What so many Catholics miss about Solidarity and Subsidiarity
BY Matthew Warner
| Posted 9/25/12 at 10:29 AM
Here's a new video analyzing Paul Ryan (Republican Vice-presidential candidate) and how his policies fit into Catholic Social Teaching. In the process, it makes a point about Catholic Social Teaching that I want to say something about.
I think the key lesson so many Catholics need to learn is the point this video makes when it differentiates the "preferential option for the poor" and the "preferential option for the State" (i.e. the government). On Solidarity, Pope Benedict says:
“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. [...] Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone." - BXVI, Caritas in Veritate
The problem is that many big government politicians are taking advantage of our human laziness in order to gain more power for themselves.
It doesn't take much to convince us that hard problems are somebody's else's responsibility. So when we are faced with really tough problems in our communities, it's easy to convince us that a higher order of the social structure should probably handle this. And that may be true in some cases. But I fear too often this really means a particular problem is "inconvenient for us and we'd rather not do this ourselves." Let's let the government fix this for us so we don't have to be so inconvenienced and get our hands dirty.
And so we vote, pay taxes and empower an ill-equipped government to do *our* job for us so we can slap ourselves on the back and sleep well at night knowing that we are "standing up for the least among us." Meanwhile, the problems don't get fixed and the poor are not treated with the dignity they deserve. That is not Solidarity or Subsidiarity. It's laziness and irresponsibility.
That's not to say that the federal governemt (or higher levels of government or social structure in general) shouldn't be involved in helping to solve some of these problems. But the key part that we miss is that such involvement from government does not replace our own personal involvement in helping to solve such problems. Government involvement depends upon our personal involvement. It's there to assist our involvement (when we truly need it), not to replace it.
In other words, it's only when you're out there busting your butt to solve the problems in your community, getting your hands dirty, being seriously "inconvenienced" by it all that you should even consider if a higher level of government needs to assist. And *if* it is deemed appropriate that higher government should assist in helping with that problem, it doesn't mean that you then get to go home and leave it all to them. It means you're still out there (being assisted by government) busting your butt to solve the problems in your community, getting your hands dirty, still being seriously "inconvenienced" by it all — until the problem is fixed.
And unfortunately, too many Americans forget that. They want to leave all the dirty work to some higher social structure. It doesn't work that way. No government program will ever be enough without the involvement of every person doing their part. That's solidarity. And if every person was doing their part (solidarity) then we'd find we need a bigger government's help much less of the time (subsidiarity).
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