Over on Twitter, one of the countless Catholics getting their theology from Evangelicalism, Libertarianism, and sundry Left Behind novels instead of the Church expressed an extremely common American conservative Christian anxiety about Pope Francis sacking Bp. Strickland:
An enormously common fear, born in the heartlands of the Confederacy and metastasizing into American Catholic ecclesiology, is the notion that freedom is a zero sum game and the more I have to cooperate with you, the less liberty I have. It is born of the ideology of selfishness that likewise believed liberty for the slave was an assault on the liberty of the slaveholder and which survives today in the Libertarian conviction that the sole purpose of the state is to protect the Libertarian from having any obligations to the poor and powerless.
This fed very naturally into a fissiparous American Protestant ecclesiology naturally suspicious of Church unity as intrinsically predatory and always ready to assume that love is a cover for darker agendas. So concepts like “global cooperation” always inspire visceral fear in that subculture and the rise of MAGA sociopathic conservatism–with its intensely reflexive self-pity, its disregard of all human suffering except that of the self and those rare people who are extensions of one’s own ego as non-existent, contemptible, funny, or guilt manipulation–has created a bizarre “Catholic Protestant” subculture ready to see this Pope, with his emphasis on reaching out to the poor and the stranger with the Good News as some sort of Commie heretic.
Meanwhile, the 2000 year tradition of the Church which emphasizes both Catholicity and Unity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity is something the current enslavement of American conservative Catholic to ideology has blinded them to.
Here’s a bit from my book THE CHURCH’S BEST-KEPT SECRET: A PRIMER ON CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING to illustrate my point:
Subsidiarity in a Global Context
The Church’s resistance to totalitarianism should not be understood as resistance to international cooperation.
Again, the Church models what she seeks. Each diocese on the planet is the local expression of the Church governed by the local bishop; nonetheless the Church is a global unity in union with the Holy Father. Dioceses are not in competition with the global Church; we are all members of the one Body of Christ. And sometimes it is right and fitting for the Holy Father to act with global authority to coordinate the Church’s efforts in council with the rest of the bishops for the good of whole Church.
In a related way, the Church insists that our common humanity as creatures made in the image of God means that there are—especially in a global economy and a world we now see more clearly than ever to be our common home—many issues which require a coordinated global response from the whole human race.
For example, global pandemic, by its very nature, requires a global response. Sharing information among the global health community, as well as sharing resources— from medical supplies to money to food and other necessities—is crucial and requires international coordination. Likewise, coordinated state responses overseeing public health measures such as “shelter at home” precautions (and the cooperation of an informed public) are critical to halting the rapid spread of highly infectious and deadly disease. In this way, Subsidiarity works at multiple levels. A family sheltering at home does its part locally. Higher up the ladder, health care workers do theirs in treating the sick. Still higher up, the scientific community works to coordinate data and research cures and vaccines. And that community, which is global, coordinates with state entities to make information and treatment available to all. Moreover, our globally-interconnected economy affects the fortunes of human beings all around the world and coordinated global efforts by state actors are necessary so that the sick receive care and the hungry are fed, not just in rich nations, but especially in poor ones.
Illustrations of the truth of this can be seen in the observance of Subsidiarity as well as in its breach. It was, for instance, a vast and well-coordinated global response that ended the threat of Ebola. Conversely, the lack of coordination in response to COVID-19 has contributed to high infection and death rates in nations that have failed to observe the public health requirements the disease imposes on us.
Or, to give another example, the urgent issue of climate change affects the entire planet and likewise requires a coordinated global response. This was one of the central points of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, which followed the principle of Subsidiarity in urging us to act locally (by following commonsense rules for personal responsibility in not wasting the goods of creation, recycling, not overconsuming, reducing our carbon footprint, and so forth) while also thinking globally (by recognizing the fact this issue will require a global and supranational response). Pope Francis is not saying anything new here. He quotes his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who himself cites previous Church teaching as he says:
To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago. (Laudato Si’ 175)
Note carefully: For Popes Francis, Benedict XVI and John XXIII, the idea of a “true world political authority” to address global issues is not a denial of Subsidiarity but yet another expression of it. It is the level of authority necessary to deal with problems at the global level just as an ecumenical council is the level of authority necessary to deal with global issues in the Church.