"Imposing Catholic Morality on Society"

Hi everyone, I’m new to these forums, and I had a question I would greatly appreciate being answered (I hope I’m doing this right :bigyikes:)
I go to a Catholic school, and have come across many discussions over moral issues becoming political (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) and there are a surprising amount of people who I regard as extremely intelligent who are opposed to Catholic principles being carried out in the legal system. A couple friends and I usually break down their arguements, but there comes a point that we just can’t break through the one part in their standpoint where they state that even if they agreed with us, they would not support Catholic teachings being carried out because “it’s wrong to impose your morality on others.”
Is this true? I haven’t been able to find any reference for that, and Jesus chasing the moneychangers out of the temple comes to mind as to why they’re wrong. Could anyone clarify this for me?

Hmmmm… Atheists imposed their precepts on Mother Russia since 1917 till recently. What happened there was horrific. Catholics* must* impose authority and conscience or the void will be filled by the adversary -especially so to protect the public -such as the preborns. As far as for forcing people at gunpoint to attend the Catholic church then I would say no -as God allows free will.

Everyone imposes their morality on society, for better or for worse. To deny that is to be ignorant of what a person is, as well as what society is made up of (all people - all with morals) You don’t have to be a theist to possess morals. Society is not a group of people devoid of their morals.

Right now, abortion is legal because of the morality of a specific group of people, a portion of the same society that Catholics (with their morality) are part of.

Your argument for them is simply to stress that morals are not merely religious, they’re human. Every law ever made is some sort of moral imposition onto society. The fact that a non-believer has no idea where his morals come from does not equate to the fact that he does not impose them onto society. Catholics (and non-Catholic Christians) are easy targets simply because we KNOW the origin of our morality…for it (or better yet, He) precedes us in battle. Secularists hate the fact that our morality is specific and unyielding, compared to their relativism and ever-changing sense of right and wrong…and that hatred is manifested by accusing us of imposition as they ironically and simultaneously impose their morality on us.

Peace…and welcome to CAF.

The Catholic Church doesn’t impose its beliefs on people.Catholics don’t say "you have to do this or that"they may say this is what Catholics believe.Have you ever been approached by a Catholic who said’stop cutting your grass its Sunday and that’s a mortal sin.Or don’t by that condom that’s against God’s law.Some issues have to be spoken about when they affect the society.Abortion for instance is murder and no civil society can be allowed to kill people.If people were shooting each other in the streets Catholics would have to protest or impose its belief on society because it would affect every person in that neighborhood and society would break down if we were to let this go on.There are many things Catholics think people should do but they don’t impose it on anybody.We think you should go to Mass on sundays and holydays,we think you shouldn’t use God’s name in vain,we belive you shouldn’t show dirty tv shows or movies but we don’t impose those things on others.

Those who believe that they should not impose their beliefs on others ironically impose the belief that people should not impose their beliefs on others. The lie that we are told is that secular liberalism is the great default position. Secular liberalism really amounts to ideology with dogmatic presuppositions that parade around as the torch of liberty and indifference but really acts with tyranny as bad or worse than anything religion could ever muster. For example, abortion is murder and any indiffernce to abortion amounts to tacit acceptance of the practice. And there you have it, the indifference and liberty of secular liberalism amounting to tyranny.

Morals and **Ethics **are required for all Societies to function without mayhem.

Intentional Murder of innocents is always wrong - abortion, and euthanasia.

CCC - " 2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.”
This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values."

Re: Gay Marriage -
Marriage between a man and a woman should have a priviledged position in public policy because of the importance of familes having and bringing up children - the future of our Country.

CCC - " 2211 The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially:

  • the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family’s own moral and religious convictions;
  • the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family;
  • the freedom to profess one’s faith, to hand it on, and raise one’s children in it, with the necessary means and institutions;
  • the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate;
  • in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits;
  • the protection of security and health, especially with respect to dangers like drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;
  • the freedom to form associations with other families and so to have representation before civil authority. "


Hi there from England, and welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

Jesus chasing money changers out of the temple was because the house of God was being used as a place of commerce, instead of a place of worship.

I think its misrepresenting Jesus mission to say he was imposing his views on others.

I’m taking a contrary view to the other posts above, but then I’m not a Catholic :slight_smile:

I think we as Christians, shouldnt try to impose our views on others, merely try to talk the truth of the gospel, and let people accept or reject it for themselves.

As a minority we couldnt impose our views on others even if we wanted to. Maybe a Catholic President could make some difference, but like in the UK, the protestant and secular mindset rules.

I also think we have to careful not to engage in selective morality. Many here seem to support war. For example the turkey shoot in Libya, chemical weapons used on Gaza, drone assassinations, etc. But will say abortion in all circumstances is murder.

Or will say the Bible condems gays as an abomination, but will ignore verses sactioning the stoning of disobedient children, or beating slaves.

Shouldnt we love all people. Isnt that the real mesage of the gospel, to love each other as Jesus loved his disciples.

Anyway welcome again to the CAF. :thumbsup: May God bless.

You might have already done this, but I would suggest educating yourself on Natural Law and also on moral relativism. Pope JP and Pope Benedict have both talked about the horror of moral relativism, which is the basis for the “we can’t impose our morality on others” idea.

Thanks for all the replies, it really has helped clarify things for me! :smiley:
I’ve never really taken the approach of the government having a duty (and purpose) to protect its citizens. I’ll try that next time I start talking with my friends and this topic comes up.

The Church proposes, it does not impose. In the end, we are encouraged to choose the good and not the bad.


Regarding abortion, I suggest you send your friends the following link:



Morality through our rule of law is being imposed on citizens everyday and has been.

Break through this thinking. What is good for the common good is based on moral standards. And we should strive for the highest morals no matter where it comes from Catholic or not. (however it usually is :))

It just so happens Catholics have “the fullness of truth” and is what a harmonious society needs.

well imposing morality on society is good but there are moral reasons for not doing so -1) a law should be like a measure but since people are different, people shouldn’t be held to the same standard unless they can handle it. If they were to imitate the virtuous, they would break and fall into worse vices. 2) the state’s laws deal mainly with goods concerning the whole of society so for instance, me cussing is, as such, out of the state’s perview but if everyone started cussing and no one could control it, the state could then step in and regulate that behavior.

And of course there’s the prudential consideration of what type of political constitution is the best, etc. for reaching these ends. Your generally correct though, that all politics is the imposition -at least tacitly -of some sort of end that is, the imposition of some sort of morality.

The above leads to some interesting conclusions that I want to ask someone to clarify. 1) doesn’t this mean that total prohibition of something is an unjust object for the state to attain? 2) We live in a society that is okay with abortion, now in this case people can’t even follow laws that are essential to the common good (not killing people). So in this case we have a dilemma -because abortion endangers the state shouldn’t we make a law against it, or, because people are so used to killing should we not-make a law against it since even that standard is too high for them?

Jesus did not say to impose His teachings on the masses. What Jesus said was:

Matthew 10:14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet.

Mark 6:11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you; going forth from thence, shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony to them.

Luke 9:5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off even the dust of your feet, for a testimony against them.

That does not mean that we can’t lobby for legislation that we believe in, because all people have a responsibility to do that. And that doesn’t mean we don’t catechise our Catholic brothers and sisters, and make them aware of the rules and guidelines of the Church. And that doesn’t mean we can’t correct people when we know they’re wrong. But you can’t impose your opinion on others and make them subject to your opinion. Basically, your rights end where another person’s rights begin. God gave us free will. It’s not for us to take it away from another person. But we can certainly lobby for legal changes.

To the OP and to all others on this thread:

No one is illegitimately “imposing.” It’s a straw man. Even people without a religious tradition per se (atheists, agnostics) have an implied duty as members of a society to be thoughtful, and apply that considered thought into the construction of society and the rules for a healthfully functioning society. To restructure a society in a radically experimental direction of any kind is irresponsible, and non-religiously-tied responsibility is the moral duty of every human being, given that we are ultimately social, and there will never be on this planet such a thing as 5+ billion islands. We are interconnected, and that includes our social institutions, our political institutions, everything.

Morality is limited neither to sexuality and issues around sexuality (which some of you well know, I know), nor to the sphere of religion. An entire society, and even the globe, has a stake in a morally sound civilization. While it is certainly not possible to control morality, it is essential to try to influence it, whatever one’s personal origins, location, belief “system” or lack of it.

Environmentalism is actually a moral cause as well as a practical cause; it has its detractors and is not without controversy, but it is grounded both in practicality and in morality. It is espoused by many, many atheistic and agnostic scientists and non-scientists.

Responsible capitalism as a moral imperative is espoused not only by the Catholic Church, but independently (and actually more vigorously) by many individuals and organizations with zero religious ties.

Economic reform, domestically and internationally, has hugely moral components to it, and is a concern of non-theistic organizations and non-theocratic countries.

Social causes of all kinds, globally, such as hunger, poverty, human trafficking, health care accessibility, and care for the most vulnerable in populations (the young, the elderly) are espoused by atheists and other nonaffiliated individuals and groups, in the name of morality.

Secular governments, public institutions, and private secular institutions & associations, do in the majority mandate morals clauses, ethical principles, ethical boards, and procedures for punishment of such violations. Those are “imposed,” or at least rarely completely democratically conceived.

There are two points that need addressing here.

The first is the idea that moral issues have become political issues. So lets define what we mean by “political issues”. When someone uses that phrase we tend to straightaway think of the political arena as played out in federal and state politics by political parties and to a certain extent that’s true. The cynical amongst us view politics as being a quest for power and a battle for votes and, also to a certain degree that is also true. However “politics” has a broader definition. It can be defined as nothing more than the free exchange of ideas amongst people and the search for what is right in all the circumstances. The famous british politician and philosopher John Stuart Mill once wrote that it is only through the clash of opinions that the truth falls to the ground and isn’t that, after all, what politics is really about? We have office politics and family politics as well as federal and state politics and in all arenas where ‘politics’ is carried out there is a search for something that binds us together. The office gossip, the taking of sides in an argument is usually all about who is right and who is wrong. The same can be said of family politics. Arguments about who is right and who is wrong, who has been wronged and why the imposition of rulings and opinions matters. Eventually some sort of balance is found and everyone is on the same page, so to speak, even when some just agree to disagree. Society is no different. Politics is about the exchange of ideas and, hopefully, can be free and frank. So when we say that moral issues are political issues we are just stating the obvious. Morals require discourse and all discourse is ‘political’ in the sense that morality can be disagreed with, altered and changed and eventually, hopefully, some form of agreement can be reached.

The second point is to define what morals are. Put simply, they are ‘rules’ for behaving, both as individuals and as mebers of society. Considering how it is pretty nigh on impossible to be not a meber of society, morals necessarily impact on us all in the public sphere as well as privately. In fact, it can be argued that private morality doesn’t even exist, but I wont venture into that discussion here! Considering how we must all live together and feel safe and free, we, as a society, pass laws which gaurantee our freedoms and safety and so pretty much all of what is law is actually morality, even if we don’t immediately recognise it as such. And, as we all know, laws impose certain obligations and prohibitions on us all. Just like morality does. A simple edict like driving on the correct side of the road and at certain speeds, has a morality attached to it.

So, the obvious answer to “are morals a political issue” is “yes of course they are and they always have been”. A moral code is a code of laws which govern the behaviour of people.

One question often asked is, “is the Catholic Church seeking to impose its views on society?” The obvious answer is that it can’t. It does not have temporal law making capabilities.

The next question is “does the Catholic Church have the right to influence the legal system to have its morality in place?” The obvious answer is “yes”. If the answer is “no it doesn’t”, then you don’t have a free and open society and you are advocating religious discrimination. The Church represents citizens and it has the right to represent their views in all spheres of politics. After all, it seeks to regulate how individuals behave privately and how they relate to one another, just like secular laws do.

The next question must be “does the Catholic Church have a right to insist on what morality is passed into the legal system?” The answer is obviously “yes”, because , firstly it represents citizens and secondly because it bases its moral code on an objective and universal moral code which has been the hallmark of western civilisation for centuries. So, when anyone asks why is it that the Catholic Church is seeking to have its morality enshrined in Law, as is its right in a free society, the answer is because that morality has, up until recently, been a part of the law for centuries, even when people haven’t recognised it.That morality was a shared morality, a “glue” which held society together. Even people’s of different faiths held to the same basic morality, sharing what they believed was right and wrong.


**cont.d **

So why is the Catholic Church insisting on what is right and wrong in the promulgated laws of a society? The first answer is that the Catholic Church believes that the moral law it champions comes, ultimately, from God. The second reason is that the morality is discerned to be Objective and the ethical system the Church Champions is therefore above politics in the sense that it is universal and knowable to all men. The catholic Church is witness to a morality that has been the single feature of western civilisation for two thousand years and which has underpinned the rise of western civilisation. That morality is called a Natural law morality, because it is based on the objectivity of a diswcernable Natural Law. The Ten Commandments represent the foundation of Natural Law. Right down through history, Natural Law and its attendent moral edicts were enshrined in the legal systems of all western society. So, when one speaks of a “Catholic morality”, one is actually speaking of a morality that was shared by societies for two thousand years. The Catholic Church is not seeking to “impose” a morality. It is seeking to maintain a morality that underpinned the rise of a great civilisation.

The catholic Church has also witnessed a breakdown of the shared morality which built the western Christian civilisations. Gradually, bit by bit, piece by piece, the Natural Law moral code has been broken aprt by the secualr law makers. Once upon a time all Ten Commandments were enshrined in civil legal codes in various forms. 'Thou Shalt Not Kill and ‘Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbours Wife’ are two that come to mind that have been removed from the temporal laws of society. Abortion breaks the first and the obvious permissiveness of todays society trashes the second. The wording of those two commandments I quoted might be anachronistic, but the underlying principles obviously pertain to the regulation of human behaviour. Morals are laws, but not all laws are moral. The right to terminate pregnancies is having a tremedous effect on societies where it is legal.

Because something is legal doesn not make that something right. The wrongness of an action is judged by the harm it does. Morals are designed to prevent harm, but not all laws prevent harm. The lsessons of history show us that to be true. Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot passed laws that caused great harm. The Catholic Church wishes to prevent harm. The trashing of a long and well proven moral code is causing obvious harm to society and so the catholic Church champions that morality in the face of those who believe morality is strictly a private affair and should not be a part of “politics”. It has always been a part of “politics” and “law making” and when it has been removed from the political and legal arenas, whole societies have crashed and burned. Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot could vouch for that! Morality is not just a private affair and can never be just that. History also shows that when morality is veiwed as a strictly personal affair, human beings are not too good at succesffully adhering to a shared moral code. Just ask the ancient Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans. All societies have had “imposed” morality. Without it they are not societies. Remember that when you next jump in your car!

This is the relevant passage on the powers of human law in the Summa Theologica: newadvent.org/summa/2096.htm#article2

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