A Guiding Principle to the Debate on Healthcare: The Principle of Subsidiarity

Given the anti-Catholic bias in many circles, I must point out that the Catholic Church has no desire to gain power over the State, or even impose its teachings on those who do not share our Faith. Nevertheless, the Church offers her various social teachings, such as the Principle of Subsidiarity, as guiding principles in order to do Her part to promote reasonable dialogue and to make the Church’s own contribution toward the common goal of a just solution to social issues such as healthcare.

We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est , 28).

The Principle of Subsidiarity, which has been an integral part of Catholic Social teaching for over a century, states that only things that need to be done at the national or “federal” level should be done by a “federal” government; and allows for things that can be done at the local or smaller level to be done at the more local and smaller units of society. Where individuals, intermediary groups, or small private groups of persons can address the particular exigencies and realities of a given situation, it is best to defer to such smaller groups because human beings need some flexibility and autonomy in order to effectively address their particular circumstances.

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Papal Encyclicals: Spotlighting a century of Catholic social teaching

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For more than 100 years, Catholic social teaching has tried to help people face the world’s social, political and economic challenges with the power of the Gospel.

Pope Benedict XVI announced June 29 that he had signed his first formal contribution to the list of papal encyclical letters on social themes and that it was titled “Caritas in Veritate” (“Love in Truth”). Although dated June 29, the letter was released July 7.

The letter looks at modern problems in the field of promoting development, and the pope asked for prayers for “this latest contribution that the church offers humanity in its commitment for sustainable progress in full respect for human dignity and the real needs of all.”

Instead of focusing on theological beliefs, the social encyclicals written by most modern-day popes have tried to shape the way Christians and all people of good will can better serve the common good.

Each social encyclical was unique in that it sought to respond to the most pressing social realities at the time.

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