New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Church and the State - Bl. Pope John Paul II


The Christian message brings glad tidings for everyone: for the political, economic and legal world too. When the authority of the Church, within the sphere of her own mission, proclaims Christian doctrine or gives rulings of a moral nature on matters in the political order, and when she encourages promotion of the dignity and inalienable rights of man, she is, above all, seeking the integral good of the body politic and, ultimately, the integral good of the individual. The Church, at the same time, recognizes that it is the duty of the Catholic laity, when faced with questions susceptible of various solutions in the vast field of politics, to find such solutions as are compatible with Gospel values. In union with all those people wishing to promote the good of the community, they bear a great responsibility: for seeking and applying truly humane solutions to the challenge posed by modem times and social coexistence. The Church shares in the best of human aspirations and offers mankind what she has herself: 'A global perspective on man and human realities' (Populorum progressio 13).

Both Church and State, each in its own domain and with its own means, are at the service of man's personal and social vocation. Thus ample room opens up for dialogue and for various kinds of co-operation,based always on mutual respect for the identity of each and for the functions proper to each of these two institutions. The Church recognizes, respects and encourages the legitimate autonomy of temporal and specifically political affairs. Her mission is set on a different plane. She is 'the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person' (Gaudium et Spes 76)

In no way is the Church to be confused with the political community, nor is she tied to any political system (Gaudium et Spes 76). Even less is she to be identified with any party, and it would be deplorable if individuals and institutions, of whatever stamp they may be, were tempted to make use of her for their own particular advantage. Such an attitude would reveal an ignorance of the nature and real mission of the Church and would involve a lack of respect for the aims she has received from her Divine Founder, But, this said, we should not conclude that the message of salvation entrusted to the Church has nothing to say to the body politic in order to enlighten it with the Gospel. To the Church it pertains, as the Council teaches, 'to carry out her task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgements even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it' (Gaudium et Spes 76). So it is not a question of undue interference in a field to which she is a stranger, but of a service offered, for love of Jesus Christ, to the whole community, and prompted by a desire to contribute to the common good, encouraged by the Lord's words: 'The truth will make you free' (John 8:32)

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