Over the years, states have made news by pushing bills that allow for abortions right up until the point of birth, and there have been many other issues in which the state and federal governments have gone against the natural and moral law. The former governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is a self-proclaimed Catholic who once said that he didn’t “govern as a Catholic.” There have been other self-proclaimed Catholics who unfortunately don’t govern according to their faith, including our current president. This is very problematic and does not conform to Church teaching or the natural order established by God.
Ever since the beginning of time, God willed that there be a hierarchy and order of creatures, made evident by His command to Adam and Eve to rule over the fish and the birds and “over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28). And this dominion that mankind was given is governed by moral and ethical guidelines, such as prohibitions against animal abuse. Aside from authority over animals, certain people have also been called by God to have authority over their fellow human beings. King David was handpicked by God to serve his people, and that authority too was governed by moral and ethical guidelines. And if you think about it, any kind of civic leadership must be governed by certain rules and regulations to be successful in helping the people and country flourish. Otherwise, the result is tyranny and chaos. But what keeps a person from falling into a tyrannical way of running a country? The simple answer is a properly formed conscience, which is formed by instruction and guidance in what is morally and ethically sound.
Besides being called by God, a legitimate authority has the responsibility to rule over his fellow human beings in a moral and just manner because of the inherent dignity of the human person. When God created man in His image, He endowed him with free will, which gives him the capacity to choose and exercise the good or evil in any situation. Because this freedom is given to us by God, it is inherently intertwined with our dignity. Thus, an authority that legitimately exercises power must enforce and support laws that honor the dignity and freedom that is instilled in the human person’s very nature. This also involves constantly working for the common good, which is defined as “the sum total of those conditions of social life which allow people as groups and as individuals to reach their proper fulfillment.” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, pg. 117). This means working for the protection of their rights and for the good of both their physical and spiritual wellbeing. The most fundamental of these rights that must be protected is the right to life. Life is given to us by God out of love and every person should be treated with this awareness of the Creator and have the chance to live out the life they’ve been given and fulfill their potential. All other rights stem from this one and all other rights are moot points without this one. What good is upholding the right to freedom of education or religion or any other freedom if a person is not allowed to live to take advantage of these things? In order to properly fulfill the duties of a country’s or a state’s ruler, this fundamental and moral truth, and really all moral truths, must be acknowledged and firmly upheld by those in power.
There have been many examples in history where government leaders who fail to also be moral leaders have caused chaos and led their countries to tyranny and dictatorship. Adolf Hitler murdered countless numbers of Jews and others in his own country and overtook many others. He refused to respect the freedom and dignity of the human person and actually thought that he was doing what was good by eliminating races and a religion that he thought was inferior. Joseph Stalin, likewise, killed millions of his own people and completely disregarded his people’s freedoms and right to live in peace and security. The ramifications of these actions were felt for many years. People lived in fear and were afraid for their lives in their own countries, which is a feeling no one should have to endure. All of this because of government leaders who refused to respect and conform to the proper way of running a country that is built off of the natural order of creation established by God.
Human beings were created in the image and likeness of God and were given freedom and rights to correspond with this Image. Thus, government leaders have the responsibility to respect these rights and freedoms and support laws that create a moral environment to back up this respect. Refusing to “govern as a Catholic” or with any other proper moral influence is a direct refusal to honor the humanity of one’s constituents and denies their likeness to the image of God.