Pacem In Terris 140-141: Subsidiarity

We hear of “subsidiarity” a lot in certain church conversations. The principle applies to secular politics as well:

140. The same principle of subsidiarity which governs the relations between public authorities and individuals, families and intermediate societies in a single State, must also apply to the relations between the public authority of the world community and the public authorities of each political community. The special function of this universal authority must be to evaluate and find a solution to economic, social, political and cultural problems which affect the universal common good. These are problems which, because of their extreme gravity, vastness and urgency, must be considered too difficult for the rulers of individual States to solve with any degree of success.

It’s not just a matter of difficulty, but also of the imbalance of power. Can a small community successfully fight WalMart, for example? Large corporations need checks and balances which can only be provided when larger numbers of people band together.

And yes, there are also serious problems that would seem to require a broad consultation. The social dynamic is not one of placing someone in charge–not necessarily.

141. But it is no part of the duty of universal authority to limit the sphere of action of the public authority of individual States, or to arrogate any of their functions to itself. On the contrary, its essential purpose is to create world conditions in which the public authorities of each nation, its citizens and intermediate groups, can carry out their tasks, fulfill their duties and claim their rights with greater security. (Cf. Pius XII’s address to Young Members of Italian Catholic Action, Rome, Sept. 12, 1948, AAS 40 (1948) 412)

People and nations do deserve a measure of hope that they actually can tackle problems and make headway against them. Injustice arises when there’s a sense that there’s nothing to be done about drug wars, dictators, and an economic tide that renders hard work and investment irrelevant to insider knowledge and despotic connections.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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