... Yet despite these unfortunate attempts at redefinition, progressive Catholics who value Catholic social teaching should reexamine subsidiarity, as it is a principle that they can and should embrace.
Subsidiarity is an essential component of Church teaching. The catechism states that under subsidiarity, “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 coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.” In terms of government action, “The principle of subsidiarity holds that the functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately. When the needs in question cannot adequately be met at the lower level, then it is not only necessary, but imperative that higher levels of government intervene.”
Subsidiarity helps us to translate our sense of solidarity into social justice. While it is solidarity that gives us the desire to achieve the common good and protect the most vulnerable members of our communities, the principle of subsidiarity is particularly useful in helping us to achieve this preeminent goal. It protects us from large corporations and excessive government invading the most intimate spheres of our lives and inhibiting our freedom to reach our full potential as persons.
Subsidiarity also protects civil society, the foundation of a strong democratic culture. It recognizes the inevitable need for communities between the person and the state, the inherent duties that exist within these communities, and the threat to these posed by tyrannical regimes, kleptocracies, and other forms of domination by powerful interests. ...
I don't endorse everything he has to say in this post but I think his opposition to collapsing "subsidiarity" into a synonym for "states rights" is correct. There is inherent tension between needing vibrant local community and needing larger entities that bring order, address the destructiveness that can emerge in local community, and sometimes do things that simply could not be done without bigness. There is considerable room for debate about how this all should work but ideology that knee-jerk defaults to government intervention to solve each problem, or sees every government involvement as sinister, is destructive.