Shocking! Pope Francis and I Agree on Politics

Shocking! Pope Francis and I Agree on Politics September 17, 2013

Did you see Pope Francis’s homily yesterday? Therein he said,

“A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern. None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, they govern.’”

Once again, the Holy Father points us towards being faithful, responsible, engaged, Christians. And the election cycle is getting started early, which is a good reason to pay attention to the coming debt ceiling shenanigans as well as the HHS Mandate machinations.

I once proclaimed that “the Antichrist is politics.” What I meant by that statement is that when we make an idol of politics, political parties, etc., it becomes the antichrist. How could it not? All forms of idolatry separate us from Christ the King, and lead us down paths that are fraught with danger.

Now, Pope Francis isn’t the first pope to note that Catholics can’t just bury their heads in the sand and let politics continue to wreck havoc unchecked by a citizenry that fails to exercise their roles as priests, profits, and kings. Remember those roles? Lumen Gentium break.

(31) The term laity is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church. These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.

(34) The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since He wills to continue His witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.

For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne — all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. Together with the offering of the Lord’s Body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.

In his homily yesterday, Pope Francis went on to say that “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!”

Why? In his encylical Caritas in veritate, Pope Benedict XVI  notes that,

The Christian religion and other religions can offer their contribution to development only if God has a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions. The Church’s social doctrine came into being in order to claim “citizenship status” for the Christian religion[135]. Denying the right to profess one’s religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development. The exclusion of religion from the public square — and, at the other extreme, religious fundamentalism — hinders an encounter between persons and their collaboration for the progress of humanity. Public life is sapped of its motivation and politics takes on a domineering and aggressive character. Human rights risk being ignored either because they are robbed of their transcendent foundation or because personal freedom is not acknowledged. Secularism and fundamentalism exclude the possibility of fruitful dialogue and effective cooperation between reason and religious faith. Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith: this also holds true for political reason, which must not consider itself omnipotent. For its part, religion always needs to be purified by reason in order to show its authentically human face. Any breach in this dialogue comes only at an enormous price to human development.

Like going back to the good old days that Thomas Hobbes wrote about in Leviathan? When might made right and our lives were described as being nasty, brutish, and short? Not good. Sounds pagan to me.

And speaking of Pope Benedict’s thoughts on politics, faith and reason, I’m reminded of something written by Fr. John Courtney Murray, SJ, that I shared regarding another reason why I am Catholic: natural law and politics.

Here then in the briefest compass are some of the resources resident in natural law, that would make it the dynamic of a “new age of order.” It does not indeed furnish a detailed blueprint of the order; that is not its function. Nor does it pretend to settle the enormously complicated technical problems, especially in the economic order, that confront us today. It can claim only to be a “skeleton law,” to which flesh and blood must be added by that heart of the political process, the rational activity of man, aided by experience and by high professional competence. But today it is perhaps the skeleton that we mostly need, since it is precisely the structural foundations of the political, social, and economic orders that are being most anxiously questioned. In this situation the doctrine of natural law can claim to offer all that is good and valid in competing systems, at the same time that it avoids all that is weak and false in them.

Its concern for the rights of the individual human person is no less than that shown in the schools of individualist Liberalism (ed. think “Libertarianism”) with its “law of nature” theory of rights, at the same time that its sense of the organic character of community, as the flowering in ascending forms of sociality of the social nature of man, is far greater and more realistic. It can match Marxism in its concern for man as a worker and for the just organization of economic society, at the same time that it forbids the absorption of man in matter and its determinisms.

Finally, it does not bow to the new rationalism in regard of a sense of history and progress, the emerging potentialities of human nature, the value of experience in settling the forms of social life, the relative primacy in certain respects of the empirical fact over the preconceived theory; at the same time it does not succumb to the doctrinaire relativism, or to the narrowing of the object of human intelligence, that cripple at their root the high aspirations of evolutionary scientific humanism. In a word, the doctrine of natural law offers a more profound metaphysic, a more integral humanism, a fuller rationality, a more complete philosophy of man in his nature and history.

I might say, too, that it furnishes the basis for a firmer faith and a more tranquil, because more reasoned, hope in the future. If there is a law immanent in man—a dynamic, constructive force for rationality in human affairs, that works itself out, because it is a natural law, in spite of contravention by passion and evil and all the corruptions of power—one may with sober reason believe in, and hope for, a future of rational progress. And this belief and hope is strengthened when one considers that this dynamic order of reason in man, that clamors for expression with all the imperiousness of law, has its origin and sanction in an eternal order of reason whose fulfillment is the object of God’s majestic will.

This must have something to do with why God invented popular sovereignty.

Don’t forget to register to vote.



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  • jenny

    I wonder if religious people have been active in politics, then wouldn’t the moral principles be automatically implemented in our life?
    Or at least, easier disseminated among us?