Church and State

  • Opportet Illum Regnare

N.B. I know that CAF has some guidelines regarding politics. Let me state that this post is simply discussing the sepration between Church and State.*

At supper today, someone asked me who was more pro-life. My answer which came exactly from Catholic Online’s Voter Guide did not live long… You see, another individual across the table, apparently agitated, alleged that one ought not to consider the moral standings of a political candidate. He added that the most important thing to look out for was economics and economics alone. I cannot agree. And I think that the better half of the American population as well as the USCCB would support me in this.

Now, it certainly is important that we obey the laws of the state since the commands of secular authority are the commands of God (Romans 13:2, 5). Even Joseph and Mary themselves willingly conformed to the decree of the Roman Emperor Augustus and journeyed to Bethlehem as we see in the Gospel of St. Luke. In 1 Peter 2:17, we are told to fear God and honor the ruler of our country.

However, if the state (or ‘temporal power’ as it is traditionally called) commands something which God forbids, then we need recite the words of the apostles in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Even throughout the Old Testament, we see how brave individuals stand up against the state when it commands them to do something that goes against the precepts of God. We see in the lives of the three young men in the fiery furnace and the seven Machabees a genuine love for God’s precepts. A love so pure and so radical that it ignored every thing material and pleasurable. A love, like that of Christ’s; a love of sacrifice.

Today, perhaps we will never be called upon to do such this. But this does not mean that we neglect faith and morals for economic gain, personal confort and wealth accumulation?

Do not get me wrong. We do need good economic policies for it is with these economic policies that a country is able to enjoy public works such as schools and hospitals, etc… This is the part where we “rended unto Ceaser” (Mat 22:21).

We need to exercise our Christian principles and select men (and women) who do not just look to economics as the all in all. The electorate bears a huge responsibility in the sight of God when it comes to voting. Senators are responsible for the laws they make while we, the electorate are responsible for those senators who make our laws. Since we are answerable for every right that we are give, we need to ensure that we exercise our voting rights carefully and with much discernment.

We need to let the truths of Christianity, as revealed by the Catholic Church, be our pillar and guiding light. No one can ever assert that political actions are exempt from responsibility before God. Every congress member and every senator will need to give an account to God on every word they have spoken and every deed they have done. And every elector will be responsible for the people they instate/reinstate in congress/senate.

Abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, immigration, etc… are all matters that areclosely related with the essentials of religion and often the subject of debate. As Catholics, it is our duty to vote for candidates who will act justly towards all dealing with ecclesiastical questions.

Every Catholic needs to bear in mind that each vote is of consequence and will have an effect on the scale. Therefore, each eligible voting Catholic needs to acertain, before going to the ballot, the views of the candidate upon education, the sanctifty of marriage, the sanctity of life, etc… These are important considerations since with just one stroke of the pen, the lives of thousands, if not millions of individuals will be changed indelibly. Take for example the 1973 American case of Roe v Wade: Did you know that in just a quarter of a century, approximately 40 million lives have been claimed by abortion alone?!
“The Christian tradition from the earliest days reveals a firm anti-abortion attitude . . . The condemnation of abortion did not depend on and was not limited in any way by theories regarding the time of fetal animation. Even during the many centuries when Church penal and penitential practice was based on the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it. Whatever one would want to hold about the time of animation, or when the fetus became a human being in the strict sense of the term, abortion from the time of conception was considered wrong, and the time of animation was never looked on as a moral dividing line between permissible and impermissible abortion.” Jesuit John Connery’s Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective (Loyola, 1977).
Now, are we going to forsake faith and morals for economic gain, personal conforts, and wealth accumulation? Are we going to deny the right of life to those in the womb? Are we going to be like the Jews who proudly proclaimed that they had no other king but Ceasar?

The Greek biographer, Plutarch, speaks of religion forming a better protection for a city than its walls! Simply put, Plutarch is saying that the ramparts of a nation that is built on the Word of God, is more effective than reinforced concrete. Even Napoleon confessed that no nation could be governed without religion. Why not? In Osee 4:1-2, we read of, “cursing, and lying, and killing, and theft, and adultery” overflowing in the land where there is no knowledge of God.

Catholics who vote in a manner that results in a self-serving nation and not a nation that defends (or attempts to defend) faith and morals “shall perish” says the prophet Issaiah in 9:12. One glace at history reveals this so ever clearly; the horrors of the French revolution, the fall of the Roman Empire, etc… can be traced to the same cause.

Pope Pius XI in Quas Primas, quotes Annum Sacrum of Pope Leo XIII: “The state does not have the right to remain neutral regarding religion, much less to pursue a secular approach in its policies.” It is held and affirmed that in Singapore, a multi-racial and religious nation, there needs to be a neutrality in the state’s treatment of the Church. I would go so far as to say that perhaps it is necessary for peace and stability. However, this does not mean that the conscious Catholic does not have to right to stand up for the truth. We still need to defend the Church’s teachings, precepts, the holy name of God and His commandments.

Abp. Charles Chaput, of Colorado teaches us that, “the duty of the Church and other religious communities is moral witness. The duty of the state and its officials is to serve the common good, which is always rooted in moral truth. A proper understanding of the “separation of Church and state” does not imply a separation of faith from political life. But of course, it’s always important to know what our faith actually teaches.”

For “the true liberty of human society” teaches Pope Pius Leo XIII (and affirmed by Pius XI), “does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, for this would simply end in turmoil and confusion, and bring on the overthrow of the State: but rather in this, that through the injunctions of the civil law all may easily conform to the prescriptions of the Eternal Law.” How is this achieved? Through our vote!

The more I reflect on what was mentioned earlier at supper, the more I am inclined to see that this individual is dearly lacking faith. Sure, economic gains are good. I do not deny it. But we ask ourselves, “At what expense”, or rather- as in the case of abortion, “at whose expense?” To say that the economic policies of a candidate is the all in all really reveals a lack of faith in Jesus’ words that “the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.” To ignore the moral issues is to exchange the truth of God for a lie.

Scripture tells us that God is one who judges justly. If we conform ourselves to His will, to His precepts and vow obedience to His Church (as He asks of us), we will be rewarded (Luke 6:38). If we ignore His will, His precepts, and His Church and care only for the material things of this world, we are only looking for our own destruction (cf. Is. 9:12, Osee 4:1-2, Luke 11:17).

“While nations insult the sweet Name of Our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we ought all the more loudly to proclaim it, and all the more universally affirm the privileges of His royal dignity and power.” Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas.

Pro Christo et Ecclesiae,
Vidimusdominum
St. John Chrisostom

Every law, from criminal through to tax law, contains a moral judgment.
Every law-maker therefore, must make moral judgments as a part of his/her duty.

Everyone makes moral judgments based on their own moral foundation, be it religious or philosophical. And voters choose the candidates based on their moral foundation.

Therefore it is a violation of the separation of Church and State for secular humanists to insist that religious people not make moral judgments based on their own moral foundation.

Actually, if you look at secular humanism, much of it overlaps with many spiritual traditions, including Catholicism.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.