12 Jan 2018
In the Church we follow a principle called “subsidiarity.” And that’s simply the idea that things should be allowed to happen on the most local level as possible. For example, if there’s a project that a city wants to do, then that city should be able to handle it; the state or federal governments shouldn’t try to step in and take over. And we get this principle from God himself.
When the people told Samuel he was too old and that they wanted a king to rule them, God said to Samuel: Give them a king if that’s what they want. God knew that having a (human) king over the people wasn’t the best thing. But instead of saying, “No, you don’t know what you’re doing—you’re not having a king,” God simply said okay. After all, God gave his people free will, and they could decide for themselves. God practiced the principle of “subsidiarity.”
And that’s both “good news” for us, and also something to handle with great care. Subsidiarity can be good in that it preserves, and allows us to exercise, our free will. But, at the same time, subsidiarity—if abused—could lead to bad things happening, most especially when someone “above us” is trying to guide us, and we refuse to listen.
Think of a parent who’s saying to the kids, “Don’t run out in the road....But, of course, you can do what you want.” And the kids run out in the road and get hit by a car. Well, in that case, it would’ve been wiser to set aside “what I want to do,” and listen to that voice “above them,” their parents.
With subsidiarity it’s a balancing act, and it takes humility and wisdom to know when to exercise our free will, and when to let ourselves be led by somebody else. May God bless us with humility and wisdom. May he help us to exercise our free will with prudence.