Each community is defined by its purpose and conse
quently obeys specific rules; but “the
human person . . .
ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social
Certain societies, such as the family and the state, corre
spond more directly to the nature of man; they are necessary to
him. To promote the participation of the greatest number in the life
of a society, the creation of voluntary associations and institutions
must be encouraged “on both national and international levels,
which relate to economic and social goals, to cultural and recrea
tional activities, to sport, to various professions, and to political
” also expresses the natural tendency for
human beings to associate with one another for the sake of attain
ing objectives that exceed individual capacities. It develops the
qualities of the person, especially the sense of initiative and respon
sibility, and helps guarantee his rights.
Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive interven
tion by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The
teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of
according to which “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 co-ordinate its activity with the activities
of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”
God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of
power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of
performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This
mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way
God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great
regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those
who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers
of divine providence.
The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of col
lectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmo
nizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends
toward the establishment of true international order.
25 § 1.
5 John XXIII,
25 § 2;
48 § 4; cf. Pius XI,