§ 1877 The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son. This vocation takes a personal form since each of us is called to enter into the divine beatitude; it also concerns the human community as a whole.
Catholic social teaching from the popes and from the Catechism is the same teaching. The popes define Catholic social teaching in their encyclicals and other documents. The Catechism binds up the great body of papal teachings and neatly summarizes it. The papal documents give more detail, but the Catechism gives more coherence.
Catholic Answers: Seven Principles of Catholic Social Teaching
Origins of Catholic Social Teaching
Jewish social teaching arises from man’s inherent dignity as God’s image Gen 1:27, from the Shma, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” Deut 6:5, and from “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Lev 19:18. It comes also from God’s command, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God” Lev 19:9–10. He repeated this command, Lev 23:22; Deut 24:21.
The Original Cell of Social Life
“The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.”
§ 2208 “The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world”.
§ 2209 “The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.”
§ 2210 “The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity.
During the first eighteen centuries the Catholic Church saw Rabbi Yeshua’s principles of charity and truth as personal. Then, in 1776, the American Revolution brought into being a new republic with deeply Biblical roots in which the whole people exercised power through the ballot box. Evidently in preparation for Satan’s century of enhanced power, Rabbi Yeshua revealed to Pope Leo XIII a communal dimension, as well as a personal one, in charity and truth. Leo XIII published an encyclical on the communal dimension, Rerum Novarum, on May 15, 1891. God told us, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” Is 55:11. Since 1891, Popes Pius XI, St. John XXIII, Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have further developed the themes of the communal dimension in charity and truth in their own encyclicals.
Development of Catholic Social Teaching
Catholic development of doctrine follows a strict path of fidelity to “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” Jude 3. Avery Cardinal Dulles, in his essay “Development or Reversal,” tells us, “Social teaching, on the other hand, consists of behavioral norms for social conduct in conformity with the gospel. While the principles remain constant, the proximate norms are not free from contingency because society itself is in flux.” Cardinal Dulles quotes St. John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis § 3, “On the one hand it is constant , for it remains identical in its fundamental inspiration, in its ‘principles of reflection,’ in its ‘criteria of judgment,’ in its basic ‘directives for action,’ and above all in its vital link with the Gospel of the Lord. On the other hand, it is ever new, because it is subject to the necessary and opportune adaptations suggested by the changes in historical conditions and by the unceasing flow of the events which are the setting of the life of people and society.”
Pope Leo XIII, focusing on capital and labor in 1891, emphasized the autonomy and dignity of the individual: “It is a most sacred law of nature that a father should provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten” Rerum Novarum, § 13. He added: The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.… The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home” Rerum Novarum, § 14.
Pope Pius XI, focusing on reconstruction of the social order in 1931, continued this theme: “The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly.… Therefore, those in power should be sure that the more perfectly a graduated order is kept among the various associations, in observance of the principle of subsidiary function, the stronger social authority and effectiveness will be the happier and more prosperous the condition of the State” Quadragesimo Anno, § 80.
St. John XXIII, focusing on principles of justice in 1961, observed in Mater et Magistra, § 53: “This is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, unshaken and unchangeable. . . Just as it is wrong to withdraw from the individual and commit to a community what private enterprise and industry can accomplish, so too it is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order, for a larger and higher association to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies.” He added in Mater et Magistra, § 117: “State and public ownership of property is very much on the increase today. This is explained by the exigencies of the common good, which demand that public authority broaden its sphere of activity. But here, too, the principle of subsidiary function must be observed. The State and other agencies of public law must not extend their ownership beyond what is clearly required by considerations of the common good properly understood, and even then there must be safeguards.” Focusing on the rise of international political authority in 1963, he added in: Pacem in Terris, § 140,“The same principle of subsidiarity which governs the relations between public authorities and individuals, families and intermediate societies in a single State, must also apply to the relations between the public authority of the world community and the public authorities of each political community.” and added further in Pacem in Terris, § 141: “It is no part of the duty of universal authority to limit the sphere of action of the public authority of individual States, or to arrogate any of their functions to itself. On the contrary, its essential purpose is to create world conditions in which the public authorities of each nation, its citizens and intermediate groups, can carry out their tasks, fulfill their duties and claim their rights with greater security.”
St. John Paul II, reflecting on the sudden collapse of the world’s largest communist empire, declared in Centesimus Annus, § 15: “The State must contribute to the achievement of these goals both directly and indirectly. Indirectly and according to the principle of subsidiarity, by creating favorable conditions for the free exercise of economic activity, which will lead to abundant opportunities for employment and sources of wealth. Directly and according to the principle of solidarity, by defending the weakest, by placing certain limits on the autonomy of the parties who determine working conditions, and by ensuring in every case the necessary minimum support for the unemployed worker.” However, the Holy Father added in Centesimus Annus, § 48.: “In recent years the range of such intervention has vastly expanded, to the point of creating a new type of State, the so-called Welfare State. This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands, by remedying forms of poverty and deprivation unworthy of the human person. However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoked very harsh criticisms of the Welfare State, dubbed the Social Assistance State. 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.”
Pope Benedict XVI has been, among the popes, perhaps the greatest advocate of subsidiarity. In his first encyclical he declared, “We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support.” Deus Caritas Est, § 28.
Benedict XVI continued this theme in his third encyclical: “The strengthening of different types of businesses, especially those capable of viewing profit as a means for achieving the goal of a more humane market and society, must also be pursued in those countries that are excluded or marginalized from the influential circles of the global economy. In these countries it is very important to move ahead with projects based on subsidiarity, suitably planned and managed, aimed at affirming rights yet also providing for the assumption of corresponding responsibilities. In development programs, the principle of the centrality of the human person, as the subject primarily responsible for development, must be preserved. Caritas in Veritate, § 47.
Benedict further continued: “Subsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies. Such assistance is offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own, and it is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others. By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state” Caritas in Veritate, § 57.
This principle of subsidiarity has a crucial role in the Spiritual War. Rabbi Yeshua is the organizing principle of our lives and the source of all that we need. To the extent that government remains primarily small it has a useful function. St. John Paul II explains: “The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way” Evangelium Vitae, § 71. But once it bursts past its natural bonds and seeks to become the organizing principle of our lives and the source of all that we need it takes on a satanic role.
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep” Jn 10:11–13. Parents are the first teachers of their children. Yet liberals often emphasize as a qualification for governance that they care. They really care. There is a story, “I remember some time ago when former Texas Senator Phil Gramm was participating in a Senate hearing on socialized medicine, and the witness there explained that government would best take care of people. Senator Gramm gently demurred and said, “I care more about my family than anyone else does.” And this wide-eyed witness said, “Oh no, Senator. I care as much about your children.” Senator Gramm smiled and said, “Really? What are their names?”
Benedict also emphasizes that the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity must remain closely linked. “Economic aid, in order to be true to its purpose, must not pursue secondary objectives. It must be distributed with the involvement not only of the governments of receiving countries, but also local economic agents and the bearers of culture within civil society, including local Churches” Caritas in Veritate, § 58. Also see Solidarity § 1939-1942 and § 2437-2442. The Catechism tells us, “There must be solidarity among nations which are already politically interdependent” § 2438. Note Benedict’s word already. He is not advocating new government structures to fulfill the need for solidarity, because it belongs to Christ as the organizing principle of our lives and the source of all that we need.
Finally, Benedict follows St. John XXIII in advocating a true world political authority, but again emphasizes its necessary commitment to subsidiarity and solidarity. “Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth” Caritas in Veritate, § 67.
Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, his encyclical on care for our common home, attempts a global perspective on what it means to live as Rabbi Yeshua‘s image and likeness Gen 1:26–27 in our time by opening our hearts to the fullness of creation. Francis at Laudato Si § 5 quotes Centesimus Annus § 38 on the need to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology.”
Francis seeks to start a conversation. Laudato Si § 3 “I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.” So, when he says, for instance, § 23 “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system” he is offering a personal opinion. § 188: “Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.”
To see the roots of Pope Francis’ conversation, Second Exodus chose two of his models. The first is St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis tells us at § 11, “If we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.” Pope Francis continues § 12 “For this reason, [St. Francis of Assisi] asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
The other, courtesy of Bishop Barron, is Msgr. Romano Guardini. Pope Francis writes § 203, “Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals. Romano Guardini had already foreseen this: “The gadgets and technics forced upon him by the patterns of machine production and of abstract planning mass man accepts quite simply; they are the forms of life itself. To either a greater or lesser degree mass man is convinced that his conformity is both reasonable and just” . Msgr. Guardini’s presence in Laudato Si is below the surface because his name is only mentioned once in the text itself, but it is mentioned five times in the footnotes, in notes 83, 87, 92, 144, and 154.
Bishop Barron explains: “To get a handle on Guardini’s worldview, one should start with a series of essays that he wrote in the 1920’s, gathered into book form as Letters from Lake Como. Like many Germans (despite his very Italian name, Guardini was culturally German), he loved to vacation in Italy, and he took particular delight in the lake region around Milan. He was enchanted, of course, by the physical beauty of the area, but what intrigued him above all was the manner in which human beings, through their architecture and craftsmanship, interacted non-invasively and respectfully with nature. When he first came to the region, he noticed, for example, how the homes along Lake Como imitated the lines and rhythms of the landscape and how the boats that plied the lake did so in response to the swelling and falling of the waves. But by the 1920s, he had begun to notice a change. The homes being built were not only larger, but more ‘aggressive,’ indifferent to the surrounding environment, no longer accommodating themselves to the natural setting. And the motor-driven boats on the lake were no longer moving in rhythm with the waves, but rather cutting through them indifferently.”
Msgr. Guardini’s book, Meditations Before Mass, applies the same principle to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. His meditations are divided into “Sacred Bearing” and “The Essence of the Mass.” He begins his discussion of sacred bearing with stillness. Stillness, above all, is silence. When we arrive to meditate before Mass, there should be no conversation at all, no sounds of movement, of turning pages, coughing, throat clearing, and all else that would disturb the peace. God is present with us in silence. “And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” 1 Kings 19:11–13. God says so elsewhere. “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still” Ex 14:14. “Be still, and know that I am God” Ps 46:10. “And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” Mk 4:39. Sacred bearing is much more than silence before Mass, but it begins there.
What, in the end, does Pope Francis ask of us? § 15, “It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face.” It is radical transformation to make ourselves truly God’s image and likeness Gen 1:26–27. Pope Francis tells us § 66, “Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence.” Pope Francis asks us to embrace Rabbi Yeshua‘s sanctifying grace so deeply that we all return to the original justice our first parents enjoyed in Eden.
The prophets and popes God sends us participate in our fallen nature. Rabbi Yeshua told Rabbi Kefa, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” Mt 16:23, right after making him the first pope “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18 and giving him the keys to the kingdom Mt 16:19. Rabbi Yeshua can teach us his Word through sinners Rom 3:23 and provocative documents. Laudato Si has its own provocations for the conversation. Raymond Arroyo and Robert Royal 16:39 discuss some of them. In particular, Pope Francis’ venture outside the realm of faith and morals into a political world authority has attracted critical attention.
Perhaps the Holy Spirit is leading us as he led Abram “to the land that I will show you” Gen 12:1 along a journey of faith. “With God all things are possible” Mt 19:26. After all, we worship a Mashiakh who during his incarnate life was both king and suffering servantat the same time.
With Rabbi Yeshua’s help we can surpass our fallen nature. Rabbi Yeshua gave us the road map. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40. But the road map marks a steep climb. It would take true agape love for God and for one another, for every man is God’s image Gen 1:26.
St. John XXIII
St. John XXIII, in Pacem in Terris, though he does not quote it, writes from Rabbi Paul’s “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” Rom 13:1. Rabbi Paul adds, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” Rom 13:4.
Pacem in Terris holds fast to the subsidiarity principle. He does not distinguish between levels of political authority, because under subsidiarity all levels have to adhere to the same principles.
At § 47, St. John XXIII says, “But it must not be imagined that authority knows no bounds. Since its starting point is the permission to govern in accordance with right reason, there is no escaping the conclusion that it derives its binding force from the moral order, which in turn has God as its origin and end.” St. John quotes Pope Pius XII: “The absolute order of living beings, and the very purpose of man—an autonomous being, the subject of duties and inviolable rights, and the origin and purpose of human society—have a direct bearing upon the State as a necessary community endowed with authority. Divest it of this authority, and it is nothing, it is lifeless…. But right reason, and above all Christian faith, make it clear that such an order can have no other origin but in God, a personal God, our Creator.”
If there is to be a world authority, St. John XXIII, at § 140, writes, “The same principle of subsidiarity which governs the relations between public authorities and individuals, families and intermediate societies in a single State, must also apply to the relations between the public authority of the world community and the public authorities of each political community.”
St. John Paul II
St. John Paul II, in Centesimus Annus § 48, also emphasized subsidiarity in reference to the Welfare State, which he calls the Social Assistance 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.”
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict’s sense of global political authority requires that every level of human communal existence, including the international level, must safeguard the principles of subsidiarity and the common good of the entire human community. This, Benedict suggests, might be possible with a dispersed and stratified global governance, having no central authority but rather an emphasis on subsidiarity.
Benedict’s second contribution is a bold proposal that political authorities should discern among particular religions to determine their contribution to the common good of humanity. Religions largely influence a nation’s culture, which in turn influences the common good. Benedict therefore sees no alternative within the system of Catholic social teaching to have political authorities distinguish between religions, favoring some over others based on their conformity with the natural law, particularly the Ten Commandments. In this he anticipates that the Catholic Church will prove the most universal and rational culture.
Benedict writes, in Caritas in Veritate § 67, “To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.”
Most of us, steeped as we are in liberal proposals for strongly centralized world governance, find it hard to reconcile man’s fallen nature with a worldwide regime dedicated to a common good. How could this global political authority be made accountable to the people and not overwhelm them with an enormous bureaucracy? Benedict offers a partial answer in his second contribution, which assumes that a political authority applying its human intellect will discern the inherent perfection of the Catholic Church and therefore govern according to Catholic social teaching. The recent example of Barack Obama is not encouraging. He campaigned in 2008 offering strong overtones of common good principles that would reconcile longstanding moral conflicts. However, once in office he immediately began to arrogate power to himself.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit gives a particular theologian a partial vision but withholds crucial additional information for a later time. It could be that for now all we have is the partial vision. If God is preparing us for imminent arrival of the Church’s ultimate trial in § 674-677, in which the Church will enter the glory of the kingdom by following her Lord in his death and resurrection, it would all make sense as Catholic social teaching becomes a blueprint for the new Jerusalem Rev 21:1–4. There is at least one sign of the times. Father Hardon told his disciples that his close personal friend John Paul II firmly believed that the twentieth century was the most sin-laden in the Church’s history, but that the 21st century would, at its end, be seen as the most grace-laden. However, for now we are still living in the dark realm, and we know neither the day nor the hour.
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace tried in October 2011 to discern how subsidiarity might be consistent with global governance, but could not see how it would all fit together, and so it set aside subsidiarity, the crucial element in all of Catholic social teaching because it leaves space for God to be the organizing principle of our lives and the source of all that we need.
He starts his conversation on world authority with unusually visceral phrasing: § 21, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” But Francis takes it much farther than landfills, industrial waste, and failure to recycle. He says § 161, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.”
Pope Francis in Laudato Si § 175 quotes from Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate § 67: “As Benedict XVI has affirmed in continuity with the social teaching of the Church: ‘To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.’”
Francis’ words, “in continuity with the social teaching of the Church” are an effort to persuade us that his proposal is, well, in continuity with the social teaching of the Church. But Francis’ does not quote Benedict’s condition in Caritas in Veritate § 67 that brought it into continuity: “The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked bysubsidiarity, for the management of globalization.” Subsidiarity brings St. John XXIII’s and Benedict’s “true world political authority” into the realm of apostolic teaching. Francis agrees, reminding us at § 157 and § 196 that subsidiarity underlies the principle of the common good. However, Francis’ own words earlier in § 175, “stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions,” show that he wants to dispense with subsidiarity. “Stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions” means not expending effort to obtain the consent of the governed.
In short, subsidiarity exists precisely to maximize God’s influence on the world through families and prevent the rise of political powers strong enough to suppress the Church by referring as many decisions as possible downward to the family. Francis’ “true world political authority” would refer as many decisions as possible upward to the international level.
These were Second Exodus’ four objections at the time Laudato Si was published:
The First Objection
In our fallen world, a true world political authority, jealous of its prerogatives, would certainly seek to utterly crush intermediary sources of influence such as the Catholic Church. During the Church’s first three centuries, ten Roman emperors persecuted the Church without mercy: Nero (AD 54-68), Domitian (AD 81-96), Trajan (AD 98-117), Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180), Septimus Severus (AD 193-211), Maximinus (AD 235-238), Decius (AD 249-251), Valerian (AD 253-260), Aurelian (AD 270-275) and Diocletian (AD 284-305).
In our own time, in May 1944 Hitler ordered General Karl Otto Wolff, the SS commander of Nazi-occupied Rome, to kidnap Pius XII before the German retreat. Wolff, appalled, instead quietly warned Pius XII to be on guard as the situation was confused and there was great danger. Even in the United States the Catholic League has extensive files showing that the Obama Administration constantly sought to arrogate power to itself and suppress Catholic influence at every opportunity.
The Second Objection
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” Jn 16:13. The traditional Catholic approach is therefore to state the goal and leave the means of accomplishing it to prudent judgment (from the cardinal virtue of prudence).
Francis’ concern in Laudato Si is the environment we will leave to our children, and their children’s children, but he has already made his prudent judgment. His chosen instruments are § 175 “stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions” leading to a “true world political authority.”
However, leviathan governments have a propensity to accumulate mountains of national debt that will force future generations to concentrate on here-and-now issues of feeding and defending our populations, leaving no room for the environmental concerns so dear to Francis’ heart.
The Third Objection
Among the world’s great temporal powers, the United States, by far the one most devoted to free market capitalism, has the cleanest air and water and is the most devoted to environmental concerns. During the Beijing Olympics of 2008, China went to tremendous effort to conceal Beijing’s poor urban air quality. WorldWatch Institute says, “Globally, China is home to 16 of the 20 cities with the most polluted air.”
The Fourth Objection
Pope Francis calls for § 197 “a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.” That sounds like one plan for the whole world, to be achieved “based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives.”
“Risks and benefits” are relativist, government-speak. They belong to human prudent judgment. Rabbi Yeshua speaks in absolutes. When St. Gabriel the Archangel announced to Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” Lk 1:31, Mary did not say, “Wait a minute. I have to check with Joseph my betrothed, we will consider the risks and benefits of what you propose.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” Lk 1:38. When Rabbi Yeshua called to Shimeon and Andreas, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Mt 4:19, they did not say, “Well, our fishing business makes a good living. What have you to offer? We must consider the risks and benefits.” Their response was, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” Mt 4:20.
The World Authority is Already Being Built
The “true world political authority” is already being built. The first stage was the United Nations. It necessarily had to retain national sovereignty but accustomed states to the idea of a “parliament of man.” Subsequent steps systematically transfer sovereignty from nations to international organizations. The European Union has a high level of sovereignty over its member nations. Negotiations for additional building blocks including the North American Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are far along.
A Second Look
When Pope Francis visited the United States in September 2015 and addressed a joint session of Congress, Second Exodus was interested to see whether these he had moderated these views. I was delighted to discover that 20 Key Quotes from Pope Francis’ Address to Congress, taken from his complete Visit to the Joint Session of the United States Congress, led me to the conclusion that he teaches morality by using concrete examples, and also that he learned a startling amount from his three-day visit. Samuel Gregg observed,
“For me, however, as a migrant to the United States, it was especially gratifying to watch Francis say very positive things to say about America. The word ‘liberty’ was used no less than five times, ‘freedom’ seven times, and ‘subsidiarity’ (a Catholic expression for protecting liberty) twice. He also invoked America’s ‘spirit of enterprise,’ and repeated what he’s said elsewhere: that, ‘Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world.’ And while insisting that more needs to be done to address poverty, the pope also exclaimed, ‘How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty!’”
There will always be those who see the glass as half full, and those who see it as half empty, and certainly there is room for much more, but there has been welcome change.
From the Catechism
THE HUMAN COMMUNION
§ 1877 The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son. This vocation takes a personal form since each of us is called to enter into the divine beatitude; it also concerns the human community as a whole.
THE PERSON AND SOCIETY
I. The Communal Character of the Human Vocation
§ 1878 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.
§ 1879 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.
§ 1880 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.
§ 1881 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.
§ 1882 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.
§ 1883 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.”
§ 1884 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 governance 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.
§ 1885 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.
II. Conversion and Society
§ 1886 Society is essential to the fulfillment of the human vocation. To attain this aim, respect must be accorded to the just hierarchy of values, which subordinates physical and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones:
Human society must primarily be considered something pertaining to the spiritual. Through it, in the bright light of truth, men should share their knowledge, be able to exercise their rights and fulfill their obligations, be inspired to seek spiritual values; mutually derive genuine pleasure from the beautiful, of whatever order it be; always be readily disposed to pass on to others the best of their own cultural heritage; and eagerly strive to make their own the spiritual achievements of others. These benefits not only influence, but at the same time give aim and scope to all that has bearing on cultural expressions, economic, and social institutions, political movements and forms, laws, and all other structures by which society is outwardly established and constantly developed.
§ 1887 The inversion of means and ends, which results in giving the value of ultimate end to what is only a means for attaining it, or in viewing persons as mere means to that end, engenders unjust structures which make Christian conduct in keeping with the commandments of the divine Law-giver difficult and almost impossible.
§ 1888 It is necessary, then, to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the human person and to the permanent need for his inner conversion, so as to obtain social changes that will really serve him. the acknowledged priority of the conversion of heart in no way eliminates but on the contrary imposes the obligation of bringing the appropriate remedies to institutions and living conditions when they are an inducement to sin, so that they conform to the norms of justice and advance the good rather than hinder it.
§ 1889 Without the help of grace, men would not know how to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse. This is the path of charity, that is, of the love of God and of neighbor. Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. Charity inspires a life of self-giving: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.
PARTICIPATION IN SOCIAL LIFE
§ 1897 Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.
By “authority” one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them.
§ 1898 Every human community needs an authority to govern it. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society.
§ 1899 The authority required by the moral order derives from God: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
§ 1900 The duty of obedience requires all to give due honor to authority and to treat those who are charged to exercise it with respect, and, insofar as it is deserved, with gratitude and good-will.
Pope St. Clement of Rome provides the Church’s most ancient prayer for political authorities: “Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor with you.”
§ 1901 If authority belongs to the order established by God, the choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens.
The diversity of political regimes is morally acceptable, provided they serve the legitimate good of the communities that adopt them. Regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law, to the public order, and to the fundamental rights of persons cannot achieve the common good of the nations on which they have been imposed.
§ 1902 Authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself. It must not behave in a despotic manner, but must act for the common good as a moral force based on freedom and a sense of responsibility:
A human law has the character of law to the extent that it accords with right reason, and thus derives from the eternal law. Insofar as it falls short of right reason it is said to be an unjust law, and thus has not so much the nature of law as of a kind of violence.
§ 1903 Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse.
§ 1904 It is preferable that each power be balanced by other powers and by other spheres of responsibility which keep it within proper bounds. This is the principle of the rule of law, in which the law is sovereign and not the arbitrary will of men.
II. The Common Good
§ 1905 In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in turn can be defined only in reference to the human person:
Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already justified, but gather instead to seek the common good together.
§ 1906 By common good is to be understood the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily. The common good concerns the life of all. It calls for prudence from each, and even more from those who exercise the office of authority. It consists of three essential elements:
§ 1907 First, the common good presupposes respect for the person as such. In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. Society should permit each of its members to fulfill his vocation. In particular, the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation, such as the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion.
§ 1908 Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.
§ 1909 Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense.
§ 1910 Each human community possesses a common good which permits it to be recognized as such; it is in the political community that its most complete realization is found. It is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies.
§ 1911 Human interdependence is increasing and gradually spreading throughout the world. The unity of the human family, embracing people who enjoy equal natural dignity, implies a universal common good. This good calls for an organization of the community of nations able to provide for the different needs of men; this will involve the sphere of social life to which belong questions of food, hygiene, education, and certain situations arising here and there, as for example alleviating the miseries of refugees dispersed throughout the world, and assisting migrants and their families.
§ 1912 The common good is always oriented towards the progress of persons: The order of things must be subordinate to the order of persons, and not the other way around. This order is founded on truth, built up in justice, and animated by love.
III. Responsibility and Participation
§ 1913 “Participation” is the voluntary and generous engagement of a person in social interchange. It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person.
§ 1914 Participation is achieved first of all by taking charge of the areas for which one assumes personal responsibility: by the care taken for the education of his family, by conscientious work, and so forth, man participates in the good of others and of society.
§ 1915 As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life. the manner of this participation may vary from one country or culture to another. One must pay tribute to those nations whose systems permit the largest possible number of the citizens to take part in public life in a climate of genuine freedom.
§ 1916 As with any ethical obligation, the participation of all in realizing the common good calls for a continually renewed conversion of the social partners. Fraud and other subterfuges, by which some people evade the constraints of the law and the prescriptions of societal obligation, must be firmly condemned because they are incompatible with the requirements of justice. Much care should be taken to promote institutions that improve the conditions of human life.
§ 1917 It is incumbent on those who exercise authority to strengthen the values that inspire the confidence of the members of the group and encourage them to put themselves at the service of others. Participation begins with education and culture. One is entitled to think that the future of humanity is in the hands of those who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism.
§ 1928 Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
I. Respect For the Human Person
§ 1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. the person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:
What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.
§ 1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church’s role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
§ 1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.” No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a neighbor, a brother.
§ 1932 The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
§ 1933 This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. the teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies. Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one’s enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.
II. Equality and Differences Among Men
§ 1934 Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.
§ 1935 The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:
Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.
§ 1936 On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth. The “talents” are not distributed equally.
§ 1937 These differences belong to God’s plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular “talents” share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods; they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures:
I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to one, some to others. I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one, a living faith to that one, and so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another…. I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me.
§ 1938 There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open contradiction of the Gospel:
Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace.
III. Human Solidarity
§ 1939 The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of friendship or social charity, is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.
An error, today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.
§ 1940 Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work. It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation.
§ 1941 Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this.
§ 1942 The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as well. and so throughout the centuries has the Lord’s saying been verified: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well”:
For two thousand years this sentiment has lived and endured in the soul of the Church, impelling souls then and now to the heroic charity of monastic farmers, liberators of slaves, healers of the sick, and messengers of faith, civilization, and science to all generations and all peoples for the sake of creating the social conditions capable of offering to everyone possible a life worthy of man and of a Christian.
Subsidiarity and Solidarity
Solidarity is the view that no man is an island entire of himself. We are all a continent, a part of the main. We are our brother’s keeper. We are responsible for everyone else–not just ourselves.
Subsidiarity, the view that every problem should be solved at the most local level possible, avoids the big government solution. When the two are combined we find that the poor are being ministered to not just with handouts from either big brother government or big brother philanthropist, but by a local person who should be a friend and neighbor.
Subsidiarity is often placed first. God’s law is for us all, to love one another, but we help one another as neighbors within local communities. However, human lawgivers, coming from diverse communities, often find local solutions best fitted to each local situation. In politics, subsidiarity simply refers all solutions to the lowest level capable of resolving them.
Catholic social teaching also arises from our Lord’s summary of the Torah: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40.
It arises also from the dignity of man. When the Pharisees sent their disciples to ask whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Rabbi Yeshua held up a coin with Caesar’s image and said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” Mt 22:21. Our souls are God’s image. Gen 1:27, § 1701-1709 We give a coin to Caesar, but our souls to God.
“Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine. Every responsibility and every commitment spelt out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36– 40). It gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbor; it is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything because, as Saint John teaches (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) and as I recalled in my first Encyclical Letter, “God is love” Deus Caritas Est: everything has its origin in God’s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God’s greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.”
“Charity is love received and given. It is “grace” (cháris). Its source is the wellspring of the Father’s love for the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Love comes down to us from the Son. It is creative love, through which we have our being; it is redemptive love, through which we are recreated. Love is revealed and made present by Christ (cf. Jn 13:1) and “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). As the objects of God’s love, men and women become subjects of charity, they are called to make themselves instruments of grace, so as to pour forth God’s charity and to weave networks of charity.”
And, he added the context of truth in Caritas in Veritate § 9:
“This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce. Her social doctrine is a particular dimension of this proclamation: it is a service to the truth which sets us free. Open to the truth, from whichever branch of knowledge it comes, the Church’s social doctrine receives it, assembles into a unity the fragments in which it is often found, and mediates it within the constantly changing life-patterns of the society of peoples and nations.”
Subsidiarity refers all questions to the lowest level of social organization capable of resolving them. What a family can do, no institution of government should do. What a local government can do, no state government should do. What a state can do, no national government should do. And what a national government can do, no international governing body should do. Subsidiarity serves the dignity of man by consistently assigning responsibility to the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority, whenever possible to the original cell of social life. It has been supported during the past century by Popes Leo XIII, Pius XI, St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
This principle of subsidiarity (§ 1883, 1885, 1894, 2209) arises directly from Rabbi Yeshua‘s summary of the Torah: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:37–40). Love for God means that the state does not try to supplant God as the organizing principle of our lives and the source of all that we need. Love for neighbor means that we express our love by helping one another family-to-family, through our parish church, and through other local charitable institutions, not through government institutions that feed the body but not the soul.
Charity is the core virtue for Catholic social teaching, but it depends very much on subsidiarity. When the Church asks for money it is a true request. St. John Paul II, in Redemptoris Missio § 39, declared, “The Church proposes; she imposes nothing.” The decision to give, and how much to give, is made at the family level. Governments demand money backed by the threat of force. The totalitarian state, in which all life activity is commanded, leaves no room for charity.
In practice, it works this way: Fathers and mothers are the first teachers of their children. The moral values that parents teach should not be contravened by local public schools. What local public schools teach should not be interfered with by state authorities, and so on. The reason is simple. Most land is rural. In rural communities a man can go in anytime to see the top village or county authority to discuss local issues. He can have real influence. In the United States, for example, the same man finds it much harder to get in to see his state governor. He cannot even write a letter that will actually be seen by the president. His ability to influence an international bureaucracy is even more remote.
The usual first objection is, “People will not give enough.” And the answer is, “By God’s standard, or man’s?” Consider charity § 1822, the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Rabbi Yeshua usually gets us through times of scarcity not by giving us material goods but by strengthening us through his grace so we can get by on what he does give us. The hymn Amazing Grace 5:13 reminds us, “Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
There is another answer to, “People will not give enough.” Government does way too much. Milton Friedman, the great free market economist, once said, “Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the costs come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”
If we expect Christians and other private donors to buy every person who is not in the workforce a cell phone, a computer with Internet capability, and a comfortable existence for the rest of his life, no, doing that would encourage the capital sin of sloth. But we will provide him with basic food, clothing and shelter, and make every effort to help him find a job 2 Thess 3:10.
Subsidiarity in the United States
The Constitution of the United States of America is based on the principle of subsidiarity. Article I, Section 8, enumerates all of the specific powers delegated to the United States’ national government. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states: “The powers not delegated by the United States Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This principle of subsidiarity remains in the Constitution today.
Every United States official from the president on down is required by law to solemnly proclaim under oath that he will support and defend the Constitution, which includes the Tenth Amendment, before he can exercise the authority of his office.
§ 2209 The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.
The Common Good
Rabbi Yeshua commanded us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets Mt 22:37–40.
The common good is a society that helps us fulfill these two great commandments, and thereby prepare ourselves for eternal life in heaven. St. John Paul II, in Evangelium Vitae § 71, wrote: “The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may ‘lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way’” 1 Tim 2:2.
Pope Benedict XVI
To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is the good of all of us, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common goodand strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or “city”. The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbors, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practice this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbor directly, outside the institutional mediation of the pólis. When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have. Like all commitment to justice, it has a place within the testimony of divine charity that paves the way for eternity through temporal action. Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family. In an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations, in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God.
Many liberals see the term solidarity in Catholic social teaching and try to portray it as supporting large national and international government programs in opposition to subsidiarity. If that were true, Catholic social teaching would be divided against itself Mt 12:25. But that is not at all what solidarity means. PopeBenedict XVI tells us in Caritas in Veritate § 38:
Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State. While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place. What is needed, therefore, is a market that permits the free operation, in conditions of equal opportunity, of enterprises in pursuit of different institutional ends. Alongside profit-oriented private enterprise and the various types of public enterprise, there must be room for commercial entities based on mutualist principles and pursuing social ends to take root and express themselves. It is from their reciprocal encounter in the marketplace that one may expect hybrid forms of commercial behavior to emerge, and hence an attentiveness to ways of civilizing the economy. Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself.
Many liberals also see the term humanism in Catholic social teaching and imagine that it means human government should participate in being the organizing principle of our lives and the source of all that we need.
Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5) and then encourages us: ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20).” In the same paragraph he adds (his emphasis) “A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment.
Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us.