In Practice, the “Principle of Subsidiarity” basically means the following three main normative application or observance thereof: One, what individuals can do by themselves should not be denied or taken away from them particularly by government agencies, by public officials, or civil authorities. Two, what individuals cannot accomplish by themselves out of their own personal possibilities and effort for their own good or betterment, should be attended to and helped by the said public entities. Three, the Principle wherefore in substance means that there should be supplementation and complementation by the able to the unable, between the capable and the helpless. All these normative observances are in accord with human dignity and social relationship among people – where the less capable is not downgraded nor the more able acquires superiority complex.
The “Principle of Subsidiarity” is a constituent element of the Social Doctrine of the Church from the very start whereas it is basically along the nature and spirit of the cardinal mandate of “Love of neighbor.” -- which is second only to “Love of God.” In the realm of standard and civilized human society, while the love of neighbor certainly includes everybody, it has special relevance and significance in favor of those who have less in life and capability in the present and in the foreseeable future. It is then incumbent upon those who are more able and have more, to give them “Subsidium” – or help, support, assistance and the like.
In essence wherefore, the above said “Subsidium” – which is the root word of “Subsidiarity” – means subsidy, i.e., aid, subvention or assistance handed or extended to those who need it for being less able and for those having less in life and resources. But the same principle of “Subsidiarity” also says that those who already have what they need and are wherefore already able to provide for themselves – these should be left alone in the sense that social officialdom should instead give their beneficial attention to those who really need it, not withstanding all the latter’s honest efforts to be self-sufficient, self-reliant. Otherwise, dependency if not downright indolence would be instead fomented which is abrogative of human dignity.
So it is that the “Principle of Subsidiarity” – as affirmed and promoted by the Social Doctrine of the Church – defends people from abuses by high level social authorities and calls on the same public figures and intermediate groups to make people not only exercise their rights but also fulfill their duties as individuals, as members of society, as citizens of a Country. The “Principle” is imperative because every human person, human family, and human intermediate groupings have something original to offer to the community as a whole. So it is that someone may be helpless but not hopeless, may be poor but not useless, may be wanting but still counted among the living – and human life is priceless.
Certain marked opposites of the “Principle of Subsidiarity” are public supremacy instead of public service, superiority complex rather than substantive equality, egoistic self-service in place of altruistic attention and care. So sad yet so true.