Saturday, October 30, 2010
Mid-Term Elections and "Gaudium et spes"
"The political community exists, consequently, for the sake of the common good, in which it finds its full justification and significance, and the source of its inherent legitimacy. Indeed, the common good embraces the sum of those conditions of the social life whereby men, families and associations more adequately and readily may attain their own perfection. Yet the people who come together in the political community are many and diverse, and they have every right to prefer divergent solutions. If the political community is not to be torn apart while everyone follows his own opinion, there must be an authority to direct the energies of all citizens toward the common good, not in a mechanical or despotic fashion, but by acting above all as a moral force which appeals to each one's freedom and sense of responsibility (#74).
"It is clear, therefore, that the political community and public authority are founded on human nature and hence belong to the order designed by God, even though the choice of a political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free will of citizens" (#74).
"All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good. The Church praises and esteems the work of those who for the good of men devote themselves to the service of the state and take on the burdens of this office" (#75).
"All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good. In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity. They must recognize the legitimacy of different opinions with regard to temporal solutions, and respect citizens, who, even as a group, defend their points of view by honest methods. Political parties, for their part, must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good" (#75).
Finally, a word on Gaudium et spes. As anyone who knows me will already realize, I am a "Vatican II" guy. I was in high school seminary during the Council, and in college seminary during the early years of its implementation. All of the various ministries I've been involved with over the years, and my own graduate studies, have all been influenced by the study of the Council. This December we will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the solemn closing of the Council, and the jewel in the crown of the Council's documents is Gaudium et spes. Perhaps we could all benefit from an intense re-examination of the teachings of this powerful document and its agenda for reform.