By Paul Gray
A new message from Pope Benedict, re-endorsing the idea of “subsidiarity” as a key principle of Catholic teaching, has been welcomed by Australian author James Franklin.
The Pope said in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in Rome earlier this month that a society that honours subsidiarity “liberates people from a sense of despondency and hopelessness.”
The Pope also emphasized the importance of “solidarity” as a key component of Catholic social teaching.
Franklin, Editor of Life to the Full: Rights and Social Justice in Australia, a collection of Catholic social justice essays, said Pope Benedict’s address reiterated a message that has been put many times before by previous Popes.
“The basic idea of subsidiarity is that everything should be done by the smallest, most local, most ‘on the ground’ group as is feasible, though the state may have an oversight role such as auditing charities’ accounts,” Franklin said.
According to Church teaching, governments should encourage a movement towards doing things at the most local level, instead of regarding everyone as “atomistic consumers,” Franklin said.
At the same time, governments should also avoid the temptation towards socialism, which regards it as the state’s job to “do as much as possible.”
A more familiar term in the Pope’s address to the Pontifical Academy is the word “solidarity.”
Solidarity, said Franklin, means the fact that everyone who is in trouble has a claim on the attention of the rest of us.
“Those who are subject to violence in remote communities or being starved by their government in Burma, or someone who falls sick next to me on the bus, have a claim on my help,” he said.
“We owe it to them to do what we can to help, just because we’re humans and need help, and they’re part of the human community.”