Subsidiarity and Suffering: The View from New Orleans

Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, Vol. 45, p. 183, 2007

University of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-12

13 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2007  

Robert K. Vischer

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law

Abstract

The principle of subsidiarity often stands accused of being infinitely malleable and unhelpfully abstract, suiting whatever purposes an actor already has in mind. This essay seeks to discern the core of subsidiarity's real-world meaning by considering its implications for the rebuilding of post-Katrina New Orleans. Analyzed, as it must be, in light of the web of Catholic social teachings from which it arises, subsidiarity reminds compassionate conservatives that the meaningful empowerment of local communities will often be illusory, absent an active role for the federal government. At the same time, Catholic social teaching challenges the individualist premise of modern liberalism by insisting that subsidiarity's ultimate objective is not an individual's achievement of autonomy for autonomy's sake, but the facilitation of authentic human flourishing. In this regard, we must ensure that federal funding furthers local bodies' long-term viability and self-sufficiency. To the extent feasible, the lower body should take the lead in articulating plans and priorities for a given community's recovery, subject to the higher body's checking authority, and that authority should itself be grounded in subsidiarity - that is, it should be exercised with the aim of fostering the self-sufficiency of local communities.

Keywords: Catholic social teaching, subsidiarity, federalism, New Orleans

Suggested Citation

Vischer, Robert K., Subsidiarity and Suffering: The View from New Orleans. Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, Vol. 45, p. 183, 2007; University of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=979850

Robert K. Vischer (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
651-962-4838 (Phone)

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