At the outset I must admit the long delay in posting this is because I have had to reject several drafts as I fell into the trap of, as I was writing, thinking of countless situations and seeking to apply the principle of subsidiarity to each in detail.
Frankly I have neither the grace nor the wisdom to do so!
What broke that cycle for me was observing yesterday at a science centre in the city the activities, more specifically the maternal love [some men where there too showing paternal love] and dedication of homeschool mothers.
Even though the winds were chilling everyone to the bone and snow was falling quite heavily, these parents kept the monthly rendezvous for special classes hosted by the science centre specifically for homeschoolers.
Subsidiarity in action!
The Church teaches that the prime teachers of children, by an intrinsic, inalienable and non-transferable right, are the parents.
National, regional, local governments, school boards and more egregiously teachers unions trample all over this truth and right incessantly, sucking more and more power and control away from parents and imposing ever more destructive ideologies, moral turpitude upon the children.
Be they Christian or believers of another faith or outright secularists it is not simply because of the paucity of real education in literacy, science, math, for example to be found in public education, that increasingly parents opt for private or charter schools or homeschooling, but it is also because the government run education system is morally bankrupt.
Observing those homeschooling families, including my own, what I found striking was the radiant parental beauty of the men and women, the shining joy on the faces of their children, the obvious enjoyment of both parents and children in the learning process.
Subsidiarity at its best enhances the sheer joy of being alive!
In his recent book THE FUTURE OF CATHOLICISM, Michael Coren cites the example of Catholic adoption agencies, some of whom have cared for children in need for more than a century, being forced to close their doors because governments by direct law, or under pressure for rights groups suing the agencies, have forced, or at least attempted to force such agencies to place children in need with homosexual ‘couples’.
Quoting Ellen B. Lynch, lawyer for the Rockford diocese on its decision to cease all state funded foster care and adoption programs [op. cit. pp: 24/25]: “Legally, albeit emotionally painful, we determined this was the right decision to make for the moral and financial future of the Diocese of Rockford. The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion. Denying this exception to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion. We simply cannot compromise the spirit that motivates us to deliver quality, professional services to families by letting our state define our religious teachings.”
Well said and all of that but to be rather blunt about it the moment the Church began to accept government money for hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc., etc., the Church Herself stopped not merely living out Her principle of subsidiarity but She – well at least institutions/religious orders within Her – began to show a lack of trust in Christ’s fidelity to His assurances we need never worry such as found in Luke 11: 1-13; 12: 22-31; Matthew 6:25-34.
The old saying is whoever pays the piper calls the tune.
Yes we might end up with fewer schools, hospitals, etc., BUT applying the principles of trust in God, and frankly in each other’s generosity through the principle of subsidiarity we would control our schools, teachers, hospitals, etc., and thereby assure their caring and moral excellence.
The secular understanding of subsidiarity focuses on the exercise of power, particularly political power by the most decentralized part of government, as close to the local – in a sense the classic ‘people-power’ - base as possible.
Currently as I write this there is violent unrest in the Ukraine because the one with power in that country has tried to force upon the people a choice they refuse to accept.
In countries with a longer history of democratic government, at least in principle if not always fully exercised in reality as the Rockford experience denotes, most politicians given their desire to remain in power, to get re-elected, have mastered the classic Roman “bread and circuses” technique so, while President John Kennedy, for example, in his inaugural address in 1961 famously said: “..ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”….and he and other western leaders in that era appeared to have sensed the mood of the people, at least of the youth of the day, that very generation of young people have almost never elected a government since that did not ensure, indeed enhance, so many entitlements most of the G8 have huge debt loads which we are unlikely to ever see paid off.
We have become a people who don’t ask but demand that our country DO for us, indeed many Catholics demand the same of the Church!
IF, as the Church teaches, the principle of subsidiarity means that institutions of all types, ‘social bodies’ if you will, exist for the individual’s sake, then entitlements, for example, on the macro scale ultimately are anti the individual person and lead to a self-centred culture of greed and, frankly an abandonment of the principles both of mature self-reliance and loving, generous fidelity to the only specifics Jesus gives about how we shall be judged, the “I was” teachings, the “you gave” etc., as found in Matthew 25:31-46.
An excellent summary of the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity, with all references to the scriptural and other sources, can be found in the COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH, in particular numbers 185-191.
Read even quickly I suspect many will find themselves, as I did and mentioned at the beginning here, rushing off and thinking of endless situations where IF ONLY!
The rub is, as with Jesus’ words to us about Himself in the “I was” teaching, subsidiarity first and foremost entails my personal responsibility BOTH as an active member of the Mystical Body of Christ, an active member of my parish, an active citizen of my community, town, state/province, country etc., and as a member of the global human family.
The active lived principle of subsidiarity precedes and makes possible the reality of solidarity.
The Church teaches [op. cit. # 189] that the “…..characteristic implication of subsidiarity is participation” and further [# 196] the penultimate reality of solidarity is to be found in the very person and teachings of Jesus in whom we always “….recognize the living sign of the measureless and transcendent love of God-with-us, who takes on the infirmities of His people, walks with them, saves them and makes them one.”
The Star Trek prime-directive in essence was a passive non-interference directive whereas the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity are active, personal, selfless, loving.
While the media in the main have been gushing over Pope Francis it is interesting how little in-depth analysis has been done of his speeches, homilies, encyclical and recent apostolic exhortation, yet studied they reveal, totally in unison with the teachings of Jesus, and Church teachings from the apostolic to the current era, a renewed push for us all to live out in our own and parochial and civic lives the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity.
In a world wracked with hatreds, violence, poverty, dominated by an elite of powered riches where citizens are so numbed by entitlements should a universal economic or food collapse occur I wonder how brief the interim would be before anarchy!
It sure seems to me that, even more dangerously than the infamous nuclear clock stuck at five minutes to midnight, the clock of loss of true human dignity and freedom appears to be at about ONE minute to midnight.
Either like Jesus Himself we become selfless and other-caring or this passive-not bothering to vote-give-me mine culture will swallow us whole into a depth of cold darkness, into a terrible spiral of chaos which will prove fatal, perhaps for the entire human family