Catholics young and old, spurred by a genuine concern for the poor and marginalized, have long sought answers to that concern in Catholic social teaching. But, where the authentic social teaching of the Church looks to the community of faith for answers to the disturbing questions of poverty, injustice, and oppression, some advocate a more government-oriented approach. A serious examination of the issues of justice, equality, and liberty requires a more adequate understanding of Catholic social teaching. In addition, while there are deep spiritual dimensions to each of these issues, the insights of the social sciences, including economics, can help to offer solutions to the problems' material dimensions.
The principle of subsidiarity, which teaches that a community of a higher order should not interfere in the activities of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, is a first principle in genuine Catholic social teaching. It requires each of us to be responsible for those who are suffering in our midst. Families, friends, associates, churches, local charitable organizations - these should be the first to respond to the needs of their brothers and sisters. Government should only be directly involved as the organization of last resort and should implement policies designed to support rather than replace intermediary groups. In this way, people are induced to serve one another, as Christ commanded.