omnibus omnia

Politics: a path of holiness

In Born Again, Catholicism, Christian Democracy, Christianity, Church, Ethics, Faith, God, Grace, Jesus, Law, News, Politics, Protestantism, Religion, Saints, Salvation, Society, Spirituality, Theology, Thomism on June 29, 2009 at 08:45

Those who wield politics as God intended become His instruments  for  the salvation of the world(This will be brief for lack of substantial time to write more.  The blogger will comment more on the subject when he has time)

The Catholic News Agency had a report on its website today that, we think, is of interest to persons engaged in policy-related work, to wit: “Politics is also a path to sanctity, says Cardinal Rivera“.  It states that His Eminence the Archbishop of Mexico City, Norberto Cardinal Rivera Carrera, has reminded politicians that their work is not a means for the promotion of personal interest.  Rather, it is a vocation, by which the Lord our God moves them to uphold good laws, promote social justice, and practice Christian social teaching.

Political activity should be carried out with a spirit of service.  It is a true vocation that dignifies those who exercise it, in particular in government, in the establishing of laws and in public administration in its diverse spheres…

His Eminence’s remarks were made on the Feast of Saint Thomas More, Patron of lawyers and statesmen, and are reported more fully here.  We recommend especial attention to his reminder of the need to follow distributive justice (“creating conditions of equal opportunity”) as well as commutative justice (“giving each person his due”), something that liberal  capitalist (i.e., Lockean and most Evangelical Protestant)  ideologies often forget.  Likewise of interest is His Eminence’s explanation why the duty of Christian politicians as politicans is not lessened simply because we live in a pluralistic world.

It’s not a question of going in circles with the problems but of confronting them with the testimony of a coherent faith… In a secular society we must be respectful of believers and non-believers, but we must never be ashamed into silence about our principles and convictions

We ourselves have to say, by way of (comparatively brief) comment, that this is an excellent nutshell summary of Christian political ethics in liberal society; and its excellence mainly lies in its endeavor to correct and complete the mainstream view of politics.

For the mainstream view sees politics as a means to promote the common good in an exclusively materialist sense, and often seeks to separate the moral dimension of government from its pragmatic aspect.  “Politics is dirty,” it says, “a necessary evil that we do solely to protect society.”  In contrast, the Christian view is that politics is a part, and indeed an integral and holy part, of the moral life.  For politics is merely the policy-making or action-directing aspect of social life, which lies at the heart of our being made in the image and likeness of God: It is our very dim but very real reflection of the perfect community that lies at the heart of the Trinity–the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit forever in relation and defining one another by their relation.

We must therefore disabuse ourselves of the individualist-Protestant belief that social life is a mere super-addition or aid to individual moral life and salvation; for social life is, rather, the essential precondition and means of salvation; and to be more authentically social is to be closer to God, in both the supra-ontological and the ethical sense. We are given our natural human lives, our natural participation in God’s being, through the family; and we are bestowed with the supernatural life–which is the communal habitation in us of the Divine Persons (see St. John 14:23)–not separately but together as one Body, the Church that is the completion of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and the pillar and standard of truth (I St. Timothy 3:15).

Social life was created by the Lord our God and made subject to His law as an essential part of our humanity; and  nothing created by God is evil (see Genesis 1:31). This is a necessary reminder, lest we fall to the Manichaean-Augustinian view of politics espoused by the mainstream view.  We can twist the gifts of God; we can use them for corruption or oppression; but these do not make them evil.  Rather, our corrupt choices are evil precisely because we are desecrating something that is good and holy; we are polluting the energeia of God.

Thus it is with politics.  It may be used to do evil; but in itself  it is a means by which people can bring themselves and their community closer to what God intends them to be.  Hence, those who wield politics as God intended, even amid their imperfections–those who use policy for  faith, hope, and love, particularly to help the impoverished and the suffering–become His instruments  for the salvation of the world.  In a sense, they become  “co-redeemers” of Christ our Lord, filling up what is wanting in His sufferings (see Colossians 1:24) through their sacrifices for the common good.

St. Thomas More, who said, “I am the king’s good and loyal servant, but God’s first”, gives rulers an excellent example of justice and courage.  In a time of favor he used his office to serve unimpeachable justice to the people of his country; and in crisis, armed only with his knowledge of the law,  he resisted his ruler’s treason against Christ our Lord and His one true Church.   St. Thomas More, pray for us, unto the glory of God!


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