I have more comments on subsidiarity at Catholic World Report. Basically, I say that the concept is incomprehensible in a liberal technocracy, and to promote it we have to insist in principle on the autonomy of the family and the Church, and act in ways that make its value evident. I also have something about the sad state of internet discussion up at Crisis Magazine. The conclusion: preach the word in season and out of season even if people are morons. You never know who might be reading.

4 thoughts on “Elsewhere

  1. insist in principle on the autonomy of the family and the Church

    I think we have to be careful in insisting on the “autonomy of the family” particularly in a society founded on liberal principles like America.

    Indeed some of the worst policy decisions in recent years are the result of the government choosing to “respect” the “autonomy” of the family:

    The home derives its pre-eminence as the seat of family life. And the integrity of that life is something so fundamental that it has been found to draw to its protection the principles of more than one explicitly granted Constitutional right. Of the whole ‘private realm of family life’ it is difficult to imagine what is more private or more intimate than a husband and wife’s marital relations.

    – Justice Harlan in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

    The state can at times make legitimate claims on the family for the common good. Both Aristotle and St. Thomas both clearly understood this and the Church has always held it. Now I of course do not like many of polices the modern state supports but we also can not adopt the equally erroneous American notion of autonomy.

  2. In the piece I speak of “legitimate principled autonomy” and of “non-state institutions” with “their own principles of legitimacy.” I don’t think that suggests absolute autonomy. If every reference has to include a statement that it is not to be interpreted in accordance with modernist absolutism and other fundamental misconceptions it becomes difficult to say anything in a way anyone would want to read.

    Incidentally, the appeal to family autonomy in Griswold was evidently opportunistic. Shortly thereafter the Court decided that unmarried people also had the right to contracept, and in any event the law had to do with what could be sold rather than what could be done in what Harlan might call the sacred privacy of the marital bed.

  3. There are only a handful of power centers that can stand up to an all-powerful state: large economic entities (big business or big labor), the churches, and the family (meaning the self-sustaining, multi-generational family). Government actually grew out of families that became clans that became tribes that became a people. The family is a non-state institution with legitimate principled autonomy. The direction of modern liberalism is to make all children and hence all citizens wards of the state, effectively undermining both church (as a supporter of the family) and family itself.

  4. Also ironic–particularly given the more recent issues that Griswold has apparently sprung–is the fact that the marital kingdom (in its secular aspect), into which the state allegedly has no business, is itself an imposition of the state upon a procreative bed. This treatment by Harlan (in keeping with the family tradition of inane but important-sounding jural opinions), is like justifying the right to drive recklessly by virtue of the existence of the speed limit.
    Divorcing marriage from its essence as a regulation of procreation converts all such discussions into musings about unicorns and dragons.


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