As Catholics participating in civic life we have the responsibility to inform ourselves about candidates and issues and to form ourselves with the teaching of the Church, rather than blindly (or lazily) following any kind of party line. Thus you should ask if the positions of the Tea Party are in keeping with the principles of your Catholic faith. The Tea Party, actually a coalition of local and national groups rather than a political party, promotes fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free market economics. A key principle of Catholic social teaching which can be instructive here is subsidiarity — the idea that decisions should be made at the most local level possible in order to maximize the participation of as many people as possible. On the one hand, this principle seems to support the tea party’s emphasis on limited government. On the other hand, subsidiarity also means “as little government as possible, as much government as necessary.” Church teaching recognizes the essential responsibilities of the community to its members and supports the establishment of adequate structures to meet those obligations. The Church also consistently upholds the human dignity of all persons; the forces of the market must always be at the service of human beings, and never vice versa. Reasonable people of good will can disagree on the best way to apply these principles to particular policy questions. Hence, Catholics who have reflected carefully on the teaching of the Church may find themselves in agreement with the Tea Party or in opposition to it. The important thing is to understand what the Church teaches, to inform yourself about the options available to you and to shape your civic participation accordingly, following your conscience.