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Politics and Citizenship

Every citizen also has the responsibility to work to secure justice and human rights through an organized social response.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #120.

First and foremost, the State and every good citizen ought to look to and strive toward this end: that the conflict between the hostile classes be abolished and harmonious cooperation of the Industries and Professions be encouraged and promoted.

Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius XI, 1931, #81.


 

Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own country; and, when there are just reasons for it, the right to immigrate to other countries and take up residence there. The fact that one is a citizen of a particular State does not detract in any way from his membership in the human family as a whole, nor from his citizenship in the world community.

Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963, #25.


 

The dignity of the human person involves the right to take an active part in public affairs and to contribute one’s part to the common good of the citizens. For, as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, pointed out: “The human individual, far from being an object and, as it were, a merely passive element in the social order, is in fact, must be and must continue to be, its subject, its foundation and its end.”

Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963, #26.


 

As authority rests chiefly on moral force, it follows that civil authority must appeal primarily to the conscience of individual citizens, that is, to each one’s duty to collaborate readily for the common good of all. But since by nature all men are equal in human dignity, it follows that no one may be coerced to perform interior acts. That is in the power of God alone, Who sees and judges the hidden designs of men’s hearts.

Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963, #48.


 

Individual citizens and intermediate groups are obliged to make their specific contributions to the common welfare. One of the chief consequences of this is that they must bring their own interests into harmony with the needs of the community, and must contribute their goods and their services as civil authorities have prescribed, in accord with the norms of justice and within the limits of their competence.

Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963, #53.


 

It is in keeping with their dignity as persons that human being should take an active part in government.

Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963, #73.


 

Once again we exhort our children to take an active part in public life, and to contribute towards the attainment of the common good of the entire human family as well as to that of their own country. They should endeavor, therefore, in the light of the faith and with the strength of love, to ensure that the various institutions–whether economic, social, cultural or political in purpose — should be such as not to create obstacles, but rather to facilitate or render less arduous humanity’s perfectioning of itself both in the natural order as well as in the supernatural.

Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963, #146.


 

Citizens, on the other hand, should remember that it is their right and duty, which is also to be recognized by the civil authority, to contribute to the true progress of their own community according to their ability.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #65.


 

It follows that political authority, either within the political community as such or through organizations representing the state, must be exercised within the limits of the moral order and directed towards the common good, understood in the dynamic sense of the term, according to the juridical order legitimately established or due to be established. Citizens, then, are bound in conscience to obey. Accordingly, the responsibility, the status, and the importance of the rulers of a state are clear.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #74.


 

Christians must be conscious of their specific and proper role in the political community; they should be a shining example by their sense of responsibility and their dedication to the common good; they should show in practice how authority can be reconciled with freedom, personal initiative with solidarity and the needs of the social framework as a whole, and the advantages of unity with the benefits of diversity.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #75.


 

Citizens should cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism, but without narrow-mindedness, so that they will always keep in mind the welfare of the entire human family which is formed into one by various kinds of links between races, peoples, and nations.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #75.


 

It is fully in accord with human nature that politico-juridical structures be devised which will increasingly and without discrimination provide all citizens with effective opportunities to play a free, active part in the establishment of the juridical foundations of the political community, in the administration of public affairs, in determining the aims and the terms of reference of public bodies, and in the election of political leaders.

All citizens ought to be aware of their right and duty to promote the common good by casting their votes. The church praises and esteems those who devote themselves to the public good and who take upon themselves the burdens of public office in order to be of service.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #75.


 

Civic and political education is today supremely necessary for the people, especially young people. Such education should be painstakingly provided, so that all citizens can make their contribution to the political community. Let those who are suited for it, or can become so, prepare themselves for the difficult but most honorable art of politics. Let them work to exercise this art without thought of personal convenience and without benefit of bribery. Prudently and honorably let them fight against injustice and oppression, the arbitrary rule of one person or one party, and lack of tolerance. Let them devote themselves to the welfare of all sincerely and fairly, indeed with charity and political courage.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #75.


 

The Christian has the duty to take part in this search and in the organization and life of political society. As a social being, men and women build their destiny within a series of particular groupings which demand, as their completion and as a necessary condition for their development, a vaster society, one of a universal character, the political society.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971, #24.


 

Political activity-need one remark that we are dealing primarily with an activity, not an ideology? -should be the projection of a plan of society which is consistent in its concrete means and in its inspiration, and which springs from a complete conception of man’s vocation and of its differing social expressions. It is not for the State or even for political parties, which would be closed unto themselves, to try to impose an ideology by means that would lead to a dictatorship over minds, the worst kind of all. It is for cultural and religious groupings, in the freedom of acceptance which they presume, to develop in the social body, disinterestedly and in their own ways, those ultimate convictions on the nature, origin and end of man and society.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971, #25.


 

Political power, which is the natural and necessary link for ensuring the cohesion of the social body, must have as its aim the achievement of the common good. While respecting the legitimate liberties of individuals, families and subsidiary groups, it acts in such a way as to create, effectively and for the well-being of all, the conditions required for attaining man’s true and complete good, including his spiritual end. It acts within the limits of its competence, which can vary from people to people and from country to country. It always intervenes with care for justice and with devotion to the common good, for which: it holds final responsibility.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971, #46.


 

To take politics seriously at its different levels — local, regional, national and worldwide — is to affirm the duty of all people to recognize the concrete reality and the value of the freedom of choice that is offered to them to seek to bring about both the good of the city and of the nation and of humanity. Politics are a demanding manner — but not the only one — of living the Christian commitment to the service of others.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971, #46.


 

Is it not here that there appears a radical limitation to economics? Economic activity is necessary and, if it is at the service of people, it can be “a source of brotherhood and a sign of Providence.”… Yet it runs the risk of taking up too much strength and freedom. This is why the need is felt to pass from economics to politics.
It is true that in the term “politics” many confusions are possible and must be clarified, but each person feels that in the social and economic field, both national and international, the ultimate decision rests with political power.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971, #46.


 

The members of the Church, as members of society, have the same right and duty to promote the common good as do other citizens. Christians ought to fulfill their temporal obligations with fidelity and competence. They should act as a leaven in the world, in their family, professional, social, cultural and political life.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971, #38.


 

Every citizen also has the responsibility to work to secure justice and human rights through an organized social response.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #120.


 

Of course, values such as the dignity of every human person, respect for inviolable and inalienable human rights, and the adoption of the “common good” as the end and criterion regulating political life are certainly fundamental and not to be ignored.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #70.


 

By virtue of our sharing in Christ’s royal mission, our support and promotion of human life must be accomplished through the service of charity, which finds expression in personal witness, various forms of volunteer work, social activity and political commitment. This is a particularly pressing need at the present time, when the “culture of death” so forcefully opposes the “culture of life” and often seems to have the upper hand. But even before that it is a need which springs from “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). As the Letter of James admonishes us: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2: 14-17).

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #87.


 

If charity is to be realistic and effective, it demands that the Gospel of life be implemented also by means of certain forms of social activity and commitment in the political field, as a way of defending and promoting the value of life in our ever more complex and pluralistic societies. Individuals, families, groups and associations, albeit for different reasons and in different ways, all have a responsibility for shaping society and developing cultural, economic, political and legislative projects which, with respect for all and in keeping with democratic principles, will contribute to the building of a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized and protected and the lives of all are defended and enhanced.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #90.


 

Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now.

Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005, #28.


 

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.

Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005, #28.


 

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.”

Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005, #29.


 

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”.

Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005, #29.


 

In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation 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).

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007, #13.


 

The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly, outside the institutional mediation of the pólis. When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have. Like all commitment to justice, it has a place within the testimony of divine charity that paves the way for eternity through temporal action. Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, #7.


 

In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideologies which has come about as a reaction to any-thing which might appear totalitarian… We should recognize how in a culture where each person wants to be bearer of his or her own subjective truth, it becomes difficult for citizens to devise a common plan which transcends individual gain and personal ambitions.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #61.


 

I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good. We need to be convinced that charity “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)”. I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #205.


 

People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens, not as a mob swayed by the powers that be. Let us not forget that “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation”. Yet becoming a people demands something more. It is an ongoing process in which every new generation must take part: a slow and arduous effort calling for a desire for integration and a willingness to achieve this through the growth of a peaceful and multifaceted culture of encounter.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #220.


 

It is the responsibility of the State to safeguard and promote the common good of society. Based on the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, and fully committed to political dialogue and consensus building, it plays a fundamental role, one which cannot be delegated, in working for the integral development of all. This role, at present, calls for profound social humility.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #240.


 

A politics concerned with immediate results, supported by consumerist sectors of the population, is driven to produce short-term growth…True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the work of nation-building.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #178.


 

[L]ocal individuals and groups can make a real difference. They are able to instil a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land. They are also concerned about what they will eventually leave to their children and grandchildren …Because the enforcement of laws is at times inadequate due to corruption, public pressure has to be exerted in order to bring about decisive political action. Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediate groups, must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls. Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #179.


 

Not everyone is called to engage directly in political life. Society is also enriched by a countless array of organizations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban…Around these community actions, relationships develop or are recovered and a new social fabric emerges. Thus, a community can break out of the indifference induced by consumerism. These actions cultivate a shared identity, with a story which can be remembered and handed on. In this way, the world, and the quality of life of the poorest, are cared for, with a sense of solidarity which is at the same time aware that we live in a common home which God has entrusted to us.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #232.

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