesimus Annus for the same reason. However, Monsignor Higgins does not even address the Pope’s critique. He makes one passing reference to it before directing the attention of his hearers elsewhere. Higgins cites Gregory Baum’s argument that the principle of subsidiarity has been complemented by the principle of socialization, first elaborated by Pope John XXIII. Baum defines subsidiarity as “de-centralization” and socialization as “centralization”. In other words, in this view, Catholicism teaches the principle of de-centralization and the principle of centralization simultaneously!

The absurdity of this argument is clearly revealed by taking a closer look at the meaning of socialization. In reviewing John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra, Father Robert Sirico observes that the Pontiff’s desire was to strengthen mediating institutions in order to protect the primacy of the human person. Far from advancing any form of collectivism, Pope John wanted to “multiply social relationships” so that the individual would be free to pursue the common good. Socialization does not mean centralization. Rather, it refers to the voluntary associations which Alexis de Tocqueville praised as being a vital part of American freedom in the 1830s.

The principle of subsidiarity is both thoroughly Catholic and thoroughly American. The U.S. Catholic Bishops should be leading defenders of it. That they are not is due to intellectual currents which go beyond the partisanship of scholars such as Monsignor Higgins. The Bishops have not learned the key lessons of the 1980s: the success of free market economics and the failure of collectivism. The top-down, centralized planning of the Soviet system could not succeed because it contradicted the subsidiarity principle. When producers and consumers are not allowed to bargain freely, prices cease to reflect meaningful information and become arbitrary dictates of the bureaucracy. The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote, “Without the basis for calculation which Capitalism places at the disposal of Socialism, in the shape of market prices, socialist enterprises would never be carried on, even within single branches of production or individual countries.”

If the Bishops understood this point, they would not be advocating government price controls on goods ranging from health care to cable television. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops needs to take a closer look at the principle of subsidiarity and to apply it more consistently. In the realm of economics, this would entail respect for the mechanisms of the free market and opposition to state intervention exemplified by the failed Clinton health plan. The Bishops must understand that taking away the power of decision from producers and consumers and entrusting it to government bureaucrats violates the subsidiarity principle. Concerning political teaching, the Bishops should support efforts to restrict the Welfare State and to return to the states rights and responsibilities taken from them since the 1930s. If they do, the U.S. Bishops will find themselves more in accord with the Papal teaching of Centesimus Annus, the Catholic natural law tradition, and the convictions of most American Catholics.

Fr. David A. Bosnich is a priest in the Byzantine Catholic Church.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Morality of Self-Interest

“Nations fail, Augustine argued, because peoples fail, and peoples fail because they love the wrong things. America’s exceptional history as the only nation in the world with two centuries of political continuity stem from its people’s love for individual rights, which they hold to be inalienable because they are granted by a power that no human agency dare oppose. Americans selected themselves out from among the nations of the world to enter into the political covenant that is the American constitutional state. It succeeded because it is “a country with the soul of a church,” as G.K. Chesterton observed. Individualism founded on God-given rights has triumphed over the alternative---the collectivist premise for the state in its various manifestations: Rousseau’s “will of the people,” for example, or Marx’s proletarian dictatorship, or the blood-and-soil nationalism that led Europe and Japan into the world wars of the twentieth century. The only form of collectivism still embraced by a large part of the world’s population is integralist Islam, which dominates most Muslim-majority countries.”

“What we might call “Augustinian realism” is this premise, borne out in the world around us. To the extent that other nations share the American love for the sanctity of the individual, they are likely to succeed. To the extent they reject it, they are likely to fail. Our actions in the world can proceed from American interest---precisely because American interest consists of allying with success and containing failure.”

“Consider the winning policy of the Reagan administration during the Cold War, which overcame the most prominent collectivist alternative to American democracy. America did not set out to persuade the Soviet Union to emulate us. We set out to ruin it, and ruin it we did. After Russia repudiated Communism we proposed to assist its reconstruction. In other words, American interest consists of allying with success and containing failure.”

David P. Goldman is senior editor of FIRST THINGS.

“It is observable, that though many have disregarded life, and contemned liberty, yet there are few men who do not agree that property is a valuable acquisition, which ought to be held sacred…The Utopian schemes of leveling, and a community of goods, are as visionary and impracticable, as those which vest all property in the Crown, are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government unconstitutional. Now, what property can the colonists be conceived to have, if their money may be granted wary by others, without their consent?”

Samuel Adams on behalf of the Mass.. House of Reps. to the colony’s agent in London, 1768.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My idea for a Catholic/Christian “Tea Party” flag. It’s a spin-off of the Don’t Tread On Me, rattlesnake, Gadsden U.S. Revolutionary War flag. While I believe the Gadsden flag already has a religious foundation---I’m looking for something more direct.

John 3:14, Jesus says,
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

The bronze serpent which Moses set up on a pole was established by God to cure those who had been bitten by the poisonous serpents in the desert. Jesus compares this with his crucifixion, to show the value and promise of faith that leads to salvation.

The Israelites had fallen away again in their desert journey, their unfaithfulness results into misfortune again, this time by being bit by fiery snakes. Repentance and viewing faithfully the bronze snake held on a staff was the cure. Numbers 21:4-9

My depiction of a rattle snake on a cross represents the end of Moses’ staff which he held up. And just like then people of today have lost faith and trust in God. They complain about their living conditions and personal comfort. Then they actually complained they had it better as Egyptian slaves. Unbelievably people today complain in the United States, the richest nation on Earth ever, that they could have it better in a socialist form on government---slaves to the state.

Modern day medical emblem

Gadsden flag history:
The rattlesnake was the favorite animal emblem of the Americans even before the Revolution. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette carried a bitter article protesting the British practice of sending convicts to America. The author suggested that the colonists return the favor by shipping "a cargo of rattlesnakes, which could be distributed in St. James Park, Spring Garden, and other places of pleasure, and particularly in the noblemen's gardens." Three years later the same paper printed the picture of a snake as a commentary on the Albany Congress. To remind the delegates of the danger of disunity, the serpent was shown cut to pieces. Each segment is marked with the name of a colony, and the motto "Join or Die" below. Other newspapers took up the snake theme.
By 1774 the segments of the snake had grown together, and the motto had been changed to read: "United Now Alive and Free Firm on this Basis Liberty Shall Stand and Thus Supported Ever Bless Our Land Till Time Becomes Eternity"
Other authors felt the rattlesnake was a good example of America's virtues. They argued that it is unique to America; individually its rattles produce no sound, but united they can be heard by all; and while it does not attack unless provoked, it is deadly to step upon one.

In December 1775, "An American Guesser" anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal. This anonymous writer, having "nothing to do with public affairs" and "in order to divert an idle hour," speculated on why a rattlesnake might be chosen as a symbol for America. First, it occurred to him that "the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America." The rattlesnake also has sharp eyes, and "may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance."
Furthermore, "She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. ... she never wounds 'till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her."
Finally, "I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, 'till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. ...
"'Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living."
Many scholars now agree that this "American Guesser" was Benjamin Franklin.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Socialist Ideology

The socialist ideology can be summarized in twelve main points:

1. Metaphysical Egalitarianism
The foundation of the socialist ideology is metaphysical egalitarianism. This means that the idea of absolute equality is the fundamental assumption of the socialist view of man, society and the universe. All other principles of the socialist ideology stem in one way or another from this fundamental principle.

2. Atheism
The assertion of an infinite, omnipotent and omniscient God clashes frontally with the principle of absolute equality. It must therefore be rejected. Indeed, what greater inequality is there than that between the Creator and simple creatures?

3. Materialistic Evolutionism
Socialism holds that there is an obscure force from which we cannot escape that leads humanity step by step to higher planes of social and moral being. History is a progressive process of purification. Socialism − in its full-fledged expression of communism − is the end of this process. Although socialism is the inevitable outcome of the forces underlying social, political, cultural and economic life, we can accelerate progress and evolution through class struggle, cultural warfare, or legislation. In fact, every new fashion, school curriculum, artistic style, law, and the like takes us closer to the socialist worldview. Every effort in this regard is progress; every contrary measure is a setback.[8]

4. Secularist and Materialistic Worldview
In the universe, there is nothing but matter. God, the soul, and the next life are only chimeras. Thus, what matters is to seek complete happiness in this life. With the help of science, socialists hold that all must strive toward the largest possible amount of pleasure, and avoid any effort or suffering. As a result, all obstacles to happiness must be removed, be they religious, moral, cultural, or any other.[9]

5. Contempt of Religion: "The Opium of the People”
Karl Marx explained his contempt for religion in his famous expression that religion is "the opium of the people."[10] His faithful devotee Lenin also developed this idea: “Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze [or hard liquor], in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.”[11]

In other words, religion leads men astray from the present struggle because it promises them the prospect of a future life.

By preaching restrictive moral standards, religion hampers absolute freedom. Above and beyond this, religion has a transcendental character which is totally incompatible with science, progress and the material world.

6. Secular Messianism
Socialism is much more than an ideology. It has a messianic character, i.e., it offers a message of “salvation.” This is not eternal salvation, but merely temporal “salvation,” a “salvation” on this earth, achieved not by supernatural but human means.[12]

7. From the Idolatry of the State to Anarchy
Socialists teach that, at the present stage of human evolution, it is already possible to abolish private property, social hierarchy and the family. They seek to make the State the sole proprietor of all rights. This State, led by workers and peasants, will maintain complete equality among men. In the future, the universe and man will evolve in such a way that even the State will wither away.[13]

8. Ethical and Cultural Relativism
There are no absolute truths or revealed morals that establish immutable standards of conduct that apply to everyone, everywhere, and always. Everything evolves, thus right and wrong, good and evil depend on the socio-economic development of mankind.

9. Social, Political and Economic Egalitarianism
All inequalities, whether of wealth, prestige, or culture, are unjust in themselves. Socialists especially attack the system of wage earning in which an employer, based on the right of private property, “exploits” workers, demanding part of the product of their work as his profit when it should be entirely theirs.

10. Abolition of Private Property and Class Struggle
The Communist Manifesto defines communism as the abolition of private property: “The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."The Manifesto calls for the forcible overthrow of all existing social institutions: "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!"

11. Hostility to Marriage and the Traditional Family − Free Love
Sexual intercourse is simply a physiological function, like any other.[14] Consequently there is no reason for restricting it to marriage.[15]This applies even less to the “present form of marriage” between one man and one woman which is monogamous and indissoluble.[16]

12. Education
Two questions and answers from Engels’ Communist Catechism illustrate well the socialist view on education.
“18. What will be the course of this [communist] revolution?

“(viii) Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mother’s care, in national establishments at national cost. Education and production together.”[17]

“21. What will be the influence of communist [socialist] society on the family?

“It [communism/socialism] will transform the relations between the sexes into a purely private matter which concerns only the persons involved and into which society has no occasion to intervene. It can do this since it does away with private property and educates children on a communal basis, and in this way removes the two bases of traditional marriage – the dependence rooted in private property, of the women on the man, and of the children on the parents.”
Written by Gustavo Solimeo

What the Popes say about socialism.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bad Medicine

“One clear change in recent years is the emergence of a factionalism that we’ve never quite known before in American history.

The Founders understood the dangers of faction, of course. Alexander Hamilton famously issued a warning against it in the ninth of the Federalist Papers, and James Madison worked on the answer in the tenth, where he defined faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

The solution, Madison thought, is representative democracy. Direct democracy, all the people voting on all the issues, is too likely to be swayed by the passions of the moment and the interests of small crowds: “A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

Madison won that argument; representative democracy he wanted, and representative democracy he got. The dangers of factionalism didn’t thereby go away, however. A representative system, the interposition of elected officials and procedural rules between the people and the law, only dams up factional dangers—to the enormous frustration of those who gain what they believe to be popular mandates and then discover that they cannot simply do whatever they want. (Remember the angry columns this year by several liberal commentators, which said that the Senate’s filibuster rules are an unconstitutional outrage, when the election of Massachusetts senator Scott Brown cost the Democrats their sixtieth Senate vote and looked as though it might derail the health-care bill?) And when a great surge washes over the dam, factionalism is translated from a danger of the populace to a danger of the representatives.

The process by which this health-care bill came about has baleful effects throughout the American political scene. The banishment of the pro-life movement to one party will produce only ugly results, and although abortion is not, in itself, a religious issue, it parallels a faith divide in this country—a divide no one in their right mind should want echoed in the definitions of our political parties.

Meanwhile, the American populace, which strongly believes we cannot afford this, is angry at being ignored. The civility of the Capitol, such as it was, is further reduced. And representative democracy has taken a beating, perhaps even pushed down toward a system in which we are free only to elect the tyrants who will rule us until the next election. This bill was badly thought-through economics, badly constructed legislation, and badly conceived ideology. All in all, just plain bad medicine. But the worst of it may lie in the process by which it came about. Is this the manner in which we wish to be ruled?"
Joseph Bottum is editor of First Things.

The definition of a confederate republic seems simply to be "an assemblage of societies," or an association of two or more states into one state. The extent, modifications, and objects of the federal authority are mere matters of discretion. So long as the separate organization of the members be not abolished; so long as it exists, by a constitutional necessity, for local purposes; though it should be in perfect subordination to the general authority of the union, it would still be, in fact and in theory, an association of states, or a confederacy. The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government. Federalist 9
The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State. Federalist 10

Monday, April 12, 2010

The State Scores Again

"Let us set aside, for the sake of this essay, various questions concerning the recent health-care bill passed by Congress. We will concede the highly dubious proposition that it will hold down costs; that it will not add hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt; that it will not lead to the queues and the rationing that plague the English and the Canadian systems; and that there were no other ways, involving the private sector, to bring health insurance to people who did not have it and who did want it. We will even set aside the sin of abortion and the pressure that will be brought to bear upon Catholic hospitals to provide what they cannot remain Catholic and provide.

What I want to suggest here is that the bill represents but a late stage in the transformation of the relationship between the individual and the state. To do this, I must insist on a fuller definition of the "political" than we have become accustomed to. We now consider politics to be the realm, principally, of national legislation, executive order, and court decision. But what is lost is the life of the polis itself, a community of free people who live together, celebrate together, work together, and provide together for the common good. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, who held a generally sunny view of the polis, the community is a natural outgrowth of man's capacity to reason: to participate in divine law by enacting measures in accord with the natural law, with an aim toward providing goods that embrace but also transcend the individual.

The Thomistic view of the polis underlies the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity, which asserts that communities closest to the issue at hand should be allowed the freedom to tackle it. That is not simply because they do a better job of it, as some conservatives insist. It is because the fullness of community life is essential to our being human. It is doubtful that the state, much less the federal government, is better at educating children than were the fully engaged American townsmen of old, who hired and fired their own teachers at will, and had a fairly clear idea of what their children ought to learn. But even if it could do the job well, its assumption of that role would take from the community one of the most important responsibilities it possesses. It would overstep its own zone of authority to usurp another. Supposing some state agency could, with wonderful efficiency, feed children and make them do their homework and put them to bed; still, its exercise of this role would rob from the people one of the great challenges and joys of life, the raising of children according to one's own best lights.

When Alexis de Tocqueville observed America, he saw a democracy, for the time being, both bolstered and buffered by free associations of people -- by families, community schools, churches, fraternities and sororities, beneficent organizations, and so forth. These made for a vital public life -- and were correctives against both the ambitions of the state and the radical individualism that democracy can encourage. There was still the strong sense that government at all levels was but the creation of free citizens, who possessed, in their families and in other associations, their own duties and even their own rightful giving of laws.

But what we have seen, in the last century and more, is the progressive centralization of power, allowing the functions and the authority of communities to wither and, paradoxically, freeing the individual from the constraints once imposed upon him by his neighbors, his church, his workmates, and his family. It is the strange collusion of a certain kind of libertarianism with a supine submission to the authority of the suddenly all-competent state. We see this clearly enough in the moves to approve same-sex pseudogamy. Two principles are at work. One is that the individual, unfettered from social constraint, can define for himself what a marriage shall be, in defiance of tradition and the obvious exigencies of nature. The other is that the state must sanction the definition; indeed, the state no longer recognizes marriages and families as societies that are prior to the state and that exercise claims for rightful self-governance. Instead, marriages and families will be the creations of the state -- and the power to define is the power to control.

The welfare state offers the individual a pact. It effaces the mid-level institutions that are so effective at old-fashioned political action -- that might build a school, for instance, and then see to it that the boys and girls in it were properly brought up to assume their roles as men and women of the community. It allows the individual the crucial freedom of the zipper. In exchange for that freedom, it assumes the role of benevolent patron, lavishing its largesse upon a community-free, unreliable, and undisciplined populace, who are now not the creators of the state but its clients, or wards.

The question, then, is not simply, "What system will most efficiently deliver health care to the most people?" I do not believe that it will help to nationalize medicine; but that is another issue. The real question is, "What traditions and laws best preserve the liberty of a people, not to do as they please, but to take responsibility for themselves and their communities, so that they will enjoy as fully as possible the human flourishing of the polis?" If we become beholden to the national government for our very health -- let alone for the education of our children -- what will be left for us to do but follow that government along tamely, conceding all matters to its purview?"

Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College

The Prophet Motive

"Why do more Americans go to church regularly than people in any other country in the world? It’s been that way for decades. Now, sociologists have started to look for explanations—and the most likely one applies the principles of free-market capitalism to religion. The free market, the argument goes, has permitted religious groups that adopt successful strategies to expand, and to do so at the expense of those groups that fail. In contrast, Europe—with its history of established churches, each holding a monopoly within its state—has been progressively secularized. This has resulted from the lack of competition in the religious marketplace, leaving declining, unattractive religions as the only options for potential believers. Because the new school of sociologists of religion has borrowed ideas from the rational-choice theories of economics, it has been dubbed the “rational choice” school."
"In the United States, then, religion actually grew with industrialization and technical advance—a fact that falsifies the claim that technological and scientific development must lead to religious decline."
"The market model of religious competition asserts that, when a religion enjoys a monopoly in a given market, its leaders, lacking the spur of competition, will not try very hard to make religious practice an attractive option. But when a competitive market in religions replaces a monopoly, not only will the spur of competition be present, there also will be a process of natural selection among religions, with the more attractive religions gaining at the expense of the less attractive ones. This is the model that the new school uses to explain American religious exceptionalism."
"Before the American Revolution, most of the American colonies had established churches, and Americans were not very religious. After the Revolution, these churches, no longer established, had to raise their game in order to compete for members. Churches that did not offer much to people shrank, and churches that were attractive grew. This competitive process made the average church more effective at getting members. This, in turn, led to a rise in religious practice in the United States throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Europe, by contrast, churches maintained an established or quasi-established status until the twentieth century, which resulted in steadily diminishing attendance."
"The other claim of the supply-side model is more interesting and surprising: Religions succeed if they make distinctive and demanding requirements of their adherents."
"The supply-side analysis explains why, in 1945, at the close of the Second World War, Canadians were substantially more religious than Americans: Canadian churches were stricter. An example of Canadian Protestant strictness is the furor that erupted among Canadian Methodists at the time of the First World War, when it was made known that card playing was widespread among Canadian troops. A formative event in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada was the arrival of priests fleeing the French Revolution. These men provided much of the clergy in Quebec and stamped the French Canadian Catholic Church with an outlook that was strict and conservative even by nineteenth-century Catholic standards. One might expect that such strictness will put people off religion, but in Canada the opposite happened: Strictness led to high religious observance, for reasons that the rational-choice theory explains. After the Second World War, however, Canadian Protestants and Catholics liberalized to a greater extent than did their Americans counterparts. As a result, Canadian churches had less to offer their members than American churches did, and the Canadian rate of religious practice fell below that of the United States—again, as the rational-choice theory predicts."
"The situation in Western Europe is parallel. There, the main event to be underlined is the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) and the changes that were implemented in its name. The postconciliar changes (and, to a debated extent, the conciliar documents themselves) tried to erase, as far as possible, many distinctions between Catholics and non-Catholics. This involved the abandonment of strict rules and distinctive dress for clergy and religious, the replacement of a distinctive liturgy by one that resembled Protestant worship, the legitimation of dissent on moral teaching, and the downplaying of strict Catholic doctrine in religious instruction."

John Lamont teaches philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

Friday, February 26, 2010

When FDR's Solidairity trumps Subsidiarity

While the truth about the impact of FDR's policies is complex to calculate, please be aware that one cannot unreservedly state "FDR created jobs" as you seem to be saying. Any job created by FDR's programs was funded by tax money, taken from taxpayers, who would have done something else with that money had they kept it.

Taxpayers whose money is not taken do not, as a rule, stuff it in a mattress. They generally do three things with it: (1.) Spend it, (2.) Save it, (3.) Give it to church and charity.

Therefore every job FDR "created" was generated at the expense of someone's spending, someone's saving, or someone's charitable giving.

Someone's spending generally contributes to the private-sector economy; as spending increases more jobs are generated to accommodate the need for increased production to match higher demand. As spending decreases jobs are lost as the private-sector economy contracts to match lower demand.

Consequently, whenever we credit a public-sector job to FDR and his programs, we must also ask, "What was the cost of creating that job in terms of private-sector jobs?" It may be that every public-sector job created cost the country exactly one private-sector job. In that case FDR did not "create jobs"; he merely transferred them.

Or it may be that every public sector job created cost 1.5 private sector jobs. In that case FDR's job creation was a net job destruction...which would go a long way to explaining how the Great Depression lasted so darned long.

But it may yet be that every public sector job created cost less than one private sector job. Only in that case can one claim net job creation: But not nearly as many jobs as one thinks, if one only looks at the public sector increase. In the meantime, consider that there was also a cost in savings and charity. Setting aside savings for the moment, consider for a moment what it means to cut into charitable giving during an economic downturn. Was the Great Depression the best time to cut into donations, making it more difficult for churches and charitable organizations to afford to operate? Probably not.

At any rate, the uncertainty created in the business environment is another issue. When the future is uncertain, business owners don't expand and entrepreneurs don't start things up. And Amity Shlaes makes a good case that until FDR's tinkering started to taper off, business owners and entrepreneurs stayed out of the market: Jobs which otherwise might have been created, weren't. The folks who would have created them were waiting for calmer seas before setting sail.

Add to that the taxation effect on spending and giving, and you see how very uncertain it is that a "government created job" in any era can ever constitute a net benefit for blue-collar workers. It may have come at the cost of 0.7 private sector jobs which were lost through reduced consumer spending, plus 0.4 private sector jobs which were lost because businessmen weren't willing to risk capital in such a hostile and uncertain environment. In that case, for every thousand jobs FDR "created" he destroyed eleven hundred.

But those are just numbers picked out of a hat. Perhaps the correct numbers are 0.3 and 0.2: In which case for every thousand jobs FDR created, he destroyed five hundred. In that case, what he did was beneficial, but a heck of a lot less beneficial than you might have thought.

And indeed, if what FDR did was beneficial, why did improvement take so long to appear, coming only after the start of the war? It's more likely that, whatever the correct numbers may have been, the net impact was either negative or close to zero. That has more explanatory power, for the longevity of the Depression remains a mystery unless you account for it through such arguments.

At any rate, the idea that FDR "did IN FACT" create jobs is very much open to question. All those happy blue-collar workers were quite grateful to FDR for their shiny new government jobs.

But that may have only been because they had no idea of what those jobs had cost them.
Written by R.C.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Interesting Solidarity to Subsidiarity viewpoint!

This is why the whole Catholic Social Teaching needs to be taught and implemented. Most anything when only narrowly focused and singularly implemented distorts and fails to attain the originally intended purpose.

"Subsidiarity found its first articulation in Catholic social teaching. Basically it’s the investment of authority at the lowest level of an institutional hierarchy possible, essentially relegating centralized authority to a secondary or subsidiary role. In other words, the group closest to whatever task or problem should tackle that problem first, and only when they’re not able to should a higher authority step in. In social terms, this might break down something like this: first, individuals are responsible for their own social welfare, then families, then communities, then local governments, then state governments, and finally the federal government.

In many ways, subsidiarity flies in the face of the more universalist notion of solidarity. Subsidiarity requires that small groups and individuals tackle problems, while solidarity demands that we all band together. "

"The nature of health insurance is one of cost-sharing. Lots of healthy people buy into a larger cost-pool in an act of voluntary, if unintentional, solidarity. Insurers, at least in theory, compete against one another for customers, the competition leading to a decentralized system of coverage and care." Any insurance for that matter is one of cost-sharing or risk-sharing!

"The American health care system, however, has instead erected a status quo which relies entirely on employment for health coverage. Coupled with a ban on interstate sale of insurance, this has led to much smaller cost-sharing pools and very little actual competition, with one insurer often dominating entire cities or regions. The sale of insurance is bound to each individual state and fifty different sets of rules and regulations govern insurance sales across the country. Consumers of health care are almost always bound to their employer’s choice for health coverage – and worse, should they lose their job, find themselves suddenly without any insurance at all. Essentially, the American system has eschewed both solidarity and subsidiarity, in favor of an ad hoc system found nowhere else in the industrialized world. In the end, this has led to skyrocketing costs.

Beyond cost-control, solidarity is the driving force behind health care reform. The argument that no modern, industrialized nation should be without universal coverage is compelling. But other Western nations have found ways to take this principle of solidarity, and achieve it through far more decentralized means than Canadian-style single payer, or the expensive socialized medicine of the UK. The Dutch have achieved universal coverage entirely through fierce competition between private insurers, and the Germans use a system of exchanges that allow German workers to move from job to job without losing insurance. The Swiss, who have made an art of subsidiarity, have achieved universal coverage through competing non-profit insurance plans." In fact it can be said that government is a form of insurance. U.S. Constitution Article 1; section 8: The main purpose of the federal government is to regulate commerce among the states and the self-defense of the republic. In this way the Federal Government is an "insurance policy" for the fair play of state economics, foreign invasion and interference.

"In the health care debate, competition and subsidiarity are the best tools to create quality, affordable health care for the most people, and with the right implementation they can be used to achieve universal coverage. In this way subsidiarity, rather than a competing value, becomes a complimentary one, and we find our solidarity through competition and individual choice. Universal coverage can be achieved from the bottom up rather than from the top down. And with this bottom up implementation develops and protects human dignity and the common good completing the Catholic Social Doctrine teachings.

What could be more American than that?" Or more Catholic!

Highlighted blue text are blogger's comments.

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

Founding Father Quote:
"SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others."

Common Sense, Thomas Paine

Sunday, February 14, 2010

ENVOY INSTITUTE REMARKS, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

"I have three simple points I want to talk about: the nature of the state; the nature of our Christian faith; and the nature of the lay vocation...."

"Christians have always believed that civil authority has a rightful degree of autonomy separate from sacred authority. In Christian thought, believers owe civil rulers their respect and obedience in all things that do not gravely violate the moral law. When Jesus told the Pharisees and Herodians to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar‟s, and to God the things that are God‟s” (see Mt 22:15-21), he was acknowledging that Caesar does have rights.
Of course, he was also saying that Caesar is not a god, and Caesar has no rights over those things which belong to God…. To put it in modern terms: The state is not god. It‟s not immortal. It‟s not infallible. It‟s not even synonymous with civil society, which is much larger, richer and more diverse in its human relationships than any political party or government bureaucracy can ever be. And ultimately, everything important about human life belongs not to Caesar, but to God: our intellect, our talents, our free will; the people we love; the beauty and goodness in the world; our soul, our moral integrity, our hope for eternal life. These are the things that matter. These are the things worth fighting for. And none of them comes from the state..."

"The Christian vocation to love each other is never simply an emotion, or it isn‟t real. Real love is an act of the will; a sustained choice that proves itself not just by what we say or feel, but by what we do for the good of others.
Working to defend the sanctity of human persons and the dignity of the human family is an obligation of Christian love. Therefore, the Church can‟t be silent in public life and be faithful to Jesus Christ at the same time. She needs to be a mustard seed in the public square, transforming every fiber of a nation‟s social, economic and political life..."

"There may be many times when a bishop or group of bishops needs to speak out publicly about the moral consequences of a public issue. But the main form of Catholic leadership in wider society – in the nation‟s political, economic and social life – needs to be done by you, the Catholic lay faithful. The key word of course is faithful. We need to form Catholic lay leaders who know and love the teachings of the Church, and then embody those teachings faithfully in their private lives and in their public service. But once those lay leaders exist,
clergy cannot and should not interfere with the leadership that rightly belongs, by baptism, to their vocation as lay apostles..."

Full Text:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is the subsidiarity movement growing?

What is the Catholic social justice principle known as “subsidiarity”?
If you’re an American and you’re unfamiliar with subsidiarity in this day and age in which the federal government is about the only segment of the economy that’s growing; you better find out in a hurry.
In a nutshell, the principle of subsidiarity states that matters impacting the human person should be addressed by the smallest, least centralized, most localized, competent personal authority possible. The opposite situation is realized when personal affairs are managed by larger; more centralized and detached public authorities.
At the heart of the matter lies a concern for the protection of individual freedom as an inalienable right associated with human dignity, and a prime example of how crucial it is to understand subsidiarity (and to demand that it be duly observed) is staring Americans directly in the face as I write.
Case in point; when it comes to making decisions about which medical treatment options are best pursued in a given circumstance, the principal of subsidiarity states that these are best left to individuals, families and caregivers to the extent that the demands of necessity and the competency of each party makes it possible.
Where the principle of subsidiarity is well observed, public authority is exercised in a limited, supporting role; i.e. it recognizes and “subsidizes” the authority of individual persons; it does not usurp it.
Did you get that? Memorize it and share it with every Catholic you know, because a full court press is on to tell you otherwise as it relates to government run healthcare, and not just from our friends in the White House.
Yes, it seems as though every new election and legislative cycle brings politicians eager to secure the support of Catholic voters by painting their agendas as fitting expressions of the Church’s social doctrine, even when such isn’t necessarily the case. Unfortunately, we have come to expect as much from politicians, but when the bamboozlement comes to us courtesy of Catholic News Service — a wholly owned official organ of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, funded by faithful Catholics — it’s high time we sat up and paid attention.
Reading my local diocesan newspaper last week, I encountered an editorial piece written by a notoriously liberal CNS columnist who in an effort to sell the benefits of a government takeover of healthcare informed readers, “The Church’s teaching of subsidiarity insists that higher levels of government and social organizations must take action and do what individuals and smaller groups cannot do for themselves.”
I am certain that this struck many a Catholic reader as believable enough; after all, it came from Catholic News Service in a column syndicated for distribution to diocesan newspapers from coast-to-coast. It must be true, right?
The well-informed reader (of whom you are now one) will have noticed immediately that the writer has twisted it almost exactly backwards — subsidiarity properly understood is not a mandate for government action; it is a warning against government interference!
Pope John Paul II, echoed his predecessors in warning about the dangers of an overbearing public authority in his Encyclical Letter, Centesimus Annus, saying:

Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: 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 coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good (CA 48).

There is certainly a place for public authority to be exercised within the framework of subsidiarity; the challenge is striking a balance between a collective effort — assisted by government only to the extent truly necessary — and individual prerogative as demanded by the pursuit of the common good. This would necessarily preclude, however, any proposal that would rob individuals of the freedom and responsibility that naturally flow from human dignity. As the Second Vatican Council warned:

Citizens, for their part, either individually or collectively, must be careful not to attribute excessive power to public authority, not to make exaggerated and untimely demands upon it in their own interests, lessening in this way the responsible role of persons, families and social groups (Gaudium et Spes - 75).

Is the state of healthcare in America in such dismal condition as to merit a government takeover, or will less extreme measures provide the surer path to justice?
Catholics of goodwill can certainly disagree on how best to improve the nation’s health care system, but as we debate this important issue one thing we should all be able to agree upon is this: media organs and others that carry the name “Catholic” — especially those that operate on the faithful’s dime — owe it to their audience to represent the doctrine of the faith clearly and accurately — yes, even when it might undermine the argument for a personal pet political cause.

Louie Verrecchio writes for Catholic News Agency and is the author of Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II; an internationally acclaimed adult faith formation tool, endorsed by George Cardinal Pell, that explores the documents of the Second Vatican Council. For more information please visit:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hooray! For Bishop Lori!

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 25, 2010 ( - Asked by (LSN) this past week to sound off on President Obama's health care overhaul, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut singled out the bill's anti-life policies and massive government expansion for criticism.
"The turn of events that has made it necessary for the congressional leadership to go back to the drawing board is a good thing," Lori told LSN at the Vigil Mass for Life Thursday evening at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The surprise victory of Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts Tuesday night, robbing Senate Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority, has left the health care overhaul's supporters scrambling to find a way to keep it alive. In addition to containing several provisions that are of concern for pro-lifers - such as possibly encouraging health care rationing and physician-assisted suicide in some states - the bill would unleash federal funding of abortion.
"One of the things to remember is that two polls - a Gallup poll and a Pew Poll - have shown that the majority of Americans are pro-life, and the vast majority want some restrictions on abortion," the bishop continued.
"If health care should be passed in any form that uses government money to fund abortions, they are certainly going against the will of the American people."
While the U.S. bishops "certainly favor helping those who are poor and uninsured, and maybe cannot get insurance," he said, "we certainly are resolutely opposed to using government money to take innocent human life."
LSN asked Lori to elaborate on his position regarding the health care bill aside from the federal abortion funding issue.
"The bishops have long supported some form of access - that's the key word, access - to health care," said Lori. "That doesn't mean we favor the government taking over one sixth of our economy - but it does mean that intelligent ways should be found to help those who need the help to get health insurance and adequate medical care."
Lori said that any health care reform ought to avoid a centralization of power and respect what is known as the principle of subsidiarity, which states that matters should be handled by the lowest level of competent government possible - a principle upheld in several papal encyclicals.
"It's long been one of our positions that we've advocated for the issue is really how do you do it in a way that respects life, and in a way that respects the principle of subsidiarity," the bishop concluded.