Would Jesus Vote Democrat or Republican?
From The Educated Catholic: Forever Catholic by Rudolph Lohse (firstname.lastname@example.org)The Catholic Church is not a political party. It is a defender of the moral law. Jesus is not partisan and would never support a particular political group, such as the Democrats or Republicans. Rather Jesus would vote to uphold the moral teachings He has entrusted to His Church for safekeeping through the Pope and Magisterium, i.e. the bishops in communion with the Pope. Thus Jesus would be oriented to specific issues to determine and support those that are in accord with His divine law, and permit flexibility of choice to the people whenever the issues are primarily secular rather than divinely mandated. This is entirely consistent with His mandate to “Render to Caesar (the world) the things that are Caesar’s, and render to God the things that are God’s.” From this frame of reference, consider the following issues that have become the focal point of political campaigns:
One must preserve God's Law by always opposing:
Embryonic stem cell research
One may legitimately vote for or against:
Economy and jobs
Health care and housing
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) underscored this distinction in its June 13, 2004 pronouncement, Catholics in Political Life, as follows:
“Catholic social teaching covers a broad range of important issues. But among these the teaching on abortion holds a unique place. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to disagree with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
Moreover, in his 1995 Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) Pope John Paul II taught that “direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based on the natural law and upon the written Word of God, as transmitted by the Church’s Tradition, which is unchanged and unchangeable.” This moral doctrine is part of the patrimony of faith taught infallibly by the universal ordinary Magisterium of the Church, i.e., the College of Bishops united in their teaching throughout history and throughout the world. A Catholic, to be in full communion with the faith of the Church, must accept this teaching about the evil of abortion and euthanasia. In the case of intrinsically unjust laws, such as laws permitting abortion, same sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, cloning or euthanasia, a Catholic has a grave and clear obligation to oppose them, and never vote in favor of them.
The upshot of this definitive Catholic teaching is that all the issues listed under the above column headed God’s Things trump all the issues in the column headed Worldly Things. Therefore it is never licit to claim that issues, such as capital punishment, the Iraq War, immigration, jobs and health care, are of equal value or more important than the issues of abortion or same sex marriage. God’s Things are the dominant issues and must always receive preferential support.
The Charitable and Social Mission of the Church
Having established that God’s Things must always dominate, the question arises as to how and to what extent the mission of the Church should be involved in assisting people to obtain Worldly Things. Over the last century, Catholic social teaching has evolved in a progressive manner, primarily in three authoritative papal encyclicals:
- Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) issued by Leo XIII in 1891. Owing to its significance, Pope John XXIII called this encyclical the Magna Carta of Catholic social doctrine.
- Quadragesimo Anno (On Reconstruction of the Social Order) issued by Pius XI in 1931.
- Centesimus Annus (The 100th Year) issued by John Paul II in 1991.
These documents systematize the social implications of divine revelation. Their contents are theological penetrations into social life, with particular reference to human rights, the needs of the poor and those in undeveloped countries, and humane conditions of life, freedom, justice and peace.
Significant principles that should guide our actions flow from these encyclicals, as follows:
- All our charitable actions should proceed from the motive of the pure love of God. This means we should first love God, through worship, liturgy and catechesis, then only secondly love our neighbor. Christ emphasized this order several times: In the “Our Father”, where the prayer begins totally oriented to God (Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done) before progressing into a request for our personal needs. Again, when Christ taught His disciples the two greatest commandments (First, love your Lord with your whole heart and soul; then secondly, love your neighbor as yourself). This is what Saint Teresa of Calcutta meant when she said: “I am not a social worker”, stressing that faith in God is the indispensable source and proper motivator for all charitable actions. She spent time constantly in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament each day. It is because she always saw God in the unfortunate that she served them. Thus we too should love our neighbor because God loves him and wishes us to love him also.
- Charity should always be voluntary and never forced; otherwise it becomes an abuse of a person’s right to private ownership. Communist and totalitarian regimes confiscate private property and redistribute it to others in a socialistic endeavor. This was what Karl Marx promoted with his slogan: “From each according to his wealth; to each according to their needs”. Pius XI condemned this stealthy transfer of wealth in Quadragesimo Anno (1931), where he stated: “No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist.” These moral principles should infuse the tax policies of a nation, so that its necessary and desirable welfare policies do not inordinately transfer (steal) money from those who have legitimately earned it, to fund excessive aid programs. The Second Vatican Council in its declaration Gaudium et Spes (Nos. 63-72), discussing economics as vital to human progress and social development, underscored the need for striking the important balance between the rights of an individual to possess goods and the obligation to aid the poor. The Church has always encouraged voluntary charity, reminding people that Christ promised a reward to one who would give a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple (Matthew 10:42). The Church teaches that the corporal works of mercy are to: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, house strangers, visit prisoners as well as the sick, and bury the dead. Note, however, that these are works of mercy, not justice, implying that the recipients have no claim on them and, therefore, that the works should not be mandated or forced by law.
- Christ established His Church to help us attain the Kingdom of God in heaven, not to attain a Kingdom on Earth. Its primary purpose is to liberate us from sin so that we can attain our heavenly reward earned by the death of Christ for our redemption and salvation. The Church is not here to liberate us from economic problems. Therefore the Church should be cautious in overstepping its bounds by engaging too aggressively in political actions regarding Worldly Things which provide physical nourishment for the body rather than spiritual nourishment for the soul. The clergy should primarily be teachers of the moral law to the laity, rather than be political activists themselves. Remember Christ was neither a politician nor a revolutionary, but established the moral code for action by others. Thus the laity, infused with a proper understanding of the moral law, can then seek to better economic conditions in the political arena. However, the laity should realize that there are alternative solutions to purely political problems. Compromises in achieving objectives may be desirable, because a variety of solutions in the political sphere of Worldly Things may be consistent with the moral law, unlike the absolute position that must be taken about God’s Things.
By Rudolph Lohse