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Call for Lay Participation in Honest Elections

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The CBCP has issued a pastoral statement entitled Lay Participation in Politics and Peace.  The pastoral statement is prefaced with a theological conviction that justifies its call for an active lay participation in the coming 2010 elections:

Our mission as Church is to proclaim the Lord Jesus as our Savior. In proclaiming him we necessarily proclaim the Kingdom of God that he himself proclaimed. God’s Kingdom, St. Paul reminds us, is not a matter of drinking and eating, but a matter of justice, peace and joy (Cfr. Rom 14, 17). It is in the Kingdom of God where “Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss” (Ps. 85: 11). Therefore, in the light of our mission to proclaim the Reign of God in Jesus Christ we your pastors write you this urgent pastoral letter.

It is interesting that this theological premise links together Rom. 14:17 and Ps. 85:11. Paul uses the phrase “kingdom of God” about 8 times in his letters and it is in Rom. 14:17 where he states what it positively consists in: “justice, peace and joy in the Spirit”. In context, Rom. 14:17 is part of an exhortation against scandal, and the heart of the exhortation is this: “Let us pursue what leads to peace and to the building up of one another” (v. 19). Psalm 85:11 is part of one of those psalms we use in the liturgy of Advent expressing the Church’s desire for the coming of God’s reign:

Please give us life again, 
	that your people may rejoice in You
Show us Lord your love
	grant us your salvation (Psalm 85:7-8)

The theological premise of the CBCP pastoral statement in this light is nothing less than an exhortation for the Church to live according to its hope.  In Spe salvi, Pope Benedict XVI explained that Christian message is not only instructive but performative. 

the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life. (Spe salvi, 2)

The one who hopes lives according to his hope. When we hope for a kingdom of justice and peace, then we live in a way that brings justice and peace about.

His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is “truly” life. (Spe salvi, 31)

This connection between the Kingdom, hope and love directs us to the guidelines Pope Benedict XVI gives in Deus caritas est no. 28 about the role of the Church in politics

The Church’s social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church’s responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church’s immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically.

The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.

To note in the above paragraphs is the nuanced declaration of the duty of the Church in the world in the formulation “The Church cannot … YET..; It is not the duty of the Church … BUT…”. This leads to the next paragraph (no. 29) which the Pastoral Statement quotes

The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquish their participation “in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good.” The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility. Even if the specific expressions of ecclesial charity can never be confused with the activity of the State, it still remains true that charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as “social charity”.

The lay faithful who by baptism already share in the kingly and prophetic office of Christ are the ones directly in the forefront of the Church’s commitment in the ordering of a society built on justice. And so it is to them that the Bishops direct their pastoral statement.

You can find the Pastoral Statement at the CBCP website.

Originally posted 2009-07-17 01:29:38. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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