Solidarity through Subsidiarity

Since Obama’s decision to impose the HHS mandate on the country and give Catholic organizations 1 year to comply, the internet has exploded with angry Catholics wondering how in the world the President could so blatantly violate our Constitutional guarantee of the freedom of religion. President Obama told Archbishop Dolan a few weeks ago that he still had the utmost respect for the Church and would never force the people to violate any of Her principles. To quote Representative Joe Wilson, “You lie!” Catholics are now going to be forced to either violate their beliefs or forgo healthcare.  We have every right to be outraged.

Now, while I am glad that people are upset, I want to point something out. While forcing Catholic organizations to provide healthcare that includes contraception, Plan B, ect. is morally and legally reprehensible, why are Catholics just now rising up to fight for our liberty? The first amendment’s focus is not solely the freedom of religion; it also guarantees our freedom of association, which the government has been ignoring for decades.  Why are we Catholics just now hearing about the destruction of our liberties during homilies at Mass?  Why are the bishops just now taking a respectable stand against the government’s actions?  The bishops watched passively (though occasionally spoke out) while the government trampled our first amendment rights (free speech zones, affirmative action), second amendment rights (gun laws and restrictions), fourth amendment rights (USA PATRIOT Act), fifth amendment rights (NDAA & legal assassinations), sixth amendment rights (NDAA), eighth amendment rights (legalized torture), and our ninth and tenth amendments rights (pretty much everything else the federal government does).

So why didn’t we draw the line earlier?  Of course, Catholics have taken a stand for the unborn, and in some cases, against the unjust wars.  A few bishops here and there have condemned certain aspects of policy in the past, but not to the degree that they should.  But did we really expect the government to ignore the Constitution and the Natural Law, disregard our natural rights, but then respect Catholic doctrine when it comes to contraception?  We need to realize that this new HHS mandate is wrong on a much deeper level than simply a violation of the freedom of religion.   The government mandating companies and employers to do what the government wishes, with or without the consent of the employer, is inherently wrong.  This includes anything from payroll taxes to mandatory healthcare benefits to hiring certain percentages of minorities to complying with EPA regulations.  Why don’t the bishops tell us that only one ideal comes remotely close to encompassing Catholic social teaching, and that ideal is libertarianism? Maybe they don’t know, but they should, and they will. This Catholic-libertarian connection is strong, much stronger than most people realize.  Read on folks, because if the bishops won’t tell you, I will.

There are many Catholic teachings that can be related to government policies, such as the Just War Theory relating to (what should be) our nation’s foreign policy when it comes to military action. However, the Catholic social teaching that Catholics should be able to connect directly to libertarianism is subsidiarity. Pope Pius XI described subsidiarity as so: “It is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and/or industry.” Can parents educate their own children? Of course. So federal education paid for by taxes that we are forced to pay is a violation of this teaching of subsidiarity. Can an individual go to war against a hostile foreign nation? Of course not, so this is the federal government’s duty. These are extremely simplified examples, but they are sufficient for the point I am making.

So subsidiarity, a Catholic social teaching, is exactly the main principle of libertarianism. The only argument against subsidiarity that I have seen from Catholics, using other Catholic teaching, is that subsidiarity can not operate with the Catholic social teaching of solidarity. Or more simply, that we can’t possibly freely associate with each other to work towards some common good. Now, consider the exact argument that they are making, and consider the alternatives. Can we, as a people, expect solidarity to come through government mandates and forced associations? Of course not.  Can solidarity come when money that we have worked for is taken unjustly and used for ends that we may or may not agree with?  Of course not. True solidarity will come through voluntary association and cooperation. In other words, we can achieve the Catholic social teaching of solidarity through the Catholic social teaching of subsidiarity.

If we are to work towards this society where people freely associate, where the fruits of our labor are not stripped from us unjustly, and where the government exists only in the form that was intended by the framers of our Constitution, we have to speak out against every injustice, every violation of our liberty, and any immorality that the government forces upon us.  We can not just sit idly by and decide to speak out only when these mandates directly affect us. This is not solidarity.  Nor can we allow the government to tell us who to associate with, how much of our money it will take without our consent, or what to do with the money that it allows us to keep.  This is not solidarity.  Catholics and libertarians (and Catholic libertarians) should be united in their cause to reduce the scope of the government.  Even if the bishops won’t speak out, we are obligated to.

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