Book: Discourses of Crisis and the Study of Religion
Chapter: 15. Compounded Crises: How the Principle of Subsidiarity Informs Catholic Responses to Critical Issues in North America
This chapter examines what the principle of subsidiarity, developed within Catholic social thought, reveals about the Church’s expanding conception of the social “crisis” in North America since the Second Vatican Council. First, it considers how in Canada and the United States, Catholic bishops incorporated a national and global outlook into their public messaging, largely informed by the economic crisis of the 1980s. Second, it looks briefly at rural organization as a lens through which we might examine critical issues in North America today, particularly in light of recent Catholic documents. Catholic teaching around complex and often overlapping social, economic, and environmental concerns has been particularly salient in the rural context. Third, this paper considers how revelations around Catholic-run residential schools in Canada elicit important questions about how the Church responds to crisis and the suitability of subsidiarity mechanisms. Evaluating how Catholic groups rendered the principles of subsidiarity and 1 “Many Catholics were disturbed by the social teaching of their bishops,” Baum wrote, regardless of the disparate views around Canadian clerical authority beforehand (Baum 1984, 19). Solidarity in recent decades might help those interested in religion and society understand the growing concern around globalization within Catholic thought and how the Church develops and scales substantive social responses today. Moreover, looking at compounded critical issues through the lens of religious moral praxis (such as Catholic social teaching) helps to assess how religious frameworks continue to shape public discourses in North America.