The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

The Common Good and Subsidiarity

Human beings exist in relation to one another. We are called to live with others, aware of others, communicating, sharing, enjoying moments of joy and being there together in times of sadness. All of us are called to participate, to join in, and to work alongside others for the common good of all.

Explaining it  

Catholic Social Teaching condemns that arms trade and supports those who refuse to take up arms on grounds of conscience. This theme goes much deeper than simply condemnation of conflict; it looks towards the Kingdom of God and tries to discern how we create a profound and lasting peace in our world, a peace that we experience and learn about from a relationship with God.

The Hebrew word for Peace is shalom, but shalom can also be translated in English as fullness or completeness. Therefore this theme also links social well-being and development at both individual and community level. In many ways this explains the theme of Peace much better because it is not just an absence of war or conflict that constitutes peace in the eyes of Catholic Social Teaching, but a complete trust and fraternity between people.

Pacifism has not always been the approach taken towards resolving conflict within Catholic Social Teaching, but it is however growing in influence. It is still the case that certain military actions are considered permissible and even necessary for the protection of the innocent. In reality, however, these are very uncommon and most if not all conflicts that exist around the world do not meet the necessary standards to be considered justified within Catholic Social Teaching.

“Peace results from that harmony built into human society by its divine founder, and actualized by men as they thirst after ever greater justice”. Gaudium et Spes– “The Joys and Hopes” paragraph 78.

Pope Benedict XVI has continued to challenge Christians to be true peacemakers – bringing forgiveness and nonviolent solutions to situations of hurt and violence. Referring to the Gospels of the Beatitudes he said:

 “…this Gospel is rightly considered the “magna carta” of Christian nonviolence; it does not consist in surrendering to evil—as claims a false interpretation of ‘turn the other cheek’ but in responding to evil with good, and thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God’s love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution,’ a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. The revolution of love, a love that does not base itself definitively in human resources, but in the gift of God, that is obtained only and unreservedly in his merciful goodness.” Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City, 18 February 2007

In the past year, (2017) many of our brothers and sisters have continued to endure the destructive experience of war, which constitutes a grave and deep wound inflicted on fraternity. Many conflicts are taking place amid general indifference. To all those who live in lands where weapons impose terror and destruction, I assure you of my personal closeness and that of the whole Church, whose mission is to bring Christ’s love to the defenceless victims of forgotten wars through her prayers for peace, her service to the wounded, the starving, refugees, the displaced and all those who live in fear. The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights.”
Pope Francis

 “Never war! Never war! I think especially about those children who had the hope of a future, dignified life, but had it taken away. Dead children, wounded children. Mutilated children. Orphaned children. Children who play with toys made out of the remains of weapons. Children who cannot smile anymore. Stop. Please. I beg you with all my heart it is time to stop. Stop please.”
Pope Francis, Angelus 27th July 2014 

Link it to scripture readings

 “Whatever house you enter, first say ‘peace to this house!'” – Luke 10:5

Genesis 12:1-3  God blessed Israel so that all nations would be blessed through it.

Zechariah 8:16  These are the things you should do: Speak truth, judge well, make peace.

Matthew 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:21-24 Be reconciled to one another before coming to the altar.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 If one member suffers, all suffer.  If one member is honoured, all rejoice.

Link it to key Church documents such as Catechism of the Catholic Church (ccc), Papal documents etc.

Gaudium et Spes

‘Joy and Hope’, Vatican Council II’s ‘Church in the modern world’, announcing the duty to read the signs of the time, encouraging all people to interpret the work in the light of the Gospel. This document urges greater international cooperation in the pursuit of peace, development and the dignity of the human person   

Laudato  Si:

Summary: Laudato Si’ is a passionate call to all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action”, particularly in relation to the destruction of the environment. Pope Francis writes that while humanity has made incredible progress in science and technology, this has not been matched with moral, ethical and spiritual growth. This imbalance is causing our relationships with creation and with God to break down and our hearts to become hardened to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. We become arrogant and neglect creation and everyone that is part of it; forgetting what God has entrusted to our care.

Jubilee Year of Mercy: 

Link to a particular Saint whose charism is linked to this particular principle

St John Paul II

Link to local/national groups associated with this principle

Live simply:

Conflict and Violence Youth Resource: 

Focused prayer

Prayer for Peace and Forgiveness

We confess that in our lives we do not
Always choose the way of peace.
We spread gossip which fans the flame of hatred.
We are ready to make any sacrifices when Caesar demands –
but few when God invites.
We worship the false god of security and nationalism
We hold out our hand in friendship –
But keep a weapon in the other behind our back
We have divided your body of people
Into those we trust and those we do not.
Huge problems challenge us in the world –
But our greed, fear and selfishness prevents
us from uniting to solve them
Lord, we pray for your help,
Your forgiveness and your
Reconciling power in our lives. 

Questions for personal /group reflection

Live Simply – Explore some ideas to get you started on living simply

Which one can you do first? As an individual? As a family? As a parish? Maybe this video will get you started? 

Can your Parish become a Live Simply Community?

Example from our own Diocese

Have you paused to give thanks for all the luxuries in your life? For example Broadband internet at home, the choice to consume junk food or treats, easy access to sanitation, the fact that you can leave your tap running whilst you brush your teeth? The fact that you have a tap in your house? The food you have just thrown away from your fridge because it has gone off?

If you had to choose between sending your children to school or sending them to work to make ends meet which would you choose? Maybe you can support the work of Mary’s Meals?

Do you recognise a particular group in your community that do not have a voice? Is there a way to give them a voice?

Do we think working for peace is someone else’s responsibility? Do we think it is our responsibility?

When we vote in elections do we consider only what affects us and our families, or do we consider the needs of others too? Do we consider the impact of our vote in different areas of society?

Those who are called by Our Lord Jesus Christ to live their life as religious men and women vow to live in poverty. What are the reasons behind this vow? If you know any religious brothers or sisters how do they live this vow? Whilst recognising that not everybody is called to choose radical poverty, is there anything we can imitate from the attitudes and lives of these religious men and women? The Carmelite Order provide some information on the vow of poverty.

How do we balance the need for our own good with that of ‘common good’

Is the above a challenge …if so how is it to be addressed?

Am I/ we willing to explore further the concept of live simply and if so what action am I/we prepared to take?

Who can support me/us in this goal?

A principle which links with the Common Good is that of Subsidiarity

  • Subsidiarity to make common decisions at the lowest practical level-every person, family and intermediate group has something original to offer to the community. ‘Every person’s contributions should count’.

Explaining it

In the midst of the creation account in Genesis, God says “it is not right that man should be alone”. We do not flourish as people by being isolated and living by ourselves, but by engaging as full members of our community. We have an obligation to help and support those around us while at the same time allowing ourselves to be supported. The place most of us first experience a community in our lives is in the family, and so it is here that the themes of Community and Participation have their roots, and in the context of the family that these principles have developed.

Beyond the family we are called to participate fully in the life of wider society. For most of us this means an obligation to participate fully in civil society and the political and economic life of the community. This could include involvement in movements for justice, volunteering with local community groups or active membership of work associations or trade unions.

Within the theme of Participation, Catholic Social Teaching advocates political involvement, but this has always been critical of, and set apart from political ideologies like communism and neo-liberalism. Because of the vastly different circumstances of cultures and situation Catholic Social Teaching also tends not to get into a lot of very specific policy details, but rather focuses on the themes in such a way that allows people to understand them in their own cultural and political context.

What Catholic Social Teaching does say in this area is around the principle of subsidiarity; that responsibility for social and political decisions should be held at that lowest and most appropriate local level so to allow everyone in communities to be involved in decision-making.

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”
Pope Francis, Evangelli Gaudium

Summary: While not a papal encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium gives particular attention to the ‘social dimension of Evangelisation’. The first section, setting the context for sharing the Joy of the Gospel talks of a huge amount of social problems, characterised by Pope Francis as the ‘crisis of communal commitment’ and touches on the markets, the economy of exclusion, inner city life, spiritual worldliness and consumerism, among other things.

Focused prayer

Bread of tomorrow


O God, the source of our common life,

when we are dry and scattered,

when divided and alone,

we long for connection, we long for community.

Breath of God, breathe on us.

With those we live beside,

who are often strange to us,

whom we may be afraid to approach,

yet who have riches of friendship to share,

we long for connection, we long for community.

Breath of God, breathe on us.

With those we have only heard of,

who see with different eyes,

whose struggles we try to imagine,

whose fierce joy we wish we could grasp,

we long for connection, we long for community.

Breath of God, breathe on us.

With those we shall never know,

but whose lives are linked with ours,

whose shared ground we stand on,

and whose common air we breathe,

we long for connection, we long for community.

Breath of God, breathe on us.

When we are dry and scattered,

when we are divided and alone,

when we are cut off from the source of our life,

open our graves, O God,

that all your people

may be free to breathe, strong to move,

and joyful to stand together

to celebrate your name.


Janet Morley, “Bread of Tomorrow” live simply Anthology, a CAFOD resource, edited by Annabel Shilson-Thoma