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    Current rating: 4 (24 ratings)

    Paul Ryan and Catholic Social Teaching: A Commentary by Fr. Barron

Good point, Father. But why aren't the bishops calling for Catholics to support Catholic hospitals and provide medical care to the poor and feed the hungry... Etc? If we want subsidiarity to work, and we want the government to stop telling us how to run our hospitals and ministries, then we should stop taking tax dollars and start living our faith. Wealthy Catholics can't just vote Republican and hope for abortion to go away... The must put their money to work for others, for Christ. And we need our Bishops to be vocal in their leadership.
8/23/2012 9:28:31 PM
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Hibernian Faithful
It is reasonable to oppose Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps, etc. because they are used by those who embrace socialistic government control of the economy.

Social Security (retirement) has been a systematic looting of alleged "retirement benefits" by the federal government. There is no respect for private property and the level at which the secular leaning government that is involved is too high, and prone to corruption. Retention by the individual of ownership of the funds, if we are to require a set aside of funds would be allowing the individual retain his money for himself and his family for their benefit and for their use in the society, including supporting and helping the poor.

Other programs, such as unemployment, food stamps, disability, etc. as currently used are designed not to help the recipients, but to enslave in a cynic manner for retention of power. In addition, as we see in the current administration, whether it be the "freedom to worship," denial of Catholic agencies to provide adoption services (to this children not murdered by abortion), denial of Catholic agencies to assist victims of the international slave trade because they won't provide or promote intrinsic evils and the HHS mandates, the exercise of the state of solidarity by the provision of unemployment, food stamps, disability, etc. is designed, implicitly, to marginalize the role of Faith in the society. The Church, and other believers, need to say that the so-called "welfare" state has failed and that even if the faith-communities provisions of unemployment, food stamps, disability, etc. is lacking, it is much better in the long run for both the physical and spiritual needs of those members of the Body of Christ that are in need. Unfortunately this is an all or nothing proposition because the once the politicians get a nose under the tent, they are an 800 lb. bully. In the area of solidarity services, you cannot be a little pregnant with State. (Additionally, it is likely that the absence of the Leviathan, would allow for greater marketplace rewards that could be used to either employ others or help the truly needy.)

The absence of government in the provision of these services, in this digital age, would be a blessing because it would require those members of the Church, who support the coercive solidarity of the state to stand and be counted and support the Church (and its schools, hospitals, nursing homes etc.) and not the State. Supporting the Church (and its schools, hospitals, nursing homes etc.) is not a matter of charitable deductions; it is a central obligation of the Faithful to support the mission of the Church (and its schools, hospitals, nursing homes etc.) and not for the benefit of a tax return.

Given the history of failures of the socialist-based policies of the so-called Progressives through the New Deal, the Great Society to the present, I think the most cogent moral position is that for a country the size and complexity of ours that the coercive solidarity of the state has been a failure and should be rejected and abandoned.

A closing note, by way of a simple and simplistic example of the failure of the coercive solidarity of the state; the “Head Start” program has since its inception cost the taxpayers of the USA approximately $160 billion dollars (or 1% of the current national debt) and it has never demonstrated any measurable long-term beneficial effect on the society or to those to which is was directed, yet the socialist left refuses to accept this and demands more money to “make it work.” The principal here is power and its retention, and not the provision of any benefit to which is was directed and that is why this, and so much else of the coercive solidarity is in conflict with the Church’s teaching of subsidiarity.

N.B. The portion of the national debt relating Head Start is for one failed program, imagine if all of the failed programs were eliminated and what the national debt would be? What amount of private capital and income could in the society and from which faithful Catholics could, in the true and faithful spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity could be directed, effectively by Church (and its schools, hospitals, nursing homes etc.) to those needy and less fortunate in our society.

Pray for me as I pray for you.
8/25/2012 10:11:05 AM
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Patricia Wilson
I felt confused after I watched this video. Yes, Catholic Social Teaching values subsidiarity and solidarity. However, since Paul Ryan's budget favors only the most wealthy individuals and corporate entities, shouldn't his budget fail the Social Justice test? I was not sure that I heard that judgment in the video.I'm sorry if I misunderstood. I stand with Bishop Blaire, Bishop Pates and NETWORK in the opinion that Ryan's cuts in services to poor and vulnerable people is immoral.
8/25/2012 11:19:17 PM
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John Tuturice

I think you captured the essence of the situation. The only point of exception that I think takes away from the presentation is the advocacy for programs like food stamps, social security, etc ... There is legitimate debate as to whether or not these are good programs. Not just in their practice, which is mired in corruption on all levels, but even in principal. If you left out the comments on these programs, or perhaps gave an appropriate qualifier when describing them, then I think this piece would have been just about perfect.

Just my 2 cents. Take it for what it's worth.

God bless,
8/26/2012 9:53:29 AM
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Paul Adams
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, should be to get out of the way of the armies of compassion, not to take them over, bureaucratize, or substitute for them.
8/26/2012 11:22:01 AM
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Karen Mallozzi
Excellent take on these two principles. I only note that given the life span of most middle (and lower) class people today-without social security, Medicare our elderly would return to a position of poverty and ill health which has largely been reversed. Many have worked all their lives, paid into the system and deserve to live out their lives in safety. If we are to fight assisted suicide ballots (as we will vote on in my state this fall) then we should not add to people's later years unecessary fear or a life that is not in accordance with human dignity or being made in tbe image and likeness of God. IF those of us who have been blessed wtih economic comfort cannot help others what are we doing?
8/27/2012 10:29:41 AM
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Thomas Smith
Patricia Wilson, it's no surprise that you feel confused--many have attempted to confuse us all!
We should both be thankful that both Fr. Barron and Bishop Robert C. Morlino (Bishop of Rep. Ryan's own diocese) have taken the time to lift this confusion. (See Bishop Morlino's own letter here: To paraphrase Bishop Morlino, where in the sphere of public policy an intrinsic evil is not present (such as in abortion and threats to human life), the principals of subsidiarity and solidarity should abide to dictate an appropriate solution. More importantly, in such cases, neither Catholic theology nor Catholic social teaching will typically favor one policy over another. So, the Catholic Church does NOT dictate the appropriate manner in which we are to grow our economy and create jobs for all. (Wouldn't it be silly if the Church did so?) Stated differently, where reasonable and appropriately formed minds can differ on the question of how to grow the economy and create means for people to feed themselves, the Church does not get in the way and dictate economic policy. Such is clearly the case now.
Those who preach otherwise are misleading and confusing the faithful. Sadly, they often do so by encouraging Catholics to embrace politicians who advance positions that ARE intrinsically evil.
Hope this helps!
8/27/2012 5:33:34 PM
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I enjoy your videos as they are well thought out and deep. Like a few of the readers above have noted, it is not necessarily clear that government programs such as food stamps, social security, and the like are good things as they are.

When discussing the morality of certain actions, it is important to understand that the ends do not justify the means. I doubt you will find many folk who profess to be men or women of God who would say that feeding the hungry or helping those in need, especially the elderly, are not good things. It really gets tricky when it is the government who does these things. Sure they are good things, but by what means are these things accomplished?

What needs to be understood is the very nature of government. How does the government act? By what method does it derive its authority, and is that method justified absolutely? It is impossible to make absolute judgments as to whether or not the government should partake in certain actions if these questions are not resolved.
8/27/2012 6:06:44 PM
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I forgot to add that God created each of us as an individual, and therefore the morality of an action is embedded in the individual. There is no such thing as a collective morality as I can't see God granting salvation to Americans or Brits, or Iraqis simply because of the moral state of the society. Collective morality is nothing more than the sum of individual good will. This is not to say that individuals cannot or should not work together, but that the togetherness speaks not for the group but for the individual.

An individual can, and should, work toward the common good, but a society cannot because a society cannot act, only individuals can. If we try to define society in such a way that it can act then we are injuring the Body of Christ as we may be forcing the hand to do the foot's work, or forcing the eye to hear.
8/27/2012 6:13:40 PM
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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
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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
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Thomas Smith
Patricia: Respectfully, I think you're mistaken if you think that Fr. Barron has put a "Catholic Social Justice stamp of approval" on Paul Ryan. At the risk of being presumptuous, I think both he and Bishop Morlino correctly understand that it is not their place to do so in matters where there is "no intrinsic evil" (to borrow Bishop Morlino's phrase) in his policies. If only other members of the clergy were as wise, there would be less confusion. Indeed, by putting a "stamp of DISapproval" on the Congressman, other members of the clergy risk strengthening Mr. Ryan's opponent, who has adopted a position on human life that is inherently evil.
We should be grateful for the guidance of Fr. Barron and Bishop Morlino.
8/27/2012 10:06:26 PM
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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 undress underlying problems of program structure and sustainability. Neither seeks to abolish the program.
8/28/2012 6:46:57 AM
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"Would anyone really, commonsensically today be opposed to Social Security, Food Stamps, etc." - yes Father. Not because of their intent but because their effect is severely sub-optimal. Let's do these things with a greater subsidiarity. Why must they be top-down, one size fits all programs? Let's keep the motivation of solidarity but solve the problems with more subsidiarity. I think that's Paul Ryan's point and I, humbly, agree with him. Thank you so much for this forum for us to hear your wisdom and discuss these important issues as Catholics.
8/29/2012 12:24:53 PM
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m cherenko
Hi Father,

This is such an important topic right now and my reaction is exactly expressed by Patricia Wilson's post: "I felt confused after I watched this video. Yes, Catholic Social Teaching values subsidiarity and solidarity. However, since Paul Ryan's budget favors only the most wealthy individuals and corporate entities, shouldn't his budget fail the Social Justice test?"

It may not have been your intention, but somehow this video leaves one with the general impression that you support Paul Ryan. Since you have such credibility, my worry is that this could potentially sway voters who don't examine Ryan's position carefully.

That said, I so appreciate and pray for you and your work. God bless you.

9/1/2012 5:32:56 PM
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The 20th century saw a paradigm shift of ‘solidarity’ to the government from God for our community. Marvin Olasky documents this shift in his book “The Tragedy of American Compassion.”
Up until the 20th century, it was unheard of for the government to be in the social services business. Early in the 20th century, progressive thinkers believed the government could do as well, and on a grand scale, as all the small private organizations providing social services.
Olasky documents that prior to the government’s intervention, private charitable services distinguished between paupers, those that need a push, and the poor, those who are mentally ill, abandoned women and children.
Government welfare places no emphasis on individual or moral development. In fact moral requirements for welfare recipients were dropped in the 1960’s. As a result charity has become an entitlement, a human right.
Olasky’s final observations, “Cultures build systems of charily in the image of the god they worship, whether distant deity, bumbling bon vivant, or 'whatever goes' gopher.”
9/4/2012 12:04:53 AM
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Al Eriksen
This is all wonderful! But our National Debt has screamed beyond 16 TRILLION DOLLARS and climbing.

Where's plan B? Some will want to fill that with the deductions for Chruch contributions. Having the Church pay property tax like everyone else should help as well.

How many parishes will be left then?
9/8/2012 6:09:39 AM
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Anthony Bamber
I do not know first hand what is going on in America but I suspect that the post from "concerned" will be right. I am from the UK and in my lifetime I have experienced the imposition of American ideology upon my people. We have endless fine words, like freedom, human rights and equality, however, reality in no-way corresponds to their over-blown aspirations. I suspect "subsidiarity" will be as empty in its practice as all of these. We used to have a "nation" a real community, we now have a collection of mostly selfish individuals who spout empty platitudes that have no relation what-so-ever to the life experiences of most of us. I love the church, I believe Fr Barron is a genuine Christian who has a deep insight into the ways of my Lord, but I want no more American social teaching!
9/10/2012 5:18:21 AM
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Thomas Smith
Archbishop Chaput was quoted just a few days ago in the National Catholic Reporter:

"Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it. That has to be a foundational concern of Catholics and of all Christians. But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic. ... You can’t say that somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation. Again, I’m speaking only for myself, but I think that’s a legitimate position. It may not be the correct one, but it’s certainly a legitimate Catholic position; and to say that it’s somehow intrinsically evil like abortion doesn’t make any sense at all."

Hope this helps!
9/18/2012 10:21:30 AM
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Here in NJ, I can’t help but notice how the principle of subsidiarity has generally broken down.
Interestingly, it seems that the more local the governing body, the more corrupt and less accountable it is. As one example, it is generally impossible to get a teaching job in NJ without a really good connection in local government; whereas it seems that the federal/state employees are hired at least partly on merit.
I have no doubt that subsidiarity is a sound principle in theory. I’m just observing that given the particular way government has evolved in the United States pos New Deal, it appears that Federal and State politics receive most of the healthy attention and scrutiny, thereby leaving local government to operate largely in the shadows unchecked by local citizenry who lack the time and energy to follow politics down to the local level.
9/24/2012 9:38:07 AM
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I agree with everything you said except that food stamps and SS, etc should not be government programs but private charities. We do not have a Christian government but an atheistic one that sells food stamps, etc. for votes!
11/10/2012 4:47:53 PM
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Al Eriksen
It's been almost two weeks since hurricane Sandy. I don't think many can comprehend the size of the effected areas. So far almost NO government help. Thank God for the local parish as well as other Churches in the area as well as just plain folks donating MORE than certain areas need!So many lost ALL. So many still with no power,no heat, no sewers, no water. Homes and businesses are opening simply to serve the victims. And thank God for our Police as well as all emergency responders. Even the family next door. Peace, Al Eriksen
11/11/2012 5:08:58 AM
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David Ricke
I think there is a temporal difference between getting temporary assistance from a local level ( church, community center, etc, ) and getting long term assistance from the US Government, which can breed dependency and entitlement. I choose to donate money to help local (Subsidiary) victims via Catholic Social Services, but I'm forced, via taxes, to pay for long term (solidarity) that I think can be mis-used by fraud and entitlement. I also agree with the comments that these entitlements are used to buy votes from people who don't pay the taxes that I do.
1/10/2013 9:11:10 AM
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