In these times of political turmoil, I fear for the future of our country when the vocabulary of violence and rebellion crops up in the media. We see daily the turmoil and destruction brought about in Ukraine by the insistence of President Putin on restoring it to the Russian fold by force. In our own country, some espouse civil war and revolution in the cause of restoring the values they see as missing in our current government.
How should a Catholic respond to the frustration felt by many in a secular government’s neglect of Christian ethics in its rulings? Abortion comes to mind, as does same-sex marriage. Can a Catholic side with the 35% of our country who think the election was illegitimate? Can a Catholic support the idea of violent overthrow of the government?
This is a vast subject, and there is not room here to cover it completely. However, I looked to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for some general guidelines.
We all know that some church leaders have subjected civil leaders to scrutiny over their failure to stand up for church doctrines. But what about citizens? What are we obligated to and forbidden from?
First, “Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God,” Paul tells us in Romans 13:1-2 (CCC 2238).
One might say, but this government is illegitimate, so I should not be obligated. Respecting the opinions of those who believe this, it is still important to realize that a vote held today as to the legitimacy of the 2020 election would still show a majority in support . The Catechism also states that we are to contribute to the good of society “in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom.” Solidarity would suggest that in this democracy, the minority must accept the will of the majority, continuing to support the common good.
As a Catholic, I look to the Holy Father, and to the US Bishops for a weather vane to see where the Holy Spirit is moving, putting these authorities above whatever media I might subscribe to. And today I find there a number of evils that must be addressed through non-violent means, through legitimate avenues.
It would help us to study the CCC 2245, that “the Church, because of her commission and competence is not to be confused in any way with the political community.” Our voice goes above and beyond what civil society can manage. We can be the light on the lampstand to inspire citizens and leaders. But, “ ‘The Church respects and encourages the political freedom and responsibility of the citizen.’” (Gaudium et Spes)
And finally, we are told it is “a part of the Church’s mission ‘to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics,’” but the only means she may use are those in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all. (CCC 2246) Looking at the Gospels, we see that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and that we do not use violence to bring it about, following the example of Jesus.
Let’s continue the hard work of being the light, one candle at a time, with persistence, patience and humility.