Saturday, September 15, 2012

Importance of Subsidiarity

Subsidiarity, a word often used to refer to an important principle discussed in the social gospel of the Church and sometimes causing confusion, is not difficult to understand. Our dignity as humans is protected by this principle, which is on the shortlist of important principles that should govern the way we should see, judge and act.

Church teaching explains the principle of subsidiarity in the following manner: "A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good" (#1883 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

The Korean Church has worked to develop a sensitivity not only to the subsidiarity issue but to all issues of justice that affect many of our societal problems today. The lack of a Christian understanding of these problems has prompted the Church to begin conscientizing our Catholics by bringing greater awareness of the social teachings of the Church through lectures, educational programs and publications. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, identifies four principles of Catholic social teaching that are valid always and everywhere: human dignity,  the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity. Let us look more closely at the principle of subsidiary as explained by a diocesan bulletin.

When a person or a group is able to handle a problem it should not be interfered with by a group belonging to  a higher order. This is regarded as an obvious truth. When a child, for instance, is finally able to tie his or her shoelaces, the parents should stop doing it for the child.

Subsidiarity is opposed to certain forms of centralization and bureaucratization.
The non-governmental groupings in society should be helped to foster the common good and the participation of all the citizens. This participation is an important component of the subsidiarity principle. 

For the principle to work effectively, citizens should have the education, the information, the  right standard of values and view of history that will  contribute to mature citizenship, preparing them to select the most qualified people to work in government. When this functions properly the higher ranks of society will be helping the lower ranks to fulfill their rightful role.
Misunderstanding the social gospel teachings becomes more likely when there is "either/or thinking" instead of "both/and thinking." When we are concerned with our brothers and sisters, this does not mean we cease being concerned with our relationship with God. Matthew 25:32 gives us plenty of reasons why the two are seen as one in the teaching of Jesus.

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