The Principle of Roman Catholic Social Doctrine
and its Implementation

Faith in the Trinity enlightens the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity proposed by Catholic social doctrine, says Benedict XVI . . .

"How can solidarity and subsidiarity work together in the pursuit of the common good in a way that not only respects human dignity, but allows it to flourish?" the Holy Father asked. "This is the heart of the matter which concerns you."

And though certain elements can help to understand these concepts, he said, "the solidarity that binds the human family, and the subsidiary levels reinforcing it from within, must however always be placed within the horizon of the mysterious life of the Triune God, in whom we perceive an ineffable love shared by equal, though nonetheless distinct, Persons."

He continued: "My friends, I invite you to allow this fundamental truth to permeate your reflections: not only in the sense that the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity are undoubtedly enriched by our belief in the Trinity, but particularly in the sense that these principles have the potential to place men and women on the path to discovering their definitive, supernatural destiny.

"The natural human inclination to live in community is confirmed and transformed by the 'oneness of Spirit,' which God has bestowed upon his adopted sons and daughters.

"Consequently, the responsibility of Christians to work for peace and justice, their irrevocable commitment to build up the common good, is inseparable from their mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life to which God has called every man and woman."  (Pope Benedict: Pursuing the Common Good- How Solidarity and Subsidiarity Can Work Together; (Underscored for original bold emphasis.)



"SUBSIDIARITY means that the level of government that is nearest a person and is able to address a concern should do so before higher levels of government intervene.

The most basic level of government is self-government. The second level is the family – immediate and extended. The third level is civil society – neighbors, communities, religious organizations, and other voluntary associations. The final level of government is civil government, which operates on three sub-levels in the U.S. – local, state, and federal – each one progressively more distant and complex than the one below it." (Subsidiarity.)

The above definition of Subsidiarity, is concise, simple, and very clear.  [The hyperlink is no longer functional; but the detailed definition is embraced by this one from among many others - Subsidiarity.]  It brings to mind a process of decentralization and downsizing of civil governments; but upon closer examination it involves more than that, and the implementation is surprisingly flexible.  Perhaps it is important to keep in mind that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is a political as well as a religious organization.  Looking only at Rome's religious dogma, it is easy to perceive rigidity and inflexibility.  However, in the political realm she is dealing with a vast range societal cultures and conditions, and she adapts accordingly.

Although now one of the core terms in Catholic social thought, to expect for the term subsidiarity any substantive content or any specific rule for its application would be a case of misplaced concreteness. The term captures the aspiration that polities and administrations have responsibilities for "distributive justice" in ways that promote "social" or "participatory" justice.

Subsidiarity is used when critiquing statist solutions to the distribution of social goods because they absorb the "mediating" institutions and groups that ensure the human scale required for pluralism and local initiative. In turn, unregulated market solutions to the distribution of social goods are criticized for their monopolistic outcomes and tendency to convert market control into political monopoly. In practice, Catholic teaching employs the term pragmatically to critique whatever tendency distortive of the common goodcollectivist statism or economistic laissez faire—predominates in a particular political-economic period. In the present era, the principle of subsidiarity is most often used to critique the failure of polities in market-driven economies sufficiently to help regional or local losers and the tendencies of Western liberal democracies, not always intentionally, to extract subordination as the price paid for their foreign aid.  (Encyclopedia of Religion and Society - Subsidiarity.)

Subsidiarity is being implemented through governments of differing political ideologies, and can be difficult to perceive.  The dominating influence of the Church of Rome on a society's elite is hidden from the general public's view until it is so pervasive that it is readily accepted by most without realizing that they are in the power of the papacy.


The principle of Subsidiarity derived from the Roman Catholic Social Doctrine is pervasive in the politics of Europe and the United States alike, and even Britain - viewed separately from Europe because of the prevailing euroscepticism in that nation.


Subsidiarity is inseparable from the political ideology known as Christian Democracy:

Originating in reaction to the 19th-century separation of church and state in Europe and Latin America, Christian democracy became an important political alignment in Europe only after World War II. As its name suggests it seeks to reconcile Christian values to liberal democracy, especially but not exclusively Catholic values. In practice Christian democracy has been an essentially centrist political movement, splitting the difference between the twin evils of socialist collectivism and liberal individualism. The excesses of fascism and communism, and the outmoded nature of monarchical conservatism created a vacuum in western European politics which Christian Democratic parties were able to fill. They combined conservative, social welfare policies based on Christian family values in sexual, educational and cultural matters, with a progressive social welfare role for the state in health care, housing and industrial policy. Unlike economic liberals Christian democrats have been willing to work with trade unions in corporatist policy-making. The Christian Democratic parties have also historically been the most supportive of European integration.  (Christian Democracy.)

Christian Democracy first emerged in Europe by the end of the nineteenth century, after a period of industrialisation that came with urbanisation and had fundamentally changed society. It emerged mainly under the influence of the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and more specific the encyclical ‘Rerum Novarum’ (Of New Things) of Pope Leo XIII. In this encyclical Leo XIII determined the Church’s position regarding capital and labour.[ ] During the nineteenth century the Church had come to recognize that the prevailing capitalist system had some fundamental flaws. As the British author Gilbert K. Chesterton noted, the problem with capitalism is not that there are “too many capitalists, but too few capitalists”.[ ] In other words, because the capital is concentrated in the hands of few, many are not sure of their continued economic existence. In order to prevent socialist movements from attracting Christian labourers and even priests with its rhetoric of redistributing wealth, the Church had to come up with an alternative to both capitalism and socialism.[ ] Therefore an alternative, family and community centred system called distributism was developed by Hillaire Belloc, Gilbert K. Chesterton and others, on the basis of the papal encyclicals ‘Rerum Novarum’ and ‘Quadragesimo Anno’ and in some elements inspired by medieval ‘paleo-corporatism’ or the system of guilds. Distributism holds that the ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of the state (state socialism) or a few large businesses or wealthy private individuals (plutarchic capitalism). Distributism can thus be said to be a better version of capitalism, a capitalism for the many, in which everybody owns productive property and can thus ensure his livelihood. Because distributism was never sufficiently popularized it has never been tried as an alternative economic system,[ ] the encyclicals that had formed the basis for this system though were widely circulated in Catholic circles and did have their effect on European Catholic communities. This resulted in all kinds of Catholic organisations, such as cooperatives, mutualist organisations and labour unions aiming to improve the position of labourers by organising consultation between employers and employees. It also gave rise to the Christian Democratic movement, that positioned itself as an alternative to socialism and liberalism with an emphasis on notions that can be traced to Catholic social teaching. These are what pope John Paul II called ‘the threefold cornerstone of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity’. . .

It goes without saying that this concept of a united Europe did not fall out of the sky, this is also indicated by the fact that the initiators of this unprecedented political project were Christian Democrats or to be more specific Roman Catholics. It is no wonder that exactly people such as Alcide de Gasperi could conceive such an idea as European unity and actually act upon it. For Alcide de Gasperi was born and raised in that part of Italy that had been part of the Austro-Hungarian ‘Habsburg’ Empire, which can be said to be the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and had unified large parts of Europe and many different nations. De Gasperi had moreover been a member of the parliament of the Empire, representing his region of Trentino (Southern Tyrol). By no means do I mean to idealize the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it obviously had its flaws as any human construct has, but it is likely that people such as De Gasperi acquired their ideas for a unified Europe from the experience they had and the political constructs they already knew. Roman-Catholics such as Schuman, Adenauer and De Gasperi were heavily influenced by Catholic Social Doctrine and thus had a proper understanding of the notion of subsidiarity. From his life as a journalist and politician in Austro-Hungary and Italy De Gasperi will have had an even more profound understanding of the importance of subsidiarity. . . .

Robert Schuman (1888-1963) was from Lorraine and was thus born a German citizen and only became French when Lorraine was returned to France in 1918. Robert Schuman in a 1949 speech also referred to the attempts of the Roman Catholic Church since the Middle Ages to establish and maintain some form of political unity in Christendom.[ ] So both De Gasperi and Schuman had from their own experience some understanding of supranational political entities, be they the German or the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the latter being the more interesting for our discussion. And both they and Adenauer understood the importance of subsidiarity from their familiarity with Catholic Social Doctrine and from their political experience.  (Christian Democracy: the Champion of Subsidiarity; underscored emphasis added.)

As stated above, "Because distributism was never sufficiently popularized it has never been tried as an alternative economic system;" there are still advocates, and it is vigorously debated among Roman Catholics (cf. Distributism vs. Socialism: Economics As If People Mattered.)  This last hyperlinked essay makes the following statement:

But Distributism does the opposite. It believes in personal freedom and in de-centralizing political power into the lowest level possible. (Subsidiarity is one of the core principles of Distributist thought.) It also holds that private property - especially private productive property - is not evil in itself. But it needs to be widely distributed to as many as possible. In the practical sphere, that means breaking up the big conglomerates running and ruining our economy, as well as cutting the size and power of big government from the bottom up.  (Underscored emphasis added.)


The political ideology of Christian Democracy did not come on the scene in the United Kingdom until the last decade of the 20th century.  Christian Democratic political parties were not formed until the turn of the 20th-21st centuries, and in spite of the growing influence of Roman Catholicism they languish for support, with no representation in Parliament, and only two councilor's seats in local government.  Their membership is so insignificant that Wikipedia does not even list them among the Minor Political Parties, but separately under Minor Religious Parties (List of political parties in the United Kingdom.)  The weakness of Christian Democracy in Britain was caused by a history of vibrant democracy related to a strong streak of individualism in the British character, and rooted in the Reformation and true Bible Christianity.  Britain has a heritage of Protestantism and informed anti-popery which persists in the general populace to the present time.

The Tyndale Bible laid the foundation for Britain's democracy, in spite of the fact that William Tyndale was, "like all early reformers, . . a political authoritarian of the highest order.":

As we explored last week, the justification for political power in western Europe from the middle of the first millennium onwards was based on the king's faithfulness to the idea of justice as articulated and defined by careful theological reflection on the biblical witness. Only by securing peace, administering justice, protecting the poor and weak, and so on, was a king truly made king.

This could set onerous demands on kingship (even if they remained largely in the realm of theory rather than reality) but perhaps paradoxically it also stood in the way of democratic progress. Put simply, if there was a right way and wrong way to govern, how could you risk allowing the people to choose the wrong way?

It was this mentality that underpinned ecclesiastical, particularly episcopal, opposition to political reform. Although they said comparatively little about the (1832) Great Reform Act at the time, 21 bishops voted against the bill initially and only two supported it. Furious crowds demanding disestablishment, attacking bishops' palaces and overturning their coaches helped to change their minds – but only a bit. At the second reading the following year, the bishops were more vocal but also more divided, 12 voting for the bill and 15 against it. Those Christians had a big problem with democracy.

There is, however, a second, more affirmative strand to the Christian engagement with democracy that can be traced back to one of the most biblical and least democratically minded Christian thinkers in the English tradition.

William Tyndale was the most brilliant linguist and wordsmith of the English Reformation. Like all early reformers, he was a political authoritarian of the highest order. His most substantial work of political theology, The Obedience of a Christian Man, did what it said on the tin, locating an almost absolute duty of political obedience in the natural order of creation, as articulated in both the Old and New Testaments. "Neither may the inferior person avenge himself upon the superior, or violently resist him, for whatsoever wrong it be," he stated, uncompromisingly.

Tyndale the political theorist was matched – and badly undermined – by Tyndale the evangelist, however. As an "evangelical", which is how all the early Reformers identified themselves, his overwhelming concern was to make the scriptures accessible to everyone in their own language, no matter how poor or socially browbeaten they were.

Tyndale did this brilliantly. His simple, accurate, vivid translation, made from the original Greek and circulated in an (easily concealed) octavo or pocket-sized format, was the foundation stone of the English Reformation, and perhaps the most democratic text ever published in English. It placed before everyone the very founding document of their society and encouraged them to read and discuss it. So important was it to clear a path for the unmediated relationship between God and the individual believer that it was worth risking political disorder (which did ensue) in order to make that religious freedom possible.

This spiritual democracy inherent in Reformation Protestantism prepared the ground from which ideas of political democracy would one day grow.  (The political Bible, part 3: how Britain came to accept democracy;  underscored emphasis added.)

Incidentally, the concept of a "political Bible" seems at first to be inappropriate; however, on second thought the great controversy revealed in the Bible is very much concerned with "the activities associated with the governance . . ." as "politics" is defined - the governance of God versus the governance of the arch-rebel Satan.  The statements of Jesus Christ that "My kingdom is not of this world," and "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" are political statements.  He issued directives that (1) the sole mission of the Church in this world is to proclaim His kingdom exclusively by preaching the gospel, and (2) that there should, or must, be a clear separation between Church and State.  Rome has always flouted these directives.  Protestantism was in its inception apolitical:

Martin Luther did not intend for his ideas to have widespread political consequences, let alone spark the social, political, and religious revolution that was the Protestant Reformation. Instead, his ideas were forced into an increasingly political direction by factors outside of Luther’s control. First, the involuntary politicization of Luther’s ideas was put into motion by the Church’s harsh reaction to Luther’s theology, which helped established him as a prominent and influential religious reformer outside the sphere of influence of the Church. Second, Luther’s ideas appealed to political factions, who saw in them an opportunity to further their own personal agendas, which in turn implicated Protestantism in the affairs of state. Lastly, the ideas of Protestantism as originally put forward by Luther were co-opted and transformed by the Protestant reformers who followed in his wake, and who contributed greatly to Luther’s loss of control over the theology which he created. Thus, while Protestantism was never intended by Luther to be a political idea, it became so through the actions and interventions of outside forces.  (The Development of Protestantism as a Political Idea;  underscored emphasis added.)

The Protestant world has had a checkered past, but on the whole until the second half of the 20th century its emphasis has been evangelical, and it has remained aloof from direct involvement in politics, relying on the power of the Word of God to influence human behavior.  (Cf. Protestantism and Politics, Economics, and Sociology.)

With reservations about the author's idea of "Emerging Church ecclesiology . . .born out of an experience seeking a theology," and a Karl Barth comment that "the English are naturally drawn to Pelagianism [in a nutshell the ability of humans to be righteous by the exercise of free will] . . .," the following is illustrative of the role of Protestantism in the United Kingdom:

No historian can afford to overlook the political aspects of the English Reformation, and the desperate struggle over decades to safeguard England against the power of the papacy, and with it, imperial Spain.

Even now, English law enshrines a number of antipapal measures in the Act of Union of 1707, thus encoding sectarianism in the bowels of the United Kingdom.

The point of this preamble is that even after the break with Rome, (and indeed before in the person of Wycliffe and the Lollards) there is a long English history of Dissent.

The pre-eminence of the established Church, later to be derided as the Tory party at prayer, was challenged from the outset by non-conformism. The Civil War of 1640-1660 proved the point, and this sturdy individual Protestantism was and remains a breeding ground for people who are uneasy with fixed deposits of doctrine, traditions, and privileged structures. . . (EMERGING CHURCH;  underscored emphasis added.)

Thus Subsidiarity as it is the central principle of continental European Christian Democracy, and as it is now being implemented in the United States, has not until recently been found in the body politic of Britain.  Paradoxically, it was the British who insisted on the inclusion of Subsidiarity in the European Union Maastricht Treaty, albeit for a distinctly different purpose than that of the Roman Catholic Church.  It was seen by the British negotiators as a protection for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, but sadly this was an illusion:

FOR OVER A decade, in response to anxieties expressed about the gradual shift of decision making power from this country to the European Union, the doctrine of subsidiarity has been hailed as the saviour of British sovereignty. The Major and Blair governments alike argued that it would ensure that decisions were taken at the level closest to the citizen and they have been content to give the impression that it would halt the juggernaut towards a centralised Europe.

In practice, there have been mixed messages from ministers about the purpose of subsidiarity. Ultimately, it must be judged by its effect. At best, it is a sop to those concerned with the preservation of self government; at worst, it is a cloak which seeks to disguise the ever increasing arrogation of powers to the institutions of the European Union. . . .

As Prime Minister, John Major, not least because of his experience as a Government Whip, knew that he had a tough task to persuade his own MPs that the forthcoming Maastricht Treaty would not herald a large sacrifice of British independence. He was also conscious of a growing public anxiety that European Community diktat was becoming ever more widespread. Attempting to reassure colleagues and voters alike, he pressed his counterparts to include in the Treaty a clause on subsidiarity that could be seen as a protection of the rights of national parliaments. In fact, the doctrine of subsidiarity is not novel but, rather, it had been espoused by the Vatican in Rome when Mussolini was in power. Enshrining the concept in Article G(5)1 of the Maastricht Treaty, however, European Community leaders said it meant that decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level. What does the Article say and what does it really mean ?

"In areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Community shall take action, in accordance of the principle of subsidiarity, only if and insofar as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved by the Community." [ ]

Two objections to this immediately arise. First, the Article is not saying that action will be taken at the lowest level, as its supporters claim, but rather that the Community shall act if it judges it necessary to do so. . . .

In any case, despite the conviction in some quarters that subsidiarity would check the growth of European federalism, the tortuous wording of the Article warranted the description of it by Lord Mackenzie Stuart, a former President of the European Court of Justice, as "a rich and prime example of gobbledygook". [ ] He averred that to regard it as a constitutional safeguard showed "great optimism."  (Subsidiarity and the Illusion of Democratic Control;  underscored emphasis added.)

British democracy, which was protected for centuries by a vibrant democracy nurtured by Protestantism has now fallen prey to the virulent Social Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church and its principle of Subsidiarity.


The United States is an object lesson in the implementation of Subsidiarity by differing political ideologies.  In Europe, as quoted in Christian Democracy, above, "In practice Christian democracy has been an essentially centrist political movement, splitting the difference between the twin evils of socialist collectivism and liberal individualism."  The implementation of Subsidiarity was influenced accordingly.  In the United States it does not seem to be a part of the vocabulary of the Democratic Party.  Liberal Roman Catholic newspaper columnists do not mention it.  Prominent Democratic Party leaders who are Roman Catholic: the current Vice-President; the former Speaker of the House, now Minority Leader; the Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate; the 2004 Presidential Candidate; all seem to ignore it.  The following offers an explanation:

These numerous citations make clear that welfarism as understood and presented by many socially minded politicians, many now of the Democratic Party, is not compatible with Catholic social understandings, since it is heedless of the principle of subsidiarity. It holds out economic equality, distribution of wealth, without reference to the ability or willingness of most citizens to earn and take care of themselves and their families. It caters to those who think those of greater industry and wealth should take care of them.

A free market economy held sway in America from its beginning. It allowed for economic ups and downs, with the working of supply and demand to correct things, as was the case until 1929. Herbert Hoover, then president, instituted temporary relief programs, counting on a quick return of prosperity. But the gambling fever that helped bring the crash had deceived the whole culture into a spirit of abandon following World War I. The bubble that burst in Hoover's second year in office was too immense to allow for a normal working of the economic cycle. Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected to replace Hoover, swept away free economics in favor of Keynesian economics, which inserted government regulation into every area of economic life. Hence the host of regulatory bodies established by Roosevelt — NRA (struck down by Supreme Court), PWA, TVA, and so on.

The Democratic Party has never recovered from the idea that governmental expertise is more reliable than natural free economics in providing opportunity to most Americans, despite the fact that the Great Depression was still ongoing when World War II brought on a burst of demand for labor and production, ending it.

Now, Keynesianism puts no stock in the principle of subsidiarity. To the contrary, it disputes the right and ability of most people to make their own economic way without undue interference.  (Catholic Social Doctrine Begins with Subsidiarity.)

Subsidiarity has been embraced by modern Conservatism, which had its genesis in the person of William F. Buckley:

When William F. Buckley burst onto the national scene in 1955, conservatism was a dead letter in American politics.

"Lots of people thought that it was outdated, anachronistic, prehistoric, foolish, not very intelligent," Carl Bogus tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.

Bogus is the author of a new biography, Buckley: William F. Buckley and the Rise of American Conservatism. He says that back in the 1950s and '60s, there really was an established liberal elite in America, which controlled both political parties.

Buckley set out to change that. As a recent Yale graduate, he published a book called God and Man at Yale, which took the university to task for failing to promote Christianity and free market economics.

"He collapsed in that book religion, economics and political ideology," Bogus says, producing the mix of ideas we recognize today as conservatism: free-market capitalism, support for American military actions, libertarianism and social conservatism.

It was Buckley who made that coalition. He held within him all ... of those beliefs. He was what we call today a neoconservative, a social conservative and a libertarian."  (William F. Buckley, Father Of American Conservatism;  underscored emphasis added.)

A National Catholic Register article titled "Buckley, Rehabilitated," is subtitled "William F. Buckley Shaped America’s Political Dialogue. The Catholic Faith Shaped William F. Buckley"  Some critically important facts emerge in this article:

It’s common knowledge that William F. Buckley Jr., considered by many to be America’s most important public intellectual of the second half of the 20th century, was Catholic. What has remained uncertain for many is how faithful he was to the teachings of the Church. With the release of a new book, Buckley biographer Lee Edwards is seeking to clear up the confusion.

“He was a good Catholic all his life, not just at the end,” Edwards told the Register. “His faith was central to his life and career.” . . .

George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II, calls Buckley one of the most publicly influential American Catholics of the 20th century. Yet, what’s apparent from Edwards’ biography is that Buckley held much back from his readers, keeping much close to the vest — keeping what was most common to him, literally day in and day out, private.

Who knew, for instance, that William F. Buckley Jr. prayed a Rosary every day of his life beginning as a teenager? Who knew that, later in life, he was a daily communicant? And that’s just for starters. . . .

In Edwards’ book, we see the influence of certain Catholic conservative intellectuals on Buckley, such as Willmoore Kendall, James Burnham and Russell Kirk, all the way to the impact of Catholic teachings like subsidiarity. As for the latter, subsidiarity was fundamental to Buckley’s brand of conservatism; it seems to explain certain policy positions better than laissez-faire or libertarian philosophy.

This is no small fact. It would mean that the Catholic faith has been influential in undergirding the domestic-economic thinking of the entire postwar conservative movement. Stated another way: Thanks to William F. Buckley, the Catholic faith played a far greater role in shaping America’s political dialogue than most Americans realize.  (Buckley, Rehabilitated;  underscored emphasis added.)

However, some argue that the Conservatives have got the implementation of Subsidiarity wrong:

With the ascension of George W. Bush to the presidency comes the public emergence of the subsidiarity principle, a doctrine previously familiar primarily to Catholic social theorists and observers of the European Union. Fundamentally and explicitly intertwined with Bush's "compassionate conservative" vision, subsidiarity calls for social problems to be addressed from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. Literally meaning "to 'seat' ('sid') a service down (sub') as close to the need for that service as is feasible,' subsidiarity holds that where families, neighborhoods, churches, or community groups can effectively address a given problem, they should. Where they cannot, municipal or state governments should intervene. Only when the lower bodies prove ineffective should the federal government become involved.

Subsidiarity has assumed a decidedly conservative gloss in today's public policy debates. Clung to by those seeking to shrink federal government programs and largely ignored by those who oppose them, subsidiarity appears to have become the exclusive property of one side of the political spectrum. This Article contends that the strictly conservative portrayal of subsidiarity misconstrues the nature of the Catholic social theory from which the principle arises. The conservative perspective also overlooks the affirmative government functions essential to subsidiarity's faithful implementation. Part I of the Article provides an overview of subsidiarity's expanding influence on debates over the role of government and its increasingly frequent equation with the concept of devolution. Part II traces the Catholic roots of subsidiarity and shows how the principle's origins transcend today's conservative and liberal dichotomy. Part III addresses subsidiarity's applicability to real-world governance, first looking to its role in the European Union and then to its more subtle but pervasive function as a principle of American federalism. In Part IV, the Article outlines several conceptual limitations on subsidiarity's devolutionary impetus, as seen in particular areas of law where an active federal role is essential to furthering the principle's objectives. That these areas are not federal priorities under current notions of compassionate conservatism underscores the fundamental misconceptions surrounding subsidiarity as a principle of governance.  (Subsidiarity as a Principle of Governance - Beyond Devolution;  underscored emphasis added.)

The above quotation is from the Introduction to "Subsidiarity as a Principle of Governance - Beyond Devolution," an article appearing in the Indiana Law Review.  A further quotation from the Introduction is instructive of how much has been going on in plain sight, yet unnoticed and probably misunderstood in the context of enactment of the Roman Catholic Social Doctrine:

In the United States, subsidiarity underlies a wide variety of current legislative actions. "Subsidiarity conservatism" has been invoked by members of Congress who "have worked to codify such [an] approach into legislative policy, specifically as a means to end poverty," and has been relied on to justify the decentralization of environmental law, opposition to campaign finance reform, the privatization of urban land use regulations, and even an initiative to provide broadcast licenses to low-power radio stations. Subsidiarity is reflected, albeit implicitly, in the myriad federal statutes that "allow states to enact their own regulatory programs, provided they meet" minimum standards. The principle has also been looked to as the model for interpreting Supreme Court jurisprudence, including decisions upholding parents' authority over their children's education and limiting the Commerce Clause's scope.

In all of this, subsidiarity is treated as a strictly devolutionary principle compelling the reallocation of social functions from higher to lower government bodies, or from government to non-government entities. Rarely, if ever, is subsidiarity looked to as warranting a greater role for the federal government in combating a given social problem. Frequently, subsidiarity is expressly equated with devolution. Even where a broader definition is given, it invariably tracks devolutionary dogma. Given the unrelenting portrayal of subsidiarity as a doctrine of privatization and decentralization, it is no wonder that the principle is now identified almost exclusively with the tenets of the Republican Party.  (Cf. Subsidiarity as a Principle of Governance - Beyond Devolution - Introduction;  underscored emphasis added; and N.B. the copious documentation, and citation of a book by current Republican presidential candidate, Roman Catholic Rick Santorum.)

The contention of the Indiana Law Review article that the strictly conservative portrayal of subsidiarity misconstrues the nature of the Catholic social theory from which the principle arises is supported by the papal pronouncements on the principle. It is also supported by other well-documented writings on the subject.  In fact, there is a debate raging within the United States community of Roman Catholics on the subject.  This blog posting, Conspiracies, Subsidiarity, and Zombie Economics, and the hyperlinks within its text, are good examples of the strong conflicting opinions that exist within the community:

In other words, while there is a vast area where Catholics can reasonably differ on economics, they are prohibited from embracing either full-scale collectivism or full-scale individualism, which denies or minimizes the social and public character of the right of property. And modern American libertarianism – by attacking the role of the state in regulation or distribution and attacking the idea that property has a public character- falls outside the pale. To use the words of John Paul II said, it is represents the idolatry of the market.

Church teaching is crystal clear on this. As Pius XI said “the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces” and cannot “be considered and treated as altogether free from and independent of public authority”. Rather, economic life should be “subjected to and governed by a true and effective directing principle”. This is fundamental. We can have legitimate debates over the reach of this directing principle, but we cannot challenge its existence. . .

It certainly is possible that/[for] a public authority to provide “too much subsidy” (and think of subsidy as “help”, not just in monetary terms). It can create dependency. But it can also provide too little, ignoring a key requirement of justice – what Pope Benedict calls the institutional path of charity, no less important than the private path. But because they don’t understand the theory, the Catholic right does not understand that subsidiarity can also be violated in the private sector, and that it is the role of the government to create the conditions for each part of the social body to flourish. This is Pius XI’s ”true and effective directing principle”, whereby governments must always be “directing, watching, urging, restraining”, to make sure that subsidiary institutions can flourish. Or as John Paul II put it – while the principle of solidarity justifies a direct state role in economic affairs, the principle of subsidiarity justifies an indirect – but no less important - role, to create “favorable conditions for the free exercise of economic activity”.

So the public authority has a watchdog role that protects small groups from being dominated and swallowed up by larger and more powerful ones. This was indeed the theme of the recent Vatican document on financial regulation, calling for a supranational authority to reduce the “excess subsidy” given toward large and powerful financial institutions in our insufficiently regulated globalized world. In other words, the call for proper regulation springs directly from the principle of subsidiarity.  (Underscored emphasis added; Cf.  Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies - What is Subsidiarity?; AMERICA’S ECONOMY/ Two Principles for Reform: Limited State and Subsidiarity;

The Roman Catholics are debating among themselves about the meaning and implementation of Subsidiarity; but not for a majority Catholic nation.  The debate is focused on the legislation of Subsidiarity in the United States, still nominally a Protestant nation. - nominally because of the ecumenical alliance with Rome.  There is no consideration of whether the injection of Roman Catholic religious ideology into the public policy of this nation is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution; only whether Subsidiarity is being applied in accordance with the Catholic Social Doctrine.

There is another aspect of the debate about the proper way to enact Subsidiarity which cannot be ignored.  The Indiana Law Review article describes Richard John Neuhaus and Michael Novak as "Catholic neoconservatives."  These men are also known appropriately as theoconservatives, or "theocons.":

Damon Linker's book on the theocons uses a term that first appeared in Jacob Heilbrunn's 1996 New Republic article, "Neocon v. Theocon." The neoconservatives are mostly secular and Jewish, the theoconservatives mostly Catholic.

While both have supported using military force to promote democracy, the religiously motivated theocons have sought to build a coalition of conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians to challenge the secular mainstream's contention that religious convictions are essentially private and should not influence public policy.

Foremost among them are Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak and George Weigel. Mr. Linker knows them well; for three and a half years, he was an editor of the flagship theocon journal, Neuhaus' First Things.  (Theocons on the warpath: radicals turned republicans clothed initiatives in Catholic moral language;  underscored emphasis added.) 

The Indiana Law Review article has this to say about Neuhaus and Novak:

Further, the principle is a centerpiece of Bush's embrace of the work of Catholic neoconservatives like Richard John Neuhaus and Michael Novak,' and Bush supporters invoked subsidiarity explicitly during the campaign in urging Catholics to vote for him. . . .

The equation of subsidiarity with devolution, at least in this country; originates primarily with neoconservatives like Novak and Neuhaus, who made subsidiarity one of the founding principles of their movement. Novak contends that in a welfare state, "the administrative state steadily swallows up most of the functions that used to be exercised by civil society.. [and] [t)hus, the principle of subsidiarity is continually violated, as the higher levels crush the lower."' Instead, according to Novak, "[w]hat the free world needs, rapidly, is a devolution of significant responsibilities from centralized bureaucracies to citizens, alone and in their multiple associations!'

Given this background, one might conclude that subsidiarity was created as a component of the Republican or Libertarian party platforms, not as a Catholic principle of social justice. That is not to suggest that all conservative applications of subsidiarity are unfaithful to the principle's origins or intended purpose. Certainly the intervention and expansion of government authority in many contexts runs counter to any reasonable reading of subsidiarity. But the devolutionary elements of subsidiarity are only half of the story. To engage the principle in its truest and fullest sense, one must engage the Catholic social theory from which it arises (Underscored emphasis added.)

Thus the writer of the article lays the responsibility for an unbalanced application of Subsidiarity squarely on the shoulders of Neuhaus and Novak.  How then does one understand the relationship between these men and Popes John-Paul II and Benedict XVI?:

Catholic neoconservatives, like most neocons, are elitists who see social inequality as a natural condition of society. As a result, they often stress the need to control knowledge in order to better instruct the general populace. But unlike neocons such as Irving Kristol who tend to be either atheists or not terribly religious, theocons are traditionalist-minded Catholics, many with ties to ultra-conservative organizations such as Opus Dei. Theocons also share a history with the rest of the neoconservative movement—their leading lights moved from left to right in reaction to what they saw as the threat of the ‘60s cultural revolution and inattention to the true threat of communism.

This group is spearheaded by the triumvirate of Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak and George Weigel. They had a good friend in Pope John Paul II— but now have even better ones in Pope Benedict XVI and President George W. Bush.  (How Roman Catholic Neocons Peddle Natural Law into Debates about Life and Death; underscored emphasis added.)

The papacy is inscrutable.  It is naturally opaque in most of its public pronouncements.  The statements made by the Popes suggest that those who argue that the neocons are going about the implementation Subsidiarity in the United States the wrong way are correct.  Yet Popes John-Paul II and Benedict XVI are reported to be their good friends.  Whatever the true position of the Popes on the neoconservative implementation of Subsidiarity, the fact is that what is being done is intended to advance that principle of the Roman Catholic Social Doctrine.  Subsidiarity is being advanced by Roman Catholic political activism, and implemented by legislation at all levels of government.  Rome is accomplishing her purpose.


These are dangerous times, with deadly spiritual snares set on every side.  The Book of Revelation has given us advance warning:

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.  (Rev 16:13-14.)

This is a work of deception and delusion.  The Apostle Paul has warned of the "man of sin," the papacy:

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.  2 Thess. 2:8-12

The question arises: what are the deceptions and delusions for which we must be on the lookout?  Are they confined to the prophesied Sunday legislation, national or international, on which the minds of so many Seventh-day Adventists are concentrated; or to the Trinity dogma, as is the exclusive focus of many others?  Such narrow vision is dangerously shortsighted.  As is evidenced by Pope Benedict XVI's statement quoted at the beginning of this essay, the Trinity dogma is embraced by the ideologies of Solidarity and Subsidiarity.  A part of what the Pope said is not quoted above:

"Similarly, subsidiarity," the Pontiff continued, "insofar as it encourages men and women to enter freely into life-giving relationships with those to whom they are most closely connected and upon whom they most immediately depend, and demands of higher authorities respect for these relationships -- manifests a 'vertical' dimension pointing toward the Creator of the social order."

From the words of the Pope himself, the Trinity dogma is embraced by the principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity.  Perhaps of even greater significance in conjunction with the implementation of Subsidiarity is the activism, and the progressive enactment of legislation, aimed at banning abortion.  Whatever one's view on the morality of abortion, it cannot be ignored that hidden within the worldwide Roman Catholic opposition to abortion is the dogma of the immortality of the soul.

Malachi Martin, in his book Keys of This Blood: Pope John Paul II Versus Russia and the West for Control of the New World Order, stated:

In a 24,000-word document known, as papal documents generally are, by its now famous first words, Redemptor Hominis, John Paul displayed a depth of thought and consideration coupled with a message that was characteristically simple and startling.

No human activity escapes the religious dimension, he said; but especially important are the activities that constitute the sociopolitical life of men and women wherever they reside. Indeed, the note that dominated and animated that encyclical document was John Paul's insistence that the hard, intractable problems of the world—hunger, violation of human dignity and human rights, war and violence, economic oppression, political persecution—any and all of these can be solved only by acceptance and implementation of the message of Christ's revelation announced by the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church.(Underscored and italicized emphasis added.)

"Simple and startling" indeed!  Perhaps more appropriately "fearsome."  This a paraphrase by Martin; but there is little doubt that this is an accurate representation of what the Pope intended to convey.  These are menacing words of the Beast and the Dragon which we ignore at our peril.  "The message of Christ's revelation announced by the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church," which is its Social Doctrine and the principle of Subsidiarity, applies Natural Law as a substitute for the biblical revelation.  The tentacles extend throughout the United States and Europe.  Subsidiarity is now being agitated in Canada (Government Transformations: The Impact on Canada's Official Languages Program - March 1998,) as well as other countries not the subject of this essay.  Progressively, all the world is wondering [following] after the beast (Rev. 13:2, last part.)

Now, it can be expected confidently that God will not hold the individual Christian accountable for the fact that he/she is encircled by the unbiblical Roman Catholic Social Doctrine, any more than for the evil that is in the world around.  However, just as assent to evil results in contamination by it; likewise assent to the principles of the antichrist leads to corruption by them.  Mental acceptance of the essential elements of an ideology propagated by the powers of darkness must surely lead to dire spiritual consequences.  The question is: at what point is the Mark of the Beast received?  Is it by agreement with a political activism which defies the freedom of choice given to man by his Creator; or is it merely by supporting the campaign of and voting for a candidate of the party which is imposing the dogmas of the antichrist on the nation?  Prior to the takeover of the Republican Party by the religious right, it would have been presumptuous to fault a Christian for voting in support of its principles.  This has all changed drastically since the Ronald Reagan presidency, when Roman Catholic ideology began to dominate American politics through the agency of the Republican Party.  (Cf. The Holy Alliance; Political Power of Roman Catholic Bishops; Paul Ryan gets boost from Catholic bishops; The Catholicity of Paul Ryan’s Budget; and ref. Subsidiarity as a Principle of Governance - Beyond Devolution, cited above.)  This is NOT a recommendation on how the Bible Christian should vote.  It is an illumination of the spiritual hazards of the voting booth in these times.  The current Democratic administration has its own Church-State baggage (Ref. ADL to Obama: We’re “deeply troubled” by faith-based plan; Faith, Hope and Charity: Why President Obama's 'Faith-Based' Agenda Must Change - this is Subsidiarity in action; Profile: US ambassador seeks to 'build bridges' with Vatican; INTER-RELIGIOUS COOPERATION.)  Is the Social Conservatism of the Republicans the right choice for Christians as a multitude of Protestants believe?  Do current conditions recommend voting the lesser of two evils?  Have we already reached such an advanced stage, whichever the political party, where abstention should be the preferred course?  These are the three choices.  May Wisdom from above guide the reader in making such decisions.

When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf . . .

When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with Spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and Republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan, and that the end is near. (Testimonies for the Church 5:451.)

It appears that the threefold union which began to be formed nearly fifty years ago as the result of Vatican II, is now essentially completed.  The principles of the Constitution of the United States which guaranteed the liberty of the individual, and most importantly religious freedom, are eroding fast, and provision is being made "for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions."  This is what the Roman Catholic Social Doctrine with its principle of Subsidiarity is all about.  The time has come for the marvelous working of Satan, and the end is near.  (Cf.  Jesus' Own Prophecy.)

After the truth has been proclaimed as a witness to all nations . . .

After the truth has been proclaimed as a witness to all nations, every conceivable power of evil will be set in operation . . .

Satan and his angels are wide-awake, and intensely active, working with energy and perseverance through human instrumentalities to bring about his purpose of obliterating from the minds of men the knowledge of God. But while Satan works with his lying wonders, the time will be fulfilled foretold in the Revelation, and the mighty angel that shall lighten the earth with his glory, will proclaim the fall of Babylon, and call upon God's people to forsake her. . . .

At the time of the loud cry of the third angel those who have been in any measure blinded by the enemy, who have not fully recovered themselves from the snare of Satan, will be in peril, because it will be difficult for them to discern the light from heaven, and they will be inclined to accept falsehood. Their erroneous experience will color their thoughts, their decisions, their propositions, their counsels. The evidences that God has given will be no evidence to those who have blinded their eyes by choosing darkness rather than light. After rejecting light, they will originate theories which they will call "light," but which the Lord calls, "Sparks of their own kindling," by which they will direct their steps. ("Let the Trumpet Give a Certain Sound;" R&H, December 13, 1892; underscored emphasis added.)