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  Church & State (Sun Feb 8, 2004  5:10 pm )

"The Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other. Yet both, under different titles, are devoted to the personal and social vocation of the same individuals." (Gaudium et Spes)

Under this instruction Catholic politicians have been able to serve the common good successfully by following the dictates of their conscience in matters of state. It empowered them to make decisions on laws regulating such issues as the death penalty, just war, birth control, and social justice in light of the plural interpretations of the citizenry who elected them as well as the church's official position which is one aspect they take into account.

In November 2002 the Congregation of the Faith published the following: No Catholic "can appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements."

Using this opinion expressed by the Congregation of the Faith, some bishops, ignoring Gaudium et Spes, are attempting to force politicians to impose Catholic teachings on civil society. They publicly imply that Catholic politicians whose vote in legal matters does not reflect the official church position are risking their eternal salvation.

ARCC deplores this subtle attempt to undermine the separation of church and state. How would we respond if Muslim legislators were pressured to make public swimming pools illegal? In a pluralistic society no single religion can be allowed to exercise control over society as a whole.

We cite Gaudium et Spes as evidence that at the time of the Second Vatican Council church authorities themselves realized that this kind of interference was morally doubtful and potentially harmful. Current Vatican directives that disregard the principle of subsidiarity and refuse to acknowledge duly elected and responsible community leadership violate the principles of Gaudium et Spes. In addition, threat and intimidation are the last resort of an authority desperate to enforce unjust rules.

We urge you not only to send letters of protest to the bishops who are guilty of such pressure tactics, but also to send letters of support to the Catholic politicians who are resisting this intimidation. Would you also share a copy of your letter with us, and tell us whether you are willing for us to share it with other ARCC members?


Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

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