For this week's Common Good Forum, we're featuring a piece in Crux by Robert Christian. Robert Christian is the editor of Millennial, a PhD candidate in politics at The Catholic University of America, and a graduate fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.
When you mention the principle of subsidiarity to a progressive Catholic, the reaction is frequently one that you might expect when informing a man that his mother-in-law is in town on a surprise visit and staying at his house for the foreseeable future (not mine, of course). I have seen this firsthand when I asked about subsidiarity at an excellent presentation on Caritas in Veritate by a prominent Catholic liberal.
This is unfortunate.
The reason for the deep discomfort of many progressive Catholics on the topic is clear, however. A handful of right-wing Catholics have twisted this concept to match their doctrinaire commitment to minimalist government and under-regulated capitalism, a distortion that is both audacious and indefensible. They have claimed that government closest to the people inevitably governs best, a claim that subsidiarity does not make and is empirically false, with local and state government action in Ferguson andCalifornia providing the most recent evidence. These revisionists have tried to turn subsidiarity into the American version of states’ rights, as though John C. Calhoun, Strom Thurmond, and Barry Goldwater were the architects of the principle.
Yet despite these unfortunate attempts at redefinition, progressive Catholics who value Catholic social teaching should reexamine subsidiarity, as it is a principle that they can and should embrace.
Read the rest here.