Paul Ryan's subsidiarity

The Wisconsin congressman and rumored Romney veep candidate talks to The Brody File about his controversial budget proposal. President Obama has called it "social Darwinism," a characterization that has generated a good deal of blowback. Ryan, a Catholic, calls his budget an example of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity:

David Brody: Tell me a little bit about the morality and the debt. Where does your Catholic faith play into the way this budget is crafted?Paul Ryan: A persons faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private, so to me, using my Catholic faith, we call it the social magisterium which is how do you apply the doctrine of your teaching into your everyday life as a lay person? To me, the principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best, having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, thats how we advance the common good by not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities. Those principles are very very important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of catholic social teaching, means dont keep people poor, dont make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life, help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.

Ryan's explanation seems a bit simplistic to me, and the details of his budget -- which would penalize the poor and middle class, favor the wealthy, and increase the budget deficit -- don't seem like Catholic social teaching in practice.But the principle of subsidiarity is certainly one of the most interesting and contested and perhaps exploited in CST.At the Catholic Moral Theology blog, Meghan Clark had a recent post on subsidiarity as a "two-sided coin" that recalled the centrality of the common good.And Morning's Minion delivered himself of some thoughts on subsidiarity in connection with the contraception mandate.BTW, in the CBN interview, Ryan also says that President Obamas vision for America is to equalize the outcome of peoples lives and blames the president for the high rates of poverty in this country.And for good measure he adds that Obama is in the business of demagoguery and believes that if he and fellow Wisconsinite Scott Walker fail in their attempts to get budgets and debts under control then, courage will never be exercised again.So there's that, too.

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.

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