Monday, October 3, 2011

The Presidential election and the participation of Catholics in political life

During the course of a recent television debate between the seven contenders for the post of president of Ireland it was sad to see, and hear, some of the individuals who although claiming to be Catholic at the same time demonstrated that they do not follow the teaching of the Church of which they profess to be members.

In November 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life.  The Note, which was given the approval of Bl. John Paul II, says that ‘man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality.’
The Note continues:

‘By fulfilling their civic duties, “guided by a Christian conscience”, in conformity with its values, the lay faithful exercise their proper task of infusing the temporal order with Christian values, all the while respecting the nature and rightful autonomy of that order, and cooperating with other citizens according to their particular competence and responsibility. …  At the same time, however, one cannot close one’s eyes to the real dangers which certain tendencies in society are promoting through legislation, nor can one ignore the effects this will have on future generations.   A kind of cultural relativism exists today, evident in the conceptualisation and defence of an ethical pluralism, which sanctions the decadence and disintegration of reason and the principles of the natural moral law.  … [T]he value of tolerance is disingenuously invoked when a large number of citizens, Catholics among them, are asked not to base their contribution to society and political life – through the legitimate means available to everyone in a democracy – on their particular understanding of the human person and the common good. […]’

The Note then warns that 

legislative proposals are put forward which, heedless of the consequences for the existence and future of human beings with regard to the formation of culture and social behaviour attack the very inviolability of human life.  Catholics, in this difficult situation, have the right and the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard.     [T]he family needs to be safeguarded and promoted, based on monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, and protected in its unity and stability in the face of modern laws on divorce:  in no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on the same level as marriage, nor can they receive legal recognition as such.   […]
‘By its interventions in this area, the Church’s Magisterium does not wish to exercise political power or eliminate the freedom of opinion of Catholics regarding contingent questions.  Instead, it intends – as is its proper function – to instruct and illuminate the consciences of the faithful, particularly those involved in political life, so that their actions may always serve the integral promotion of the human person and the common good.  The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries.  It is a question of the lay Catholic’s duty to be morally coherent, found within one’s conscience, which is one and indivisible.  There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called “spiritual life”, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called “secular” life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. […]"     

emphasis added