Here’s how the little known and often ignored Catholic principle of subsidiarity works – and why it’s so important in today’s world.

hsshenail

by Doug Lawrence

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

From the Catechism:

Consult section 1878 – 1896

IN BRIEF

1890 There is a certain resemblance between the unity of the divine persons and the fraternity that men ought to establish among themselves.

1891 The human person needs life in society in order to develop in accordance with his nature. Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man.

1892 “The human person . . . is and ought to be the principle, the subject, and the object of every social organization” (GS 25 § 1).

1893 Widespread participation in voluntary associations and institutions is to be encouraged.

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.

1895 Society ought to promote the exercise of virtue, not obstruct it. It should be animated by a just hierarchy of values.

1896 Where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and appeal to the grace of God. Charity urges just reforms. There is no solution to the social question apart from the Gospel (cf. CA 3, 5).

Editor’s note: If everybody understands their own order (mission) in life, along with their rights, responsibilities and their own particular vocation and talents under God … then … acting with charity (love) … for the common good … every part of society … beginning with the individual and the family … illuminated by the Gospel and suitably empowered by God’s grace … might reach its’ true potential … according to the dignity of the human person, who is created for good, in the image and likeness of God.

Evil doers, deniers, exploiters, usurpers and shirkers introduce deadly weaknesses and harmful anomalies into society, resulting in various forms of immorality, human suffering and social injustice.

The church and its’ members are called to help remedy these ills by means of authentic Gospel values … primarily charity and truth … embodying a genuine respect and personal concern for the fundamental rights and essential needs of every human person.

This is to be considered a direct and personal responsibility … one child of God helping another … and whenever possible … such duties should not be entrusted to third parties, government bureaucracies, or other far-flung, impersonal organizations.

In short: There’s always plenty of good, charitable work to be done, one-on-one, right in your own back yard. Relying solely on government and/or other third parties to accomplish this great and important work often deprives both the donor and the recipient of the corresponding spiritual and corporal rewards. This, along with the distinct absence of any real personal connection, results in significant losses to society, at virtually every level.

While he still walked the earth, Jesus Christ never asked anyone how much money they gave to some nameless, faceless, charity. He said this:

And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.

Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.

Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry and fed thee: thirsty and gave thee drink? Or when did we see thee a stranger and took thee in? Or naked and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison and came to thee?

And the king answering shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.  (Matthew 25:31-40)

Occasional, impersonal actions, accomplished at substantial distance are better than nothing, but they simply do not carry the same “weight” as personal acts of charity and kindness … one child of God to another … for either the donor or the recipient. Today’s world is a far colder, darker and scarier place, as a result.

Related reading:

RERUM NOVARUM – ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII
ON CAPITAL AND LABOR
 

CENTESIMUS ANNUS – ENCYCLICAL OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
ON THE 100th ANNIVERSARY OF RERUM NOVARUM

CARITAS IN VERITATE –  ENCYCLICAL OF POPE BENEDICT XVI
THE PROCLAMATION OF TRUTH AND LOVE IN SOCIETY

“Who bears the responsibility for doing charitable deeds? I do.”

It has become fashionable in recent years to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Christ delineated two separate spheres of activity, the sacred and the secular. He told his followers, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Jesus clearly believed in the separation of church and state. He never enlisted the help of the state in carrying out his mission. According to the gospel record, Jesus’ only contacts with government were when government sought to deprive him of each individual’s God-given rights — his life (the crucifixion), his liberty (his arrest), or his property (taxes). Given these facts, it seems unlikely that he would pick government as an ally or the instrument with which to perform Christian works.

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