Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Moral truth and human behavior

Recently I read [I've forgotten where] of someone asking "What is the largest Protestant denomination in America?" The answer was "the Catholic Church." One of the defining characteristics of Catholicism is the teaching authority of the Church. When Catholics insist that they can disregard at will what their church teaches, they are not being very Catholic. Archbishop Chaput of Denver on the Catholic Church and politics:
Catholic leadership in the secular world belongs to laypeople, not to clergy or religious. The visible role of the priest in public affairs—if by public affairs we mean political affairs—should normally be pretty small.

It’s very dangerous for the Church to identify with one political party. It’s not my business to tell people to vote for John McCain or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And while I worked for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign as a volunteer when I was young, I don’t think any Catholic should feel comfortable today in either major political party—Democrat or Republican.

But that doesn’t really get us off the hook, does it? The problem is that the Church teaches moral truth, and truth has obligations for human behavior—including the social, economic, and political kind. The Church is never mainly a political organism, but her witness for justice always has political consequences. For example, killing unborn children is a form of homicide. It’s a profound attack on human dignity, because all other rights depend on the right to life. It’s not the only important issue facing our country. But it is the foundational one at this moment in our nation’s history. We can’t ignore it. Cooperating in abortion or quietly tolerating it is a grave evil. We can incrementally seek to restrict and eliminate abortion, but we can never accept it as a so-called right. And if that truth inconveniences one or another political candidate, well, that’s their problem. .... [more]
Of course every Christian - Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox - or, for that matter any adherent of any religion - knows that his or her relationship to God has implications for every aspect of life - every act or decision - including who to vote for. I don't look to my pastor for such direction, but I do look to my faith.

FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » The Role of the Priest in Public Affairs
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