Subsidiarity and Suffering: The View from New Orleans
Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, Vol. 45, p. 183, 2007
13 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2007
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: Suggested Citation