Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

4/11/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Often, voluntary associations cause social reform or promote charitable causes in an efficient manner, without the need of cumbersome government mechanisms

"The political community is responsible for regulating its relations with civil society according to the principle of subsidiarity." (Compendium, No. 419)  Government's role should be hands-off unless the various associations of which civil society is composed are unable responsibly to handle the matter, and any intervention should be one in aid, and not in replacement of, the activities of that part of civil association.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/11/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Common Good, social doctrine, State, Statism, colectivism, conservative, liberal, Andrew Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The political life is not all there is.  The political community finds itself within a greater reality, what the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church calls "civil society."

The Compendium defines civil society as the "sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to 'the creative subjectivity of the citizen.'" (Compendium, No. 185) (quoting JP II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 15). 

It also defines it a little more broadly as "the sum of relationships and resources, cultural and associative, that are relatively independent from the political sphere and the economic sector." (Compendium, No. 417) 

Civil society is, in a sense, an organic and therefore "messy" reality. That's why social scientists want to "rationalize" it, which usually means Statism and a loss of freedom.

"Civil society is in fact multifaceted and irregular; it does not lack its ambiguities and contradictions.  It is also the arena where different interests clash with one another, with the risk that the stronger will prevail over the weaker." (Compendium, No. 418)

Civil society, the greater, more fundamental reality, should therefore be distinguished from political and economic relationships, and its influence in the life of a people is frequently referred to as the "third sector."

The Compendium states: "The activities of civil society--above all volunteer organizations and cooperative endeavors in the private-social sector, all of which are succinctly known as the "third sector," to distinguish from the State and the market--represent the most appropriate ways to develop the social dimension of the person, who finds in these activities the necessary space to express himself fully." 

"The progressive expansion of social initiatives beyond the State-controlled sphere creates new areas for the active presence and direct action of citizens, integrating the functions of the State.  This important phenomenon has often come about largely through informal means and has given rise to new and positive ways of exercising personal rights, which have brought about a qualitative enrichment of democratic life." (Compendium, No. 419)

In our penchant for Statist solutions to our social problems, we seem completely to neglect the possible role of the "third sector" as a more humane, less bureaucratic, more responsive, and more efficient solution.  It is also a solution more in line with notions of subsidiarity.

Without some sort of ordering, civil society would proceed with an autonomy that may work at cross purposes with the common good.  Hence, civil society needs a political community, a political order, ultimately formalized into a State. 

The relationship between the political community and civil society (and hence the State and civil society) is threatened by two extreme ideologies, extreme individualism or atomism, on the one hand, and collectivism, on the other hand.  Though their view of the relationship between the individual and civil society are at opposite poles, they lead to the same practical result: the absorption of civil society into the political community.

The Church warns us to steer clear of these two ideologies and advocates a "social pluralism" which rejects both extremes, accepts that which is true in both, to the end of "bringing about a more fitting arrangement of the common good and democracy itself, according to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and justice." (Compendium, 417)

This area is a very broad area, and it presents a fertile area for the exercise of prudence.  We rarely have clearly right or clearly wrong answers.

Several truths must be kept in mind in understanding the relationship between the political community and civil society.  First, one should keep in mind that the political community "originates" from civil society. (Compendium, No. 417)  Second, the "political community and civil society, although mutually connected and inter-dependent, are not equal in the hierarchy of ends." (Compendium, No. 418)  In the hierarchy of ends, the political community is clearly subordinate to civil society.  The political community is "at the service of civil society."

Holding a proper understanding between civil society and the individual, helps us see that "in the final analysis" the political community will be at the service of "the persons and groups of which civil society is composed." (Compendium, No. 418)  Because the political community is subordinate to civil society, it is an error to see civil society as "an extension or a changing component of the political community."  To the contrary, it is civil society that "has priority" over the political community, "because it is in civil society itself that the political community finds its justification." (Compendium, No. 418)

The State is the formal expression of the political community, and it is charged with the task of providing an "adequate legal framework for social subjects," what we call its citizens, "to engage freely in their different activities."  The State and its agencies "must be ready to intervene, when necessary and with respect for the principal of subsidiary, so that the interplay between free associations and democratic life may be directed to the common good." (Compendium, No. 418).  To this degree, one might view the state as a "night watchman state," but, as we shall see, it is more than a "night watchman state" since it should promote the virtue of its citizens.

"The political community is responsible for regulating its relations with civil society according to the principle of subsidiarity." (Compendium, No. 419)  Government's role should be hands-off unless the various associations of which civil society is composed are unable responsibly to handle the matter, and any intervention should be one in aid, and not in replacement of, the activities of that part of civil association.

The Church discourages Statism, insists on the principle of subsidiarity, and its social doctrine actively supports and encourages the role of the "third sector" as the means of humanizing, de-bureaucratizing, de-politicizing and advancing the needs of persons within civil society.  It sees the third sector as the means also of removing the plague of extreme individualistic competition (dog-eat-dog) too often found in a disordered economic sector, and replacing it with more personalist notions of cooperation and solidarity.

"Cooperation, even in its less structured forms, shows itself to be one of the most effective responses to a mentality of conflict and unlimited competition that seems so prevalent today."  (Compendium, No. 420) 

In a special way, voluntary associations seem to "overcome ideological divisions, prompting people to seek out what unites them rather than what divides them."  Anyone who has had experience with voluntary associations knows how these tend to promote dialogue, cooperation, and bonds of solidarity.  (Compendium, No. 420) 

Often, voluntary associations cause social reform or promote charitable causes in an efficient manner, without the need of cumbersome government mechanisms.  For that reason the Church asks that we "look with confidence to the potentialities that thus present themselves" in such voluntary alliances, "and to lend their own personal efforts for the good of the community in general and, in particular, for the good of the weakest and the neediest.  In this way, the principle of the "subjectivity of society" is also affirmed." (Compendium, No. 420)

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2015
General Intention:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Missionary Intention: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

BANNING BULLETS: Obama to use executive action to ban ammo for popular hunting rifle Watch

Image of The inexpensive 5.56 M855 ammo, commonly called

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Banning all firearms across the United States would take a massive effort, and certainly not many Americans would willingly give up their protection. According to a memo, U.S. President Barack Obama intends to use his executive powers to ban the bullets for the ... continue reading


Abercrombie & Fitch's 'looks policy' under fire for stark employee discrimination of Muslim girl Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Abercrombie & Fitch faces yet another lawsuit for potential discrimination. The hip clothing store has previously been under fire for lack of racial diversity in both employment and advertisement and for limited sizing choices. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


SHOCKING REPORT: Social Security card in hand, illegal immigrants can claim back tax benefits Watch

Image of Lawmakers have expressed distress that amnestied illegal immigrants could be potentially rewarded for illegal work.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Workers living and employed here illegally appear to be on a fast track to join the American dream. According to a Congressional Research Service, or CRS, memo, those illegal immigrants able to obtain Social Security Numbers and work permits due to President ... continue reading


NOT SO FAST! Net neutrality to get onceover before approval Watch

Image of Democrat Mignon Clyburn on the Federal Communications Commission wants to narrow the scope of new net neutrality rules set for a vote later this week.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The hotly debated "Net Neutrality" - which will determine how the 21st Century's preferred mode of communication and information - is not a sure thing, just yet. Democrat Mignon Clyburn on the Federal Communications Commission wants to narrow the scope of new ... continue reading


Democrats can dish it out - but are now shying away from Obamacare penalties Watch

Image of As those taxpayers discover the penalty they owe, they will already be racking up a new, higher penalty for 2015.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It looks like Democrats can dish it out, but can't take it. One of the stipulations of health care reform, or "Obamacare" was those who chose not to enroll had to pay a penalty come tax time. Now, as millions begin to file their taxes, Democrats are having ... continue reading


Human Tide: Texas' porous border allows thousands to flood in from Mexico Watch

Image of Speaking out on CBS's

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Porous borders - one where demarcations are hazy and ill-defined, allowing people to cross over into another country without proper accounting, was one of the reasons for the Ebola crisis in East Africa. There exists a similar situation between the United ... continue reading


'Terror threat' from American right-wing extremists discussed at summit Watch

Image of The mastermind behind the Alfred P. Murrah building bombing attack, Timothy James

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Domestic terrorism in the United States has long been an ongoing concern. The White House held a "Countering Violent Extremism" summit last week to talk about "extremist ideologies that radicalize." The summit did not address radical Islam in particular, but ... continue reading


Is Obama corrupt? Contracts for amnesty being pushed at 'full-throttle pace' by Department of Homeland Security Watch

Image of The population of potential requesters for the president's deferred action will be

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Despite a federal court's decision to halt President Obama's amnesty order, the White House continues to award multi-million-dollar contracts to firms to process millions of illegal immigrants. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The population of potential ... continue reading


Blackwell and Morrison: Obama's ISIS Policy - Above US Only Sky Watch

Image of With the murders this week of twenty-one Coptic Christians on the beach in Libya, the world has seen an example of the cruelty and barbarism. The Obama administration regularly denies it has anything to do with Islam.

By Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison

With the murders this week of twenty-one Coptic Christians on the beach in Libya, the world has seen an example of the cruelty and barbarism. The Obama administration regularly denies it has anything to do with Islam. Islam must change. The world cannot survive ... continue reading


Ron Paul issues dire warning: Secession is happening Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The time is here, the United States' may soon be no more. According to former Republican presidential candidate and congressman, Ron Paul, the states will stop listening to federal laws. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "I would like to start off by talking about ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 18:21-28
21 'If the wicked, however, renounces all the sins he ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
1 [Song of Ascents] From the depths I call to you, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 5:20-26
20 'For I tell you, if your uprightness does not ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 27th, 2015 Image

St. Leander of Seville
February 27: St. Leander of Seville, Bishop (Feast - February 27th) Leander ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter