To what extent ought morality inform secular law?

As a citizen, I shall soon be called to the polls in our federal elections. Yet I struggle with the question how my faith ought to inform my ballot.

As an individual, I strive to live my life according to the Church’s teaching. But how out those values I hold inform the influence I’m called to exert through casting my ballot?

What about the fact that here in Germany, especially so here in the capital, we live in a thoroughly secular pluralistic society? One in which practicing Christians, let alone Catholics, are but a small (here in Berlin tiny) minority?

I’ve been leafing through the catechism in search of answers. One paragraph struck me as particularly difficult for me to grasp - or at least relate to the issue of how (Catholic) morality and human freedom ought to intersect in positive law:

1884 God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. the way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

So how do I exert my freedom at the ballot box responsibly? How do you come to terms with the gap between morality and law? Where do you draw lines?

Vote for morality and wise legislation. Vote against immoral legislation. NEVER support immoral legislation or candidates who support immorality: if both or all candidates are immoral, don’t vote for any of them. It’s not that difficult.

I understand your troubles, and I think it’s very good that you are concerned about this.

I am from the United States and I struggle with the options here in light of Church Teaching. My father is from Germany, and I have a basic understanding of German politics and see how it could perhaps be a difficult choice.

My first recommendation for you would be to read through the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s section on the ten commandments, because it discusses the obligations of Civil government, and then perhaps look into getting the compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

The Church has a fairly developed social theory and we are all obliged to support the goals of righteousness and the greater good in society.

Here is what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave as catechesis and guidance…I think it universal guidance for all Catholics…who want to be faithful disciples of Christ…in communion with their Local Church’s Bishop and the Magisterium of the Universal Church:

"Responsible citizenship is a virtue,
and participation in political life is a moral obligation."

–** Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship**

By our baptism,** Catholics are** committed to following Jesus Christ and to be “salt for the earth, light for the nations.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is necessary that all participate, according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This is inherent in the dignity of the human person … As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life” (nos. 1913-1915).

[INDENT]Forming Consciences For Faithful Citizenship - Table Of Contents

Introductory Note
Part I - The U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life
Part II - Applying Catholic Teaching to Major Issues: A Summary of Policy Positions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Part III - Goals for Political Life: Challenges for Citizens, Candidates, and Public Officials
Major Catholic Statements on Public Moral Issues[/INDENT]

Its a PDF you can peruse…hope it is helpful.

Bottom line…its your conscience that you must follow in the “voting booth”…the imperative to me is that conscience must be formed so that it is not against the Church’s teachings on matters of Faith and Morality.

Pax Christi

1785 In the** formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,**54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55

1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for** charity proceeds at the same time "from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith**."60

[INDENT]The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.61

2039 Ministries should be exercised in a spirit of fraternal service and dedication to the Church, in the name of the Lord.81 At the same time the conscience of each person should avoid confining itself to individualistic considerations in its moral judgments of the person’s own acts. As far as possible conscience should take account of the good of all, as expressed in the moral law, natural and revealed, and consequently in the law of the Church and in the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium on moral questions. **Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church.


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