Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Subsidiarity is a principle of Catholic social teaching that says that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least-centralized competent authority, rather than a higher and more distant one, whenever possible. Ideally, this principle is applied to both civic and ecclesial spheres. In other words, rather than appeals to Washington, D.C. or to Rome, we ought to find a way to address issues at the most local level. This lesson from the social teaching of the Church comes to mind as we approach election day this week.
Our election this year is entirely local, which should be something we value highly. These are the types of elections that most immediately impact our community, for we have the greatest access to candidates – they are our friends and neighbors – and the most direct connection to the decisions that will be made. Simply by writing about a local election, I realize that I run the risk of this column appearing to be a political essay. My real purpose, though, is to call attention to the ways that our participation in democratic processes can be a way of living out our Catholic faith and allowing that faith to be integrated into our lives. As Catholics, we believe that the Gospel is, in fact, for all people, and that what are often called “Gospel values” are in fact human values that apply to all, regardless of religious affiliation. For a Catholic, the act of voting can thus be evangelical, as we bear witness to our faith in the public square.
Over the last several months, a concern I hear often from people in the parish has to do with our school system. We are undeniably blessed with a school system that is academically solid and staffed by many caring professionals (including many members of our parish) who are committed to providing the best in education. This same system, though, is increasingly being pressured to promote radical gender ideology and sexual ethics that are entirely at odds with the Catholic faith and our understanding of the human person, created male or female with the dignity of sons and daughters of God. Our children are increasingly exposed to false teachings about their bodies, their sexuality, and the nature of the human person. Our teachers and school professionals are pressured to promote an ideology that in any other context would be considered the grooming behavior of a sexual predator. Attempts have been made to keep parents out of the educational process for their children, particularly surrounding issues of gender and sexuality. I firmly believe that children in our schools deserve better than to be exposed to the sexually charged ideologies prevalent in our society. Parents ought to be aware of what is taught in the classrooms, rather than kept at arms-length. We Catholics ought to stand for common sense and plain truth, most especially when our children are concerned.
Election day comes and goes every year. Our participation is important, but that participation does not end when we exit the polls, just as a parent’s responsibility does not end when they drop their child off for school. We can work at this local level, and indeed the call to bear witness to our faith in the world demands that we work at this level, not only in the way we vote, but also in the way we engage civic life throughout the year. The teaching of subsidiarity reminds us that responsibility for the good of our community lies not with a distant authority or state, but with us and with our friends and neighbors.