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Separated Shoulders, Part III: A Detailed Critique of “On all of our shoulders”

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Part III (Conclusion)

What follows is the conclusion of my detailed critique of the primary claims made in “On all of our shoulders” ( Once more, I will quote many statements from the document in the order in which they are written, and then follow with a critical assessment. The quotes from the document will be preceded by Oaoos:, and my comments will be preceded by OVV:

Oaoos: “5 Principles of Catholic Social Doctrine Most in Danger of Being Forgotten or Distorted…

…3. The doctrine of subsidiarity both limits government and demands that it act when local communities cannot solve problems on their own. Subsidiarity has both negative and positive dimensions. Negatively, it limits overreach by government (as well as other large organizations, including corporations). Positively, the concept (which means ‘help’ or ‘assistance’) requires that government act when problems cannot be solved on the local level.”

OVV: It is fascinating to read that limiting government overreach is classified by Oaoos as the negative dimension of Subsidiarity while government action is seen as the positive dimension. What does this faulty characterization alone tell us about the attitude of the Oaoos signatories regarding government intervention? Certainly not as a “necessary evil” as the great St. Augustine referred to government in general.

Oaoos: Ryan has invoked subsidiarity to justify devolving management of Medicaid to states thereby ending centralization “in the hands of federal bureaucrats.” At the same time, his budget cuts Medicaid by $750 billion over ten years, a policy that will cut healthcare for an estimated 14 to 27 million Medicaid recipients.

OVV: Even if the proclamation that the Ryan budget cuts $750 billion over 10 years is accurate, it does not necessarily follow that this will cut health care for an estimated 14 to 27 million (quite a large range) Medicaid recipients if there are alternatives to them receiving Medicaid. Also, it is hoped that there will be fewer Medicaid recipients, but as usual, Oaoos sees things from the intellectually limited view that government benefits are the only possible way to help certain people.

Oaoos: “The broader outlines of the budget plan will radically reduce the size of government and consequently cut funding for private and religious safety net providers such as Catholic Charities who depend upon federal grants and contracts for much of their funding. This fails the positive obligation under subsidiarity to render needed assistance.”

OVV: Perhaps such providers do not need to rely upon federal grants and contracts for much of their funding, and they will find other ways to obtain necessary funding. Besides, being so wedded to a government that is oftentimes hostile to religious practices and beliefs is unwise in and of itself. Accordingly, if the “needed assistance” is provided privately (true charity is always private in nature), then subsidiarity actually succeeds in a manner that better represents the ideal of subsidiarity.

Oaoos: “4. The ‘preferential option for the poor’ demands both individual and collective action, including the acts of the state. In the words of John Paul II, the preferential option for the poor affects ‘our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields;’ placing demands upon individuals as well as ‘leaders of nations.’”

OVV: A fine approach indeed, but not NECESSARILY via ever-larger government or State actions, and the more the option for the poor is handled voluntarily by charity freely provided by people, the better for all.

Oaoos: “Ryan’s 2012 budget achieves 62% of its designated savings from cuts to programs for low-income families and individuals while cutting the top marginal tax rate and the corporate tax rate. It is impossible to justify this as a serious exercise of the preferential option for the poor.”

OVV: Here we go yet again. It is erroneously assumed by Oaoos that if you cut any kind of government spending for low-income families, and you also allow wealthier people to keep more of their own money through lower taxes (which is also a way to cut government spending), this somehow constitutes undeniable evidence that the preferential option for the poor is not being exercised. This limited analysis by Oaoos would be true if government spending was the only way to serve low-income familes, but since it is not the case, Oaoos is making an ignorant conclusion based on faulty presumptions.

Oaoos: “5. Economic forces must be reckoned among any serious account of the threats to society and human dignity.”

OVV: Political forces and dependency on government programs should also be recognized as serious threats to society and human dignity.

Oaoos: “In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI has offered an analysis more probing than that offered by either political party.

Benedict speaks of the loss of state power in the face of globalization and calls for the development of new forms of government engagement.

In our own day, the State finds itself having to address the limitations to its sovereignty imposed by the new context of international trade and finance, which…has altered the political power of States….[T]heir powers…need to be prudently reviewed and remodelled so as to enable them, perhaps through new forms of engagement, to address the challenges of today’s world.”

OVV: Good. New forms of engagement should include less government intervention to more faithfully fulfill the requirements of subsidiarity, and the call to people to give voluntarily to help the poor; not have their money confiscated via the government.

Oaoos: “Benedict continues the century-long papal teaching that the market alone cannot address the needs of the common good:

Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.”

OVV: It is readily agreed that economic activity cannot solve all social problems, and this includes economic activity directed by the State. Moreover, if economic action is “conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation,” then injustice can indeed occur, but neither Paul Ryan nor most free market advocates see economic activity only “as an engine for wealth creation.” Limited political action to protect people from fraud and also provide a legitimate and prudent safety net that cannot otherwise be provided is the best form of political action that can work alongside economic action for the common good.

Oaoos: “The momentous challenges facing our nation cry out for the full wisdom of the Church’s social doctrine. Legitimate disagreements with the Obama administration must not lead the Church to edit the fullness of its teachings for political expediency.

Ours is a moment that demands the fullness of the Church’s teachings as few others have. To be truly prophetic, the Church—bishops, clergy and lay faithful—must proclaim the fullness of its message to all parties, movements, and powers.”

OVV: Indeed, and in order to proclaim the fullness of Church teachings, all members of the Church must take a much broader and more intellectually honest view of Church teaching than what is set forth in the exceedingly biased Oaoos.



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