Blog Template Theology of the Body: Catholics Responding to the Election: Political Theology 101

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Catholics Responding to the Election: Political Theology 101

John Paul II
The Role of the Church in Politics

"...It is precisely about (these conflicts), in the very pointed terms in which they then appeared, that the Pope does not hesitate to speak. In the face of conflicts which set man against man, almost as if they were "wolves," conflicts between the extremes of mere physical survival on the one side and opulence on the other, the (pastor) does not hesitate to intervene by virtue of his "apostolic office," that is, on the basis of the mission received from Jesus Christ himself to "feed his lambs and tend his sheep" (cf. Jn 21:15-17), and to "bind and loose" on earth for the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 16:19).

In this way, Pope Leo XIII, in the footsteps of his Predecessors, created a lasting paradigm for the Church. The Church, in fact, has something to say about specific human situations, both individual and communal, national and international. She formulates a genuine doctrine for these situations, a corpus which enables her to analyze social realities, to make judgments about them and to indicate directions to be taken for the just resolution of the problems involved.

In Pope Leo XIII's time such a concept of the Church's right and duty was far from being commonly admitted. Indeed, a two-fold approach prevailed: one directed to this world and this life, to which faith ought to remain extraneous; the other directed towards a purely other-worldly salvation, which neither enlightens nor directs existence on earth. The Pope's approach in publishing Rerum Novarum gave the Church "citizenship status" as it were, amid the changing realities of public life, and this standing would be more fully confirmed later on.

In effect, to teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church's evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for justice in the context of bearing witness to Christ the Saviour....This doctrine is likewise a source of unity and peace in dealing with the conflicts which inevitably arise in social and economic life. Thus it is possible to meet these new situations without degrading the human person's transcendent dignity, either in oneself or in one's adversaries, and to direct those situations towards just solutions...The new evangelization which the modern world urgently needs and which I have emphasized many times, must include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church's social doctrine... Now, as then, we need to repeat that there can be no genuine solution of the "social question" apart from the Gospel, and that the new things can find in the Gospel the context for their correct understanding and the proper moral perspective for judgment on them."

- Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus