Yesterday, 25 October 2009, was the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which, in the traditional calendar of the Latin Rite, is celebrated on the last Sunday of October. Therefore, in honor of Christ the King, we re-publish with minor modifications our earlier post “Politics: a path of holiness“. Viva Cristo Rey!
On the Feast of Saint Thomas More earlier this year, the Catholic News Agency had reported how the Archbishop of Mexico City, Norberto Cardinal Rivera Carrera, had reminded politicians that their work is not a means for the promotion of personal interest. Rather, he said, 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 likeness stressed 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. Nor is the duty of Christian politicians qua Christians and politicans 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
His Eminence’s remarks were an excellent nutshell summary of Christian political ethics in liberal society, especially because he endeavors therein 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 hence 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 Blessed Trinity–the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one almighty God, 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 indeed, 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 fullness of Christ the King (Ephesians 1:22-23) and the pillar and standard of His truth (I St. Timothy 3:15). In sum, social life is the essential precondition and means of temporal fulfillment and eternal salvation; and so to be more authentically social is to be closer to God in the ontological, ethical, and mystical sense.
Further, we must stress that 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: filled with sacramental holiness and solidarity here and therefore destined for happiness in eternity.
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. Nor is this “co-redemptive” role limited to politicians, for in our lives as Christians of the one true Church, and by our votes or voices in our polities, we too have the chance, and therefore the responsibility, to fulfill the will of God for humanity and society. Thus His Holiness Pope Leo XIII reminds us that–
“[I]t is the duty of all Catholics worthy of the name and wishful to be known as most loving children of the Church, to reject without swerving whatever is inconsistent with so fair a title; to make use of popular institutions, so far as can honestly be done, for the advancement of truth and righteousness; to strive that liberty of action shall not transgress the bounds marked out by nature and the law of God; to endeavor to bring back all civil society to the pattern and form of Christianity” (Encyclical “Immortale Dei” on the Christian Constitution of States, 46).
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. May the memory of St. Thomas More’s brave example, allied with his meritorious intercession, move us to glorify God and fulfill the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Viva Cristo Rey!