Skip to comments.What is the USCCB’s problem with subsidiarity?
Posted on 05/27/2010 2:51:28 AM PDT by markomalley
On May 21, 2010, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a media statement which sought to identify the way forward for Catholic engagement in the healthcare debate in light of the passage of healthcare legislation. The USCCB stresses that at the core of the bishops advocacy throughout the debate was a concern for three principles: (1) the protection of innocent life from the use of lethal force from cradle to natural death; (2) the maintenance of conscience protections; and (3) the realization of universal access to healthcare for all, especially the poor and migrants. These, the USCCB stresses, will remain at the forefront of its contributions to the healthcare discussion. The USCCB consequently asks Americas Catholic community to come together in defense of human life, rights of conscience and fairness to immigrants so we will have a health care system that truly respects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all.
All this is well and good. Unfortunately, there is no mention in this text of a concern voiced by a good number of Catholic bishops throughout the debate: an assessment of whether the recent healthcare legislation can truly be said to reflect adherence to the principle of subsidiarity. For anyone who needs a reminder of what this principle means, heres what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (CCC 1883):
Its important to note that subsidiarity is not an anti-government or anti-state principle. Indeed it affirms that there is a role for government because (1) there are some things that only governments can and should do and (2) sometimes the state does need to intervene when other communities are unable to cope temporarily with their particular responsibilities. Nor, it should be added, does subsidiarity always translate into the very same policy-positions, precisely because some elements of the common good are in a constant state of flux.
That said, its puzzling to say the least that the USCCB, both during and after the healthcare debate, is not in the habit of referencing subsidiarity as a vital principle for Catholics to reflect upon as they consider the implications of what few now question amounts to the massive expansion of Federal government control over healthcare in the United States. Contrary to what some Catholics imagine (especially the professional social justice activists who dissent from fundamental church dogmas and doctrines while casting anathemas against anyone who disagrees with their own prudential judgments on any number of economic issues), striving to widen access to healthcare need not automatically translate into the state assuming a dominant role.
In their important joint pastoral letter of August 22, 2009, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph listed subsidiarity as a vital principle upon which Catholics should reflect when thinking about health care reform. They even described subsidiarity as the preamble to the Work of Reform. Elsewhere in the document the bishops spelt out what this means for healthcare reform:
During the healthcare debate, a considerable number of Catholic bishops expressed similar views. Bishops Walker Nickless of Sioux City, for example, was very specific:
These and similar views expressed by many bishops were dismissed as libertarian by whatevers left these days of the Catholic left as if only libertarians could possibly believe that limiting government power and encouraging private sector and civil society solutions to genuine social and economic problems are good things.
The truth, however, is that the USCCBs professional social justice bureaucrats have a long history of playing down or even ignoring the implications of the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity isnt, for example, even listed as one of the Themes of Catholic Teaching on the Justice, Peace and Development section of the USCCBs website. It is long past the time for that to change.
Excellent post. Thanks!
Most social justice Catholics are in fact “progressives.”. I doubt they have ever studied the encyclicals of Leo XIII and later popes which tell us how to avoid putting Catholics between the rock of liberal capitalism and the hard place of socialism. Hence we see organization like Catholic Charities being swallowed up by the state and divested of all their religious character.
bumpus ad summum
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