Podcast: Season 2, Episode 8
Subsidiarity, at least in American Catholic circles, is often presented is a way that is suspicious of the government. I have seen it confused with federalism and even used to advance a sort of libertarianism. But that is a misunderstanding of subsidiarity.
In his encyclical, Centesimus Annus, Saint John Paul II articulated the principle of subsidiarity by saying, “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.”
In a Wednesday audience two years ago, Pope Francis explained this principle further. Francis first affirmed the State’s good and necessary role of assisting “single individuals, families, small associations and local communities” when they are not capable of achieving their primary objectives. “For example,” Francis continued, “because of the coronavirus lockdown, many people, families and economic entities found themselves and still find themselves in serious difficulty. Thus, public institutions are trying to help through appropriate social, economic, health interventions: this is their function, what they need to do.”
It is clear that Pope Francis doesn’t see subsidiarity as being suspicious of higher authorities intervening to help individuals and smaller institutions. Rather he views this principle as requiring these higher authorities to first listen to the people they are trying to serve and to allow them to participate in their own advancement.
Participation is the key here. The pope said that persons must be “agents in their own redemption” and that “everyone needs to have the possibility of assuming their own responsibility in the healing processes of the society of which they are a part.” He went on to say that, “the principle of subsidiarity allows everyone to assume his or her own role in the healing and destiny of society. Implementing it, implementing the principle of subsidiarity gives hope, it gives hope in a healthier and more just future.”
In other words, local needs can only be understood by the people closest and their participation in the solution is necessary. The higher and lower levels of authority aren’t in competition, but instead must seek collaboration.
That is what Dominic and I talk about this week.
Episode eight of the PFG Podcast is now available on Youtube and in podcast feeds!
Paul and Dominic talk about the third principle of Catholic Social Teaching: subsidiarity. This principle is rooted in human freedom and participation, it is concerned with empowering people to be agents in the healing and development of their own communities. Related to this principle is the right to a just wage, because it is through the fruits of our labor that we are empowered to participate in our community and in the world.
“The principle of subsidiarity allows everyone to assume his or her own role in the healing and destiny of society. Implementing it, implementing the principle of subsidiarity gives hope, it gives hope in a healthier and more just future.” (Pope Francis)
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ABOUT DOMINIC DE SOUZA SmartCatholics founder, Dominic de Souza, is a convert from radical traditionalism – inspired by WherePeterIs, Bishop Robert Barron, and Pope Francis. He is passionate about helping ordinary Catholics break the ‘bystander effect’, and be first responders. “We don’t have to be geniuses. We just have to show up with witness and kindness. Christ does the rest.” Today he hosts the SmartCatholics community.
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