Voting to Protect the Weakest
The Holy Father gave a timely reminder today of the importance of using one’s vote to protect the weakest and most vulnerable, and of the “binding duty” of pastors to issue moral judgements on political themes when required.
The democratic ideal, he said, “is betrayed at its very foundations” when it fails to recognize and protect the dignity of all human beings, and he called on pastors to “remind all citizens of the right, which is also a duty, freely to use their vote to promote the common good”.
He said that when defending life “we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, rejecting all compromise and ambiguity which would conform us to the mentality of this world”.
The Pope also underlined the importance of allowing religious symbols to be displayed in public life.
Here is a summary from the Vatican Information Service of the Pope’s address, given to the Brazilian bishops from the north east region of the country who have just completed their five-yearly “ad limina” visit.
“I wish to speak to you today”, the Pope told them, “about how the Church’s mission to serve as the leavening of human society through the Gospel teaches human beings their dignity as children of God, and their vocation to the unity of all mankind, whence derive the need for justice and social peace in accordance with divine wisdom”.
“First, the duty of direct action to ensure a just ordering of society falls to the lay faithful who, as free and responsible citizens, strive to contribute to the just configuration of social life, while respecting legitimate autonomy and natural moral law”, the Holy Father explained. “Your duty as bishops, together with your clergy, is indirect because you must contribute to the purification of reason, and to the moral awakening of the forces necessary to build a just and fraternal society. Nonetheless, when required by the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls, pastors have the binding duty to emit moral judgements, even on political themes”.
“When forming these judgements, pastors must bear in mind the absolute value of those ... precepts which make it morally unacceptable to choose a particular action which is intrinsically evil and incompatible with human dignity. This decision cannot be justified by the merit of some specific goal, intention, consequence or circumstance, Thus it would be completely false and illusory to defend, political, economic or social rights which do not comprehend a vigorous defence of the right to life from conception to natural end. When it comes to defending the weakest, who is more defenceless than an unborn child or a patient in a vegetative or comatose state?”
“When political projects openly or covertly contemplate the de-penalisation of abortion or euthanasia, the democratic ideal (which is truly democratic when it recognises and protects the dignity of all human beings) is betrayed at its very foundations. For this reason, dear brothers in the episcopate, when defending life we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, rejecting all compromise and ambiguity which would conform us to the mentality of this world”.
In order to help lay people live their Christian, social and political commitments in a unified and coherent fashion it is necessary, said the Holy Father, to ensure appropriate “social catechesis and an adequate formulation of Church Social Doctrine. ... This also means that on some occasions, pastors must remind all citizens of the right, which is also a duty, freely to use their vote to promote the common good”.
“At this point politics and faith come together”, he went on. “The specific nature of faith certainly lies in the meeting with the living God, Who opens new horizons far beyond the sphere of reason. ... Only by respecting, promoting and indefatigably teaching the transcendent nature of the human being can a just society be built. ... ‘God has a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions’”, said the Holy Father quoting his Encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”.
Benedict XVI concluded his discourse by joining the Brazilian bishops’ appeal for religious education and, “more specifically, for the pluralistic and confessional education of religion in State schools”. He also indicated that “the presence of religious symbols in public life is both a recollection of man’s transcendence and a guarantee of its respect. They have particular value in the case of Brazil where the Catholic religion is a component part of the country’s history”.