Democracy Can't Ignore Key Moral Principles, Warns Archbishop

Tarcisio Bertone Explains Vatican Document on Political Life

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RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Ethics guarantees authentic democratic life and explains why the Holy See has spoken out on key issues in recent months, says a former Vatican official.



Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, formerly a secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave the above explanation when addressing the weeklong "Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples," organized by the Communion and Liberation movement.

The archbishop pointed to the note on "Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life," published last January by the doctrinal congregation. He had helped prepare the document.

"In this note the Church offers its word, convinced that it offers a conception of the human being as creature, which is founded in the natural law, to support a society of equal, free and solidaristic persons," he explained. "The document addresses democratic forms of government: Democracy cannot dispense with the fundamental principles of natural morality."

The text seeks "to base democratic decisions on fundamental -- not confessional -- moral principles based on moral and political unity," the archbishop added. When these moral criteria are not kept in mind, "the life of man is disposed of as a product."

"There is a risk, therefore, of a form of absolute power" of the powerful, or of scientists, or of those with more means, he said.

"Political freedom cannot be based on a relativist idea, according to which, all conceptions of the good of the human beings have the same value," said the archbishop. "Christianity is called to dissent from a concept of pluralism expressed in a tone of moral relativism, harmful for democratic life itself which, on the contrary, needs real and solid principles ... [that] are not negotiable."

In regard to politicians who call themselves "Catholics," Archbishop Bertone distinguished between those who "consistently defend life and the family and those who, on the contrary, distinguish between what is public and what is private," in order to live their lives in a sort of "compromise" or political agreement.

The archbishop invited Catholic politicians to live their commitment with "profound interior conviction" and "to study fundamental problems in depth."