Some people are asking that question — and Catholic News Agency has some answers:
CNA spoke about the movement with Dr. Steven Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, and Fr. Robert Sirico, president of the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Acton Institute.
Fr. Sirico described the Tea Party as “an amorphous thing” with a lot of variety and as a “populist, spontaneous movement.” He thought its common themes include a desire for less government and a desire “to limit the power that politicians have over peoples’ lives.”
Participants find motivation in a variety of philosophies. Some have “well-developed Catholic sensibilities” while others’ sensibilities are “almost anarchistic.” He thought it was “remarkable” that the Tea Party could bring so many non-political people into the political process.
The Church’s teaching on subsidiarity can meet these people and “augment what they’re doing,” he said, while also guarding against “the more fanatical edges of the tea party.”
Fr. Sirico explained subsidiarity as being the principle that higher levels of society should not intervene in lower levels without “manifest and real necessity,” and such intervention should only be temporary.
“Needs are best met at the local level,” he said, calling government “the resource of last resort.”
For his part, Dr. Schneck agreed the Tea Party is still a movement being formed. He sees it as motivated in part by middle class frustration with “a political environment that seems to reward the rich and the poor but ignores or even undercuts the middle.” He also sees a “libertarian dynamic that wants to end do-gooder, nanny government.”
He told CNA that Catholics are called to practice politics based on four aspects: the dignity of the person, the common good rather than private interests, solidarity with our fellow citizens in community, and an understanding of subsidiarity that recognizes the appropriate role of the state and civil society in addressing community needs.
This approach also reveals other requirements for good politics, such as preferential consideration of the poor, welcoming the immigrant, the importance of family and community, and a “stewardship” understanding of property and creation.