Bishop Boyea: “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area.”

The National Catholic Register reports on “comments and objections raised by several bishops” at the USCCB meeting in Atlanta that “challenged the specificity of some heavily publicized statements”, such as Bishop Blair’s criticisms in April of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget:

“There have been some concerns raised by lay Catholics, especially some Catholic economists, about what was perceived as a partisan action against Congressman Ryan and the budget he had proposed,” said Bishop Boyea. That statement “didn’t really further dialogue in our deeply divided country.”

In his view, statements that endorsed specific economic policies revealed a lack of “humility.” He told the assembly, “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area. We need to listen more than we need to speak. We already have an excellent, fine Compendium [of the Social Doctrine of the Church].”

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., agreed that the committee was “at times perceived as partisan” and neglected the principle of subsidiarity, which calls for solutions that can be provided close to people in need.

Archbishop Naumann suggested that drafters of the statement needed to rethink a tendency to advocate for government assistance, and he said that the conference’s proposals should not ignore the ballooning national deficit.

“Sometimes we’re perceived as just encouraging the government to spend more money, with no realistic way of how we’re going to afford to do this,” he observed.

A third statement, by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, echoed Archbishop Naumann’s suggestion that the proposed document focus more on the family as the central social institution and spoke of how the “disintegration of the family” had fueled the demand for government assistance.

Read the entire piece. One aspect of the principle of subsidiarity that needs to better communicated and explained is how the principle is not just about the smallest and the closest, but the proper ordering of social responsibilities and relationships. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church touches on this point:

The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to certain forms of centralization, bureaucratization, and welfare assistance and to the unjustified and excessive presence of the State in public mechanisms. “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending”[400]. An absent or insufficient recognition of private initiative — in economic matters also — and the failure to recognize its public function, contribute to the undermining of the principle of subsidiarity, as monopolies do as well.

In order for the principle of subsidiarity to be put into practice there is a corresponding need for: respect and effective promotion of the human person and the family; ever greater appreciation of associations and intermediate organizations in their fundamental choices and in those that cannot be delegated to or exercised by others; the encouragement of private initiative so that every social entity remains at the service of the common good, each with its own distinctive characteristics; the presence of pluralism in society and due representation of its vital components; safeguarding human rights and the rights of minorities; bringing about bureaucratic and administrative decentralization; striking a balance between the public and private spheres, with the resulting recognition of the social function of the private sphere; appropriate methods for making citizens more responsible in actively “being a part” of the political and social reality of their country. (par 187)

Read more on the Vatican site. The irony, I suppose, is that when the bishops and the USCCB weigh in on policy details and areas demanding expertise beyond what they possess as pastors and shepherds, they themselves violate the principle of subsidiarity.

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About Carl E. Olson 1207 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.