Vatican Urges Catholic Politicians Not to Divorce Faith from Public Life

Doctrinal Note Touches on Abortion and Euthanasia

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Catholic politicians must be consistent with their faith in their political life, says a new Vatican document.



The 18-page "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life," written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by John Paul II himself, supports firmly the action of believers in democracy and exhorts them to be consistent with their convictions.

In particular, the document highlights the current "cultural relativism" that advocates "ethical pluralism," namely, the rejection of absolute truth as "the very condition for democracy."

The note is signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the doctrinal congregation, and by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, until recently secretary of the dicastery. (He is now archbishop of Genoa.)

The document, published today, states that "such relativism, of course, has nothing to do with the legitimate freedom of Catholic citizens to choose among the various political opinions that are compatible with faith and the natural moral law."

For a Christian, democracy "must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society," says the document.

According to the note, "Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on" the principle of "respect for the human person," because "otherwise the witness of the Christian faith in the world, as well as the unity and interior coherence of the faithful, would be non-existent."

The note further makes it clear that Catholics can never collaborate with those laws that attack the person.

Civil laws regarding abortion and euthanasia are "not to be confused with the decision to forgo extraordinary treatments, which is morally legitimate," the note says. In this field, the document demands utmost respect of the human embryo and the family, based "on monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, and protected in its unity and stability in the face of modern laws on divorce."

"In no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on the same level as marriage, nor can they receive legal recognition as such," the text stresses.

Catholic lawmakers must also defend "the freedom of parents regarding the education of their children [...] society's protection of minors and freedom from modern forms of slavery (drug abuse and prostitution, for example)."

The list also includes "religious freedom and the development of an economy that is at the service of the human person and of the common good, with respect for social justice, the principles of human solidarity, and subsidiarity."

It also says Christians must be committed to the service of peace.

"Certain pacifistic and ideological visions tend at times to secularize the value of peace, while, in other cases, there is the problem of summary ethical judgments which forget the complexity of the issues involved," the document warns.

Peace is always "the work of justice and the effect of charity," the note adds. It demands "the absolute and radical rejection of violence and terrorism and requires a constant and vigilant commitment on the part of all political leaders."

The document ends by explaining the concept of the "rightful autonomy of the participation of lay Catholics."

In this connection, the Vatican explains that to promote "the common good of society, according to one's conscience," has nothing to do with "confessionalism" or "religious intolerance."

For Catholic moral doctrine, "the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the Church -- but not from that of morality -- is a value that has been attained and recognized by the Catholic Church and belongs to inheritance of contemporary civilization," it emphasizes.

In a word, the document exhorts Catholics to be consistent with their faith in their political life, noting that in "recent years, there have been cases within some organizations founded on Catholic principles, in which support has been given to political forces or movements with positions contrary to the moral and social teaching of the Church on fundamental ethical questions."

"Such activities, in contradiction to basic principles of Christian conscience, are not compatible with membership in organizations or associations which define themselves as Catholic," the document clarifies.