Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The "Subdidiarity" Conundrum

by  Edd Doerr

Pope Francis's recent critique of Reaganonomics has caused many conservative Catholics to squirm a bit. Conservative NY Times columnist Ross Douthat, who often wears his Catholic religion on his sleeve, did that on Dec 1. He brought up the church's "social teaching"  on something called "subsidiarity", which means governments should allow action on social justice issues to be handled on as local a level as possible, preferably by private organizations. That's a nice abstraction, but in the real world some problems are best handled on a national level and by government, like health care reform, though the experience of implementing the ACA (Obamacare) law allows some constructive state by state expeimentation, which has been successful in states like CA, KY, WA and CT.

But I have yet to hear Catholic conservatives criticize  the public school privatization movement that has transferred much local control of public schools to interstate chains of charter schools that have generally done a worse job of  educating that locally controlled regular public schools.

The church is silent about applying the "subsidiarity" principle to religion, which it prefers to concentrate in the hands of an unelected patriarchalist bureaucracy in Rome or a nation's capital, as regards, for example, the US bishops dictating to Catholic hospitals what they may or may not do with women with life- or health-threatening pregnancies.  We will have to see what Francis is going to do about that, if anything.

And why not apply the principle of "subsidiarity" to women so that they can, at the most local level possible, make their own individual decisions about reproduction and health without meddling by politicians or clerics.

Douthat adds nothing but confusion by writing that "the most expansive welfare states can crowd out what Christianity considers the most basic human goods [?] -- by lowering birthrates [What? Overpopulation not a problem for everyone?] discouraging private charity [Huh?] and restricting the church's freedom to minister [?] in subtle but increasingly consequential ways." Wow, this guy trips over his own tongue a half a dozen times in one sentence.

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