Monday, February 23, 2009

Subsidiarity and Nationalization of Private Institutions

Just a reminder that pragmatism must not trump truth, particularly when that truth is the truth of the human person, who becomes and finds himself by the sincere gift of himself (Gaudium et spes #24). This truth of the human person emerges from the Christology elaborated in the Second Vatican Council that Jesus Christ, not Adam (the type), is the prototype of man (Gaudium et spes #22).

The talk of the media at the moment is all about the nationalization of the banks that are “too big to fail.” As one pundit remarked, “If a bank is too big to fail, then it is simply too big.”[1] The pragmatism of not letting them fail leads to taking ownership out of the hands of the person who alone must “own” because it is only by the work of the person that the earth becomes “gift” to the other. The truth of private ownership is not a “conservative” political stance as opposed to liberal socialism. It is a fundamental truth of the social doctrine of the Church that has its ontological center in the working person.

Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation (SCDF)

“As an ‘expert in humanity,’ the Church offers by her social doctrine a set of principles for reflection and criteria for judgment and also directives for action so that the profound changes demanded by situations of poverty and injustice may be brought about, and this in a way which serves the true good of humanity.

Fundamental principles: “The supreme commandment of love leads to the full recognition of the dignity of each individual, created in God’s image. From this dignity glow natural rights and duties. In the light of the image of God, freedom, which is the essential prerogative of the human person, is manifested in all its depth. Persons are the active and responsible subjects in social life

“Intimately linked to the foundation, which is man’s dignity, are the principle of solidarity and the principle of subsidiarity.

“By virtue of the first, man with his brothers is obliged to contribute to the common good of society at all its levels. Hence the Church’s doctrine is opposed to all the forms of social or political individualism.

“By virtue of the second, neither the state nor any society must ever substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and of intermediate communities at the level on which they can function, nor must they take away the room necessary for their freedom. Hence, the Church’s social doctrine is opposed to all forms of collectivism.”

Further on, the Instruction states: “The priority given to structures and technical organization over the person and the requirements of his dignity is the expression of a materialistic anthropology and is contrary to the construction of a just social order.”[3]

[1] Gerald F. O’Driscoll, Jr., WSJ Monday, February 23, 2009, A 15.
[2] SCDF, “Insturction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, #73
[3] Ibid #75.

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