Tesco and the Principle of Subsidiarity

Blogged by James on 21st November 2011

A few blogs have already posted that Tesco will be sponsoring London Gay Pride 2012.

That would be one of those gay pride events where monogamous couples come together to celebrate commitment and the importance of building a stable home for children... oh wait? No? It seems to me that regardless of ones views on the morality of homosexual sex, there is a clear gulf between the mild mannered talk on the news about gay marriage and the hyper-sexualised parades around the streets of London.

We may disagree on whether children do best with a mummy and a daddy but surely we can agree that responsible parents don't engage in topless marches down Whitehall smeared in chocolate body paint?


The general consensus on the Catholic blogs seems to be that Catholics should to boycott Tesco and shop somewhere else instead. Suggestions include Sainsbury's, Morrisons or ASDA but unfortunately thats barking up the wrong tree. Do a quick Google and you will find something problematic about them all - Sainsbury's gives gives money to Comic Relief, Morrisons give money to Save the Children and ASDA give money to Children in Need. They mean well of course and it all sounds good until you realise that all three of those charities are involved in projects that refer young girls for abortions. Oops.

The answer isn't to exchange one supermarket chain for another, it is to recognise that the whole giant shopping chain thing is broken in the first place. You see, you shouldn't be writing to some faceless manager of a huge organisation to ask him why he's sponsoring an event you don't like, no, you should be wandering in to your local fruit shop and having a chat with Bob the fruit shop man...

...that most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.

[Pius XI (Quadragesimo Anno)]

When Mr Tesco builds his giant supermarket and all the shops in your high street close down, when all the firms that supply those shops close down, that is "an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order". Bob is perfectly capable of managing his own fruit shop, of sourcing the produce people want locally and doing things in a way his customers like them done, but now Bob works for Tesco and all that stuff has been assigned to a higher association.

You don't know Bobs name, you don't even know he exists. As a member of the body social he has been destroyed and absorbed. While I have every respect for the people who have taken the time to write to Tesco about this (and you should do the same) the fact is that Catholics should not by supporting this "grave evil and disturbance of right order" at all.

Of course, Mister Hypocrite Blogger (that would be me by the way) occupies the same universe as everybody else and shops in a supermarket just like you do - I'm not sure if we even have a local fruit shop. But we do try to support out local butcher whose meat is perhaps a little more expensive than ASDA (not a lot more) but it is a million times better. He's an idea, this Christmas why not place an order at your local butchers?