The Spectacle Blog

Archbishop Dolan: “Subsidiarity and Solidarity”

By on 5.25.11 | 5:41PM

Writing on his blog, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed the recent controversy generated by his letter to Paul Ryan on the GOP 2012 budget. Dolan's letter, which expressed gratitude to Ryan for his consideration of Catholic moral principles, drew criticism from liberals who thought that Ryan's budget doesn't show adequate prefence for the poor. Dolan's blog post doesn't directly answer this line of criticism, but does explain his thought process: 

When we bishops propose moral principles - most often allied, by the way, with the basic philosophy of our beloved country, as enshrined in our normative documents like the Declaration of Independence - we get both blessed and cursed.

One side usually blesses us when we preach the virtue of fiscal responsibility, the civil rights of the unborn, the danger of government-tampering with the definition of marriage, and the principle of subsidiarity - that is, that the smaller units in our society, such as family, neighborhood, Church, and volunteer organizations, are usually preferable to big government in solving social ills.

Yet this same side then often cringes when we defend workers, speak on behalf of the rights of the undocumented immigrant, and remind government of the moral imperative to protect the poor.

The other side enjoys quoting us when we extol universal health care, question the death penalty, demand that every budget and program be assessed on whether it will help or hurt those in need, encourage international aid, and promote the principle of solidarity, namely, society's shared duties to one another, especially the poor and struggling . . .

. . . and then these same folks bristle when we defend the rights of parents in education, those of the baby in the womb and grandma on her death bed, insist that America is at her best when people of faith have a respected voice in the public square, defend traditional marriage, and remind government that it has no right to intrude in Church affairs, but does have the obligation to protect the rights of conscience.

Dolan is trying to strike a balance. But his idea of the principle of subsidiarity -- "the smaller units in our society...are usually preferable to big government in solving social ills" -- is clearly broad enough to encompass the GOP budget. 

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