Subsidiarity how does it practically work?

we know the state can’t make a law commanding every virtuous act, and it can’t make its citizens live up to too high a standard. Also, it has to respect the ability of lower orders to protect themselves and to have self-determination. Given these ideas, what practical measures follow? Should the state ever prohibit things like gay marriage, or should it simply give aid to areas that can’t combat it itself? And should it get involved in problems before or after a lower order has failed to correct them?

Subsidiarity has nothing to do with gay marriage or other immoral sexual practices that violate the Natural law.
Marriage between one man and one woman was defined by God - Divine Law.
Jesus’s words: Mk 10:6-9.

CCC - “1894 In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, neither the state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies.”

CCC - “2209 The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family.
Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.”

Even the President and Congress are required to follow the US Constitution, which limits their power significantly.
Unfortunately, the Administraton (President) and Law Making Body (Congress) do not keep each other in check as they should. Instead they pander to those of their own party.
We should never ask the government to violate the US Constitution, nor should we ask individual States to violate their own Constitutions. This is not lawful.

well still, I don’t understand what form the general Catholic theory of the state should take given the Catholic theory of the individual.

For instance, the latter should judge only good of others w/o sufficient evidence, and they should not judge unless they have the proper virtue. The theory of the state says that the law cannot make all men saints in an instant while it must also respect the power of lower orders to their own freedom.

So what I’m getting is that, as long as there are families or organizations that can combat things like gay marriage or such by themselves, then the state doesn’t have to do anything. Similarly, state action should never be taken w/o the evidence of benefit being close-to-certain and must be taken by men who are very virtuous. This follows since politicians are also individuals and so they must abide by the previously est. theory of the individual.

So then should subsidiarity basically look like a stereotypical “limited-government”?

I don’t think what you are describing is really subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the concept that when a problem can be better addressed at a more local level, then it should be done at the local level. You are setting up some kind of a double standard that gives an undeserved bias in favor of local solutions. All that subsidiarity asks is that each issue be examines on its own merits. Some issues are quite naturally addressed better at a higher level. The Catholic Church is one such example. The catechism is universal. Individual parishes do not come up with their own “local” catechisms. On the other hand, some other issues are more naturally addressed better at the local level.

Ok. But when the theory of individual ethics is mixed with the theory of political right, I think that the results are still rather odd and controversial, that is, biased towards a limited state.

I guess what I should now ask is “am I right in this interpretation”?

For instance, the poverty rate is probably 14%.

If that’s true, then wouldn’t subsidiarity justify giving responsibility, funding, etc. to a local level to deal with this small problem? Why would one for instance, levy a general tax for such a problem?

And also, we don’t know for certain if any given solution to this problem would work. But actions should be proportioned to reason. So should this oblige us to keep/further a political system where policies can be easily changed?

[quote=Marie77]Subsidiarity has nothing to do with gay marriage or other immoral sexual practices that violate the Natural law
[/quote]

While I agree with the part about gay marriage, your more general statement about “immoral sexual practices that violate the Natural Law”, I completely disagree with. First of all, Aquinas addresses the issue of which vices should be made part of human law very clearly in his Summan, and hence it is part of the Church’s odinary magisterium:

newadvent.org/summa/2096.htm#article2

Only vices which a) the majority of the people will be able to abstain and b) those which are to hurt others, “without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained” should be made part of human law.

Now, all societies and all groups of people are not the same. So we should not universally adopt any set of vices in natural law as part of our human law. The first item will right away show that what is acceptable in human law will very from place to place and at different times.

Hence the principle of subsidiarity directly comes into play, as it is on the more local level that these things should be decided.

[quote=LeafByNiggle]All that subsidiarity asks is that each issue be examines on its own merits
[/quote]

A little more than this, IMO. There has been a whole sale abandonment of the principle of subsidiarity throughout the world. The desire for higher and higher forms of government to solve problems on a universal scale is always tempting for fallen man. No, I think traditionally,the principle of subsidiarity should be to leave issues at lower levels, until it was proven that did not work, at the lower level.

We only have to see the complete break down of the European financial system to see the ill effects of abandoning subsidiarity in our day and age. A common currency, within such a diverse economic continent was sheer madness. But somehow, and you can still find this argument, people actually thought it would be a way to keep the continent at peace. The temptation of ignoring subsidiairty is huge, for all of us. We do so at our own peril.

Here’s another thing about solidarity/subsidiarity that I don’t get:

does a dynasty contradict solidarity since one family has all the power and yet families shouldn’t control the state? I don’t think so since monarchies would then be inherently bad but they aren’t, yet I don’t know how to square this with CST.

How does one do that?

One encounters the same problems elsewhere: is democracy a violation of solidarity since it puts all the community in control of the state as if the state does not have it’s own sphere of activity apart from the individual members?

And what about the requirement that gov. not interfere with a lower estate in society if that estate can solve its own problems? In a democracy the estates are all represented in the assembly and any problem that an estate has is supposed to be solved in congress. So does democracy automatically endanger subsidiarity by giving the state the preferred position to solve social problems?

What does it even mean for an estate to not be able to solve a social problem? If a parent or a group of parents can’t discipline their children, then does that mean that they failed and should go to the state or does that mean that they failed and should redouble their efforts or did they fail to solve this social problem at all?

That’s a lot to think about!

Exactly! :thumbsup:

I was just saying that if it’s true that (for instance) sins cloud the intellect of the individual, then they do the same-thing if the individual is a president. So if a president is an adulterer for instance, then he should not judge others of adultery; for his judgment is clouded. Therefore it seems that a gov. of adulterers does not have the power to stop adultery -is that right?

Also I ask that you read the link to the summa and reading my post on dynasties, please.

Adultery isn’t even in the purview of the President to “stop”, and if it became so, it represents an entire collapse from everything below him, and everything parallel to him at the equal level- i.e. the Church.

What you are saying in your last sentence is both correct, and apparently not understanding of how leadership works.

No leader is perfect, but the leader can lead perfectly within professional expectations despite personal flaws. Subsidiarity is a model/framework which allows this to flourish best and with various checks and balances. :wink: It can work in any system, because it is not a system, but a framework to improve system performance at all levels.

Adultery isn’t even in the purview of the President to “stop”, and if it became so, it represents an entire collapse from everything below him, and everything parallel to him at the equal level- i.e. the Church.

What you are saying in your last sentence is both correct, and apparently not understanding of how leadership works.

No leader is perfect, but the leader can lead perfectly within professional expectations despite personal flaws. Subsidiarity is a model/framework which allows this to flourish best and with various checks and balances. It can work in any system, because it is not a system, but a framework to improve system performance at all levels.

Technically, I’m pretty sure that it’s wrong to pass judgment on someone with the same sins. This position is the one I think the Summa Theologica adopts in the article “judgment”. Look it up on the internet via the new advent site.

Anyways, I’m not sure how subsidiarity is supposed to be a model that allows leadership to flourish with checks and balances, for doesn’t subsidiarity say that the estate that can naturally solve a problem should solve it unless it fails? So isn’t subsidiarity more objective than just a framework; isn’t it rather a doctrine founded on the nature, and therefore of the unchangeable, of certain social estates (families/corporations as such)? It’s not a system of checks and balances, isn’t it a system of society and understanding society?

Subsidiarity is an issue in and of itself. Then you have to ask well what level of government involvement do we want on how broad sweeping should it be. The argument of a lot of people who are promoting smaller centralized government is that these programs of subsidiarity could be run much more efficiently and effectively at the lower levels of government. The point being that a State like North Dakota does not have the same problems as Illinois and rather than have a broad sweeping program at the federal level, we should dish that money out to the states individually and let them handle it themselves.

To sum the philosophy up in one line: “Always choose the lowest effective level of government possible to enact programs from because this allows the greatest amount of control from the people the program is operating for”

For example if we are talking unemployment benefits some might argue that instead of having a federal program we should split it up and let the states run their own. The people of a State have a lot more control over the program they are living under then, than if they are under a broad sweeping federal program. This gives more power and more control to individual citizens and allows them to hold politicians more accountable since the ones at fault or to credit are at the state level and not the federal level.

A little more than this, IMO. There has been a whole sale abandonment of the principle of subsidiarity throughout the world. The desire for higher and higher forms of government to solve problems on a universal scale is always tempting for fallen man. No, I think traditionally,the principle of subsidiarity should be to leave issues at lower levels, until it was proven that did not work, at the lower level.

I agree with this. You want programs managed at the lowest level of government possible. The higher you go the more distant and broad stroked the programs become and you alienate the people you are representing. Its much harder for one citizen to hold the president accountable for something though then it is for that same citizen to hold his governor accountable.

Anyways, I’m not sure how subsidiarity is supposed to be a model that allows leadership to flourish with checks and balances, for doesn’t subsidiarity say that the estate that can naturally solve a problem should solve it unless it fails? So isn’t subsidiarity more objective than just a framework; isn’t it rather a doctrine founded on the nature, and therefore of the unchangeable, of certain social estates (families/corporations as such)? It’s not a system of checks and balances, isn’t it a system of society and understanding society?

To quote Kramer from Seinfeld (out of context): “The levels, Jerry. The levels!”

Subsidiarity, which allows the following: Ultimate leadership, subordinate leadership, and the led. The led, if they can’t handle a problem, go to the subordinate, who, if they can’t handle the problem, pass it up the chain, and it can eventually come to the attention of the ultimate leadership. Similarly, for issues that have a potential effect on the lowest sphere, the ultimate leadership passes down edicts/decisions/social issue perimeters through the entire chain down. Sometimes, they just address everyone at once.

Subsidiarity can exist as a framework to ANY system which is not automatically at odds with it. Even a Monarchy can achieve this if properly led with the little guy in mind.

This framework allows no one to become voiceless or without recourse above the experienced level of indifference, lack of resource or authority, or the corrupt.

It is a framework which is ultimately strengthening to any system as it keeps a lot of stupidity out of the face of the higher spheres. It forces the individual to maintain personal responsibility and culpability when they fail to act responsibly. It allows the redress of grievance in the same above immediate spheres of authority. Depending on the system which this framework supports, failure at the top can result in a new top.

Ultimately, the result is better leadership, both individually and in expectations of quality, and that everything remains checked and balance within the system’s limits of granting such checks and balances.

Make sense?

Why not continue this concept further? A state can be pretty distant too. (Just think of problems at the DMV.). So why not transfer responsibility to the counties? Or better yet, to the cities? It is “possible” to have an unemployment insurance program or a public school program that is run entirely at the town level without any outside “interference”. But then if a big plant closes in a small town, the locally-run unemployment insurance program will just go broke, whereas a state-wide program would have remained solvent. Ah, perhaps the state is better equipped than the towns to handle these things? You see, it all comes down to a practical decision of what level of government can do a better job. And on such practical decisions, the general principle of subsidiarity does not take sides. It only asks that we consider the question and make our best judgement as to what is better.

You could just have all of the local unemployment insurance programs backed by the State in case of failure as banks are backed by the FCC in case of individual failure. The people within a State should be the judge of how that all works though. I don’t understand why we realize monopolies are bad news in the private sector, yet some continue to not understand why monopolies can be bad in the public sector as well as far as creating the best services for the people they serve.

But any backing by the State necessarily involves regulatory interference by the State, otherwise there is no moral hazard for the local programs. Once they know they are backed by the State, then then have no incentive to be responsible with how they balance premiums vs benefits, and will promise the sky, knowing that the State will bail them out if they over-promise on the benefits side. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. So you are essentially right back to a State-managed program.

But the ability or lack of ability of any given estate in society to deal with its problems is based on the power of that estate and power is based on nature. So clearly the nature of an estate (the nature of the family or the corporation or the state itself) provides the criteria for the use of subsidiarity in a society. As such subsidiarity is an objective thing that depends on the nature of different estates and since some social structures are more conducive to some estates rather than others (Communism is very anti-family for instance), likewise subsidiarity is advanced better under different social systems. So sometimes, subsidiarity is a social system in the same manner that I suppose color is a divisible thing (insofar as color resides on a divisible surface and not as such) correct?

But this doesn’t answer my original questions: if everyone participates democratically in the state, then doesn’t that violate solidarity by (1) making the nature of state action a function of the nature of individuals instead of some other estate? and (2) subsidiarity by making the lower orders constantly appeal to the protection of the higher orders?

And about the adultery issue: I suppose you have a point but it is hard to say that someone should just gather evidence and not judge, for to judge is the act of justice and it befits a legislator to be just. "Now to decide rightly about virtuous deeds proceeds, properly speaking, from the virtuous habit; thus a chaste person decides rightly about matters relating to chastity. Therefore judgment, which denotes a right decision about what is just, belongs properly to justice. For this reason the Philosopher says that “men have recourse to a judge as to one who is the personification of justice.”

Further: “Those who stand guilty of grievous sins should not judge those who are guilty of the same or lesser sins, as Chrysostom [Hom. xxiv] says on the words of Matthew 7:1, “Judge not.” Above all does this hold when such sins are public, because there would be an occasion of scandal arising in the hearts of others. If however they are not public but hidden, and there be an urgent necessity for the judge to pronounce judgment, because it is his duty, he can reprove or judge with humility and fear.”

As for the priests who must judge, then I suppose that this falls under the above clause that “If they are hidden, and there be urgent necessity for the judge to pronounce judgment, he can reprove…” But even I think that this argument is too inconclusive.

newadvent.org/summa/3060.htm#article2

A judge, or someone in judgement of a case, would be forced by law and conscience to recuse themselves when in conflict with a case- either from their own actions or from previous reasons which may prevent a proper decision.

Salamander Dingwich was not judging, but merely gathering evidence on how said affair of Slick Willy was in violation of certain laws, as well as his perjury in regard to said issue.

It was an impeachment case, not a case of trying the President for adultery. The adultery was merely the medium which led to the breaking of laws of the land and violating the expectations of the office- leading to impeachment.

Re: 1- the whole is a sum of its parts. Imagine an auto’s check engine light. That auto light is going through certain processes to turn on. Eventually, it is saying, “hey, you, the one in charge, fix this! we got a problem!”.

2- if the lower orders cannot provide, including the individual, they are granted recourse though higher spheres. That’s the entire point. The make everything run smoothly by addressing problems at the lowest level possible.

well I’ll think more about the whole impeachment issue; perhaps it wasn’t a case of judgment though I find it hard to conceive how gathering evidence in favor of guilt doesn’t (properly and normally) automatically lead to a moral judgment on the part of the evidence-gatherer.

Now, as for your above responses: they both work but they also illustrate an issue I was trying to elucidate which is “what is the nature of the social estates”. So in your example, the individuals of society are implicitly supposed to be the parts of the state, yet most people would say that the family is the lowest unit of society and so a society is a conglomeration of families and not individuals.

I ask this question primarily because depending on how you define society, that’s what will regulate when you think subsidiarity or solidarity are violated; if you think that individuals are the most basic unit of society then you will account all things to be a subject of democratic legislation, whereas if you think that the individual is normally capable of doing most things for himself, then you will not find democracy (as universal suffrage) to be an appealing constitution.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.