Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fr. Barron on Paul Ryan and Catholic Social Teaching - And My Response

I think talk of a 'balance' between subsidiarity and solidarity leads to a mistaken view in which subsidiarity is equated with the free market and solidarity with government programs.  As bad, the free market is associated with greed while government programs are not associated with their dangers of corruption, bureaucratization, and creation of dependency.  This is one-sided and not even a balance.

But the larger problem, as I see it, is that solidarity is expressed through subsidiarity, not counterposed to it or balanced by it.  We express our love of neighbor, responsibility for each other and the virtue of social justice through the associations we build voluntarily in civil society to achieve the common good.  Governments cannot love and government programs often substitute for and undermine solidarity as well as subsidiarity.  

The aim of government in this respect, should be, as the Center for Social Justice (UK) put it, to get out of the way of the armies of compassion, not to take them over, bureaucratize, or substitute for them.

While Catholics may not as a matter of principle oppose the concept of government aid to the needy, a secular welfare state that usurps rather than supports the role of family and local communities is not the same thing as a social welfare system animated by Christian charity and operated through local communities.

Neither the Catholic concept of social justice nor solidarity nor the common good entails statism of the kind suggested by Fr. Barron here in the way he invokes Mario Cuomo.

Update (9.12.2012):

Here are a couple of responses to Fr. barron's video and my response to them:

I'm sorry, but the evidence I have seen does not indicate that there are hordes of people waiting in line to help the poor but the big bad government is getting in their way. History shows that where government, with all its abuses, does not act to provide a safety net for the marginalized they are not supported by the great mass of individuals who say government is doing their job poorly and that they would do it better.
Paul Ryan's budget is a travesty of Catholic Social Teaching.
8/27/2012 8:20:56 PM
Patricia Wilson
My confusion stemmed from the video itself. I found it impossible to believe that Father Barron would append a Catholic Social Justice stamp of approval on Paul Ryan. The United States Bishops have sent several letters to Paul Ryan stating that the only moral measure of a budget is how it affects poor and vulnerable people. As Bishop Blaire wrote, Paul Ryan's budget failed to meet this moral standard.
8/27/2012 9:35:51 PM

Paul Adams
@Patricia Wilson, yes, but the question is how a budget actually affects the poor and vulnerable. That is not a matter of good intentions, but a prudential and empirical question, not one in which bishops and clergy have any particular expertise. We know that massive increases in programs intended to help those groups (except the most vulnerable, the fetal babies, of course) often produced the opposite of the intended effects, creating not safety nets but multigenerational poverty traps and bloated bureaucracies.

@Concerned, we know from both international comparisons (Europe vs. U.S) and group comparisons within the U.S. that government spending drives out private giving, that the most secular and liberal individuals are also the stingiest in terms of giving their own time, treasure, and talent while religious conservatives are the most generous in giving to secular as well as religious charities - and their giving is not imposing insupportable and unprecedented debt on our children and children's children. Both public and private giving may do more harm than good where it treats people as passive recipients rather than creative, contributing citizens.

And if the HHS mandate is not reversed, we may see countless charities, schools, and hospitals as well as small enterprises, driven out of business by government fines or taxes.

And despite Obama's Mediscare tactics, both his and the Ryan budget involved large cuts in Medicare, but Ryan sought to address underlying problems of program structure and sustainability. Neither seeks to abolish the program.
8/28/2012 6:46:57 AM

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