Simeon Iber

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2004


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

James P. Hanigan

Committee Member

David F. Kelly

Committee Member

Luke Mbefo

Committee Member

Maureen R. O'Brien


Catholic social thought, civil society, Nigeria, self-help, social justice, subsidiarity


This dissertation examined the centrality of the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social teaching, in bringing about social and moral reconstruction of society and in particular the Nigerian social context. The origin of this principle has been traced to the natural human inclination to build a healthy relationship between the individual and society, such that, the society will provide generous help and support to individuals to help themselves. Subsidiarity is a way of organizing individuals and social groups in community to help each other in pursuing their interests with common goals, the ultimate purpose being to assist one another and uphold the common good.

The vision of the common good sees in the human person the personal dignity proper to one's nature, but directed essentially to others in society. Hence, the common good and the good of the individual do not oppose one another, but the good of the individual whose nature is personal has a dignity proper to itself, but nonetheless is social in character, that is, it is directed to the well-being of others. Thus, the common good is realized through the participation and contribution of the individual to others in society. In this way, the relationship between the individual and the social group remains a question for everybody in a given social context.

The study carried out a critical analysis of the Nigerian society and discovered that lack of development at the grassroots, corruption, bribery, ethnic conflicts, failure of leadership, and failure of the rule of law have eaten deep into the fabric of the nation. The study recommended that in order to support individuals and social groups to help each other, the practice of social justice is a necessary component to the common good. Social justice will ensure the building of trust across ethnic lines, protect minority tribes from being taken over by larger tribes, promote grassroots participation of the masses by encouraging self-help tribal, community, kinship, religious, and non-governmental associations as agents of positive social change. Moreover, tribal customs and practices that are unjust may and must be re-evaluated in the light of the Gospel message of Jesus who came to serve and not to be served.