The National Catholic Register reports on “comments and objections raised by several bishops” at the USCCB meeting in Atlanta that “challenged the specificity of some heavily publicized statements”, such as Bishop Blair’s criticisms in April of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget:
“There have been some concerns raised by lay Catholics, especially some Catholic economists, about what was perceived as a partisan action against Congressman Ryan and the budget he had proposed,” said Bishop Boyea. That statement “didn’t really further dialogue in our deeply divided country.”
In his view, statements that endorsed specific economic policies revealed a lack of “humility.” He told the assembly, “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area. We need to listen more than we need to speak. We already have an excellent, fine Compendium [of the Social Doctrine of the Church].”
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., agreed that the committee was “at times perceived as partisan” and neglected the principle of subsidiarity, which calls for solutions that can be provided close to people in need.
Archbishop Naumann suggested that drafters of the statement needed to rethink a tendency to advocate for government assistance, and he said that the conference’s proposals should not ignore the ballooning national deficit.
“Sometimes we’re perceived as just encouraging the government to spend more money, with no realistic way of how we’re going to afford to do this,” he observed.
A third statement, by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, echoed Archbishop Naumann’s suggestion that the proposed document focus more on the family as the central social institution and spoke of how the “disintegration of the family” had fueled the demand for government assistance.
The irony, I suppose, is that when the bishops and the USCCB weigh in on policy details and areas demanding expertise beyond what they possess as pastors and shepherds, they themselves violate the principle of subsidiarity.
In many ways the USCCB in action violates subsidiarity. Often it seems to me that things that should be done by individual bishops is kicked upstairs to let the USCCB as a whole make tough decisions. But of course committees seldom make such decisions and usually just end up making cover or they get hijacked from some segment’s hobby horse.
I like Bishop’s Boyea statement on learning about the area of economics and really when it gets down to prudential appliance of Catholic social teaching in this area this is not exactly an area of competence for the Bishops. Though too often it is not an area of competence for much of the laity either. As for Archbishop Naumann’s statement in regards to the “disintegration of the family” fueling the demand for government assistance, this also is a major factor related to poverty.
One thing about the Federal Government that provides such a temptation is it supplies a central point of focus and seems to make things much easier. It is easier to lobby the House than to have to lobby so many communities, cities and states. Subsidiarity is quickly forgotten with this large lobbying target. The temptation to be able to fix everything if only you could get the Federal legislation you want to work these wonders. Tip O’Neils phrase “All politics is local” is only partly true in that unfortunately all local politics seem to be heard towards the Federal level and the promise of extracting Federal dollars. In subsidiarily all politics should mostly be local and that each level has its area of competence.