Archbishop Dolan, of the Archdiocese of New York and newly-elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), recently wrote about Subsidiarity and Solidarity - a topic that both excites me and confuses me.
I enjoyed the article, especially this excerpt:
We bishops are not politicians, but pastors. So we preach principles — not our own, but those rooted in the Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus, Natural Law, and the tradition of our Church. We then trust such principles will enlighten those who look to us for guidance.
As Blessed Pope John Paul II remarked, “The Church does not impose; she only proposes.”
And a fundamental proposition is that care for those struggling, the poor, sick, and abandoned, the vulnerable and defenseless, has a priority in our attention to what we call the common good.
But, like I commented there, I have to admit that I am still trying to find my way as I struggle to grasp the Church’s social teachings on the economy, the death penalty, and immigration, and how to apply them to specific policies in our own country. Like Archbishop Dolan mused, It seems like everyone has their own idea of what the Church’s social doctrine really teaches and everyone has their own way of using or twisting those teachings to either defend or condemn proposed or current economic and social legislation and policies.
I am a firm believer that Catholics have a right and essential duty to have a clear and loud voice in the public square. And I look to the leaders of the Church–priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Pope, to guide me in understanding the teachings of Christ and applying them to everyday life. But I also understand that the Church will not, and should not, ever comment on each specific policy but rather ‘propose’ guidelines for those who formulte policies and vote on them. Yet, the vagueness that results ends up leaving me, and apparently many others, confused and frustrated.
For example, this is what I said in the comment addressed to Archbishop Dolan that I still have not received a reply from:
I cringe when Church leaders “defend workers, speak on behalf of the rights of the undocumented immigrant, and remind government of the moral imperative to protect the poor.” For myself, I cringe not because it makes me mad or disagree or think the Church is opposed to my political ideas. It is mostly b/c I am confused and want more explanation. The topics you listed that polarize people are, in my opinion, too vague. We need specific answers to the specifics surrounding these topics. I do not ask these questions in anger but in sincerity. I am a lamb that needs some guidance. I have been reading the Comp. of Social Doctrine and other similar Church docs but still can’t wrap my mind around it and keep running into what seem like contradictory statements.
For example, can you answer the question of the above commenter about what you mean by universal health care? And if you don’t answer here, where can I get an answer?
Do you mean government-mandated and government-provided universal health care or just that everyone should have a way to get health care?
If the Church supports gov’t mandated/provided health care, this seems to go contrary to your definition 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.”
This seems, to me, to contradict what you wrote later…”principle of solidarity, namely, society’s shared duties to one another, especially the poor and struggling . . .” Is this calling for more government to take care of this or on people to do this through their own individual efforts?
Hoping for a response as I seek the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Since I most likely will not receive a reply on that blog, if anyone is reading this and has any suggested reading for me on these topics from a real Catholic perspective (i.e not your own opinion but one rooted in the authentic teachings Christ as taught to us through the Church), I would be much obliged.