In part A of this series, I discussed the Catholic teaching on “subsidiarity,” and noted that its best secular defenders were the U.S. Founding Fathers and that its most notable opponents are oppressive dictatorships. Readers with an interest in one side or the other of the ongoing American left-right political conflict will have noticed that statements about subsidiarity seem designed to give comfort to the political right. They seem to support the rightist or Republican desire to preserve states’ rights and to limit the power of the centralized federal government. They seem to run contrary to the proliferation of one-size-fits-all federal regulations written in Washington to address problems arising in thousands of small communities throughout our enormous nation.
Right. And wrong. It is true that subsidiarity indicates that decision-making takes place at the lowest rung of the organizational ladder – – that decisions ought to be made at the family, or parish level to the extent possible. It is also true that leftist and Democratic politicians most often display a preference for big government solutions. It is wrong, however, to suggest that all Catholics ought to become Republicans.
As if to create a perfect balance, the principle of solidarity sometimes seems designed to provide comfort to the political left.
“The principle of solidarity is simply 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.”
Certainly, the Democrats and other left-leaners in the U.S. tend to speak this language to justify increasing the number and size of central government programs designed to provide economic and other assistance to various disadvantaged groups and individuals. They argue that anyone who does not support their agenda is deplorably uncaring and selfish. In this, they are as wrong as the Republicans they oppose.
- 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.
- 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.
- 1943 Society ensures social justice by providing the conditions that allow associations and individuals to obtain their due.
- 1947 The equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities. It gives urgency to the elimination of sinful inequalities.
- 1948 Solidarity is an eminently Christian virtue. It practices the sharing of spiritual goods even more than material ones.
So Catholic Solidarity is not the same as leftist solidarity because of the following:
- Catholic Solidarity is first concerned with spiritual welfare;
- Catholic Solidarity is concerned with remuneration for labor and with giving individuals “their due; and
- Catholic Solidarity seeks to reduce only those social and economic and social inequalities that are “excessive.”
The truth is that both political leftists and political rightists can have a sincere concern about the spiritual and temporal welfare of humanity and can act enthusiastically to address those concerns. Of course, the position of the most extreme leftists – Marxists – is directly contrary to Catholic social teaching as it opposes Subsidiarity, and because nearly all Marxists (like Marx himself) are unalterably opposed to the Church.
I, myself, am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, neither a rightist nor a leftist. I worship the God of Truth — call me a truthist. I oppose the big lies of our mainstream media and of the secular culture. I am equally uncomfortable in Washington or Hollywood. I am a Catholic first, and all else is secondary.
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