A Catholic Governor Embraces Subsidiarity

The new governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, is distinguishing himself in two ways as a Catholic politician. Not only he is pro-life, but he is also aggressively pursuing a set of policies grounded in the principle of subsidiarity.
At a time when most prominent Catholic politicians — Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and John Kerry — have advocated federal government solutions to problems like health care, Gov. Christie is pushing in the opposite direction by releasing a New Jersey Privatization Task Force Report.

In the 57-page report, the Task Force proposes privatizing the state’s motor vehicle inspections, housing construction inspections, turnpike toll booths, state parks, psychiatric hospitals, as well as contracting for highway maintenance work, and outsourcing worker’s compensation claims and all pension, payroll, and benefit payments systems.

These recommendations, according to Christie, will save New Jersey taxpayers over $200 million a year.

If the humanity of unborn life is the tenet most ignored by Catholic politicians, the principle of subsidiarity comes in a close second. Of course, unlike the 6th commandment — “thou shall not kill” — subsidiarity must be applied prudentially. The principle itself is simple:

A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1883)

The Catechism is unambiguous in its claim that Catholics should uphold subsidiarity to offset one of the dangers of socialization, i.e., an “excessive intervention by the state” threatening “personal freedom and initiative” (#1882-1883).

Christie also seeks to keep the burden of funding government from growing any further — he has proposed a constitutional amendment capping property tax increases at 2.5 percent above the prior year’s receipts. Christie explains, “That’s 2.5 percent growth in total for everything — municipal tax, county tax, and school tax. There is only one exception to this cap — to pay required debt service.”

 

The New Jersey governor’s further reliance on subsidiarity is seen in his recent speech supporting “parental choice” in education at American Federation of Children’s National Policy Summit Dinner in Washington, D.C. Legislation has already been introduced that would provide vouchers to students at “chronically failing schools,” like the ones in Newark that Christie described as “absolutely disgraceful.”

There were doubts raised during the campaign about Christie’s pro-life commitment, but those credentials were solidified by his eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood from the 2011 New Jersey budget. State Democrats are already pushing to restore the more than $7 million in funding despite an $11 billion dollar deficit next year (the state has been on the verge of bankruptcy).

It’s often said that some Catholic commentators focus too much on life and marriage issues, relegating prudential matters too far into the background. Thus far, Gov. Christie’s performance provides an opportunity to reflect on the longer view of a Catholic in politics.

Gov. Christie represents a pro-life, pro-family Catholic politician drawing upon the principle of subsidiarity to make budgetary and policy choices that look to the private sector, not the federal government, for solutions to pressing problems.

Deal W. Hudson

By

Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

Crisis Magazine Comments Policy

This is a Catholic forum. As such:

  1. All comments must directly address the article. “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
  2. No profanity, ad hominems, hot tempers, or racial or religious invectives. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. We will not tolerate heresy, calumny, or attacks upon our Holy Mother Church or Holy Father. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  4. Keep it brief. No lengthy rants or block quotes. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
  5. If you see a comment that doesn’t meet our standards, please flag it so a moderator may remove it. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
  6. All comments may be removed at the moderators’ discretion. “But of that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36)
  7. Crisis isn’t responsible for the content of the comments box. Comments do not represent the views of Crisis magazine, its editors, authors, or publishers. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)
MENU