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athgarvan

How Should a Catholic Think About Politics?

We've just been through a General Election in Ireland. The out-going Government has been very anti-Catholic in many of its deliberations. This in a traditionally very Catholic country. It leads us to ask: "How should a Catholic think about Politics?" It's not "What should a Catholic think about politics"? It is not for anyone to tell us what to think. But what kind of relationship is there between ethics and politics?

Catholics can draw on a rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching which has been clearly developed over the last 100 years or more. It sees an essential relationship between ethics and politics, but this is not always recognised these days because of the widely divergent views that people hold about what ethics actually is.

The experience of morality is not a uniquely religious experience, and it is certainly not limited to Catholics. Most people experience the deep down desire to do good and to be good. As St. Paul says: " All have a law in their hearts."

When we do something kind or courageous, there is the effect that this has in the world around us, there is the change that takes place in ourselves, and there is the feeling of goodness that we have. Which, I ask, is the most important?

Ethics can be defined as the "science of morality". It is how we move from the desire to do good, towards the actions that will bring about that goodness. How should I act?

Must I always do what the law says (conformism)? Must I follow my feelings (emotivism)? Must I do whatever will bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people (utilitarianism)?

We all have free will - but freedom is not absolute. It must take into account what we, as persons, are ultimately called to be. In making an ethical decision we must take account of what are the likely consequences and what is it that we intend (conscience). For Catholics, that means that in making ethical judgements, we must allow ourselves to be guided, not only by science and human reason, but also by the Word of God and the teaching of the Church.

Politics is the science of morality for the state, and its purpose is to move us from the desire for a good society, to the kind of actions and decisions that will lead to the common good, which is the good of all and of each individual.

Hence, when voting, I decided to vote for the person(s) who, among other things, were openly pro-life.

Comments

I'm curious, but how was the previous government "anti-Catholic?" Can you please give me examples? I'm imagining things like them trying to ban the religion or something...which I'm pretty sure they weren't doing...
They introduced the legalizing of Gay Marriage, abortion under certain conditions, withdrew our ambassador to the Vatican, encouraged the withdrawal of the rights of Catholic schools to keep their long-held ethos, or to include the teaching of religion, etc. It adopted the values of the non-Catholic neo-rich in the south side of Dublin and has just learned in the recent election that the country is not to be governed by that agenda.

I know these things may not resonate with many but Catholicism has been part of the soul of Catholic life in Ireland for nearly two thousand years.
I'm not sure I would consider abortion under certain conditions or same-sex marriage as being anti-Catholic...even as a Catholic. In the US we tend to have a fairly large portion of us who are in favor of those things (especially same-sex marriage.)
By anti-Catholic I mean against what Catholic belief and teaching is and has been.
I suppose not.
we have the reverse problem
people who are so socially conservative and base that in their "religion" that they would disregard the laws and the rights of the rest of us.

We are NOT a christian country.
Proudly NOT from our very founding.
We are a secular democracy with room for all.
I want people in government who will uphold that tradition.
Therefore, when i vote my conscience I must vote pro-choice.
I must also vote for immigrant rights and LGBT rights and fair labor practices because these are the traditions of my country.

Sadly, the catholic church, while having been in the forefront of labor rights, has not championed individual social rights.
Fortunately, most catholics here ignore the church's positions in those matters.
Agreed.
As I say above: "We all have free will - but freedom is not absolute. It must take into account what we, as persons, are ultimately called to be".
and what for many of us "what we are called to be" is defenders of the right to personal conscience and to limit the state's role in dictating what that conscience should be.

everyone must vote their own conscience.
we just had lunch with a dear friend whose political opinions are in opposition to ours.
He has the right to vote his way
we have the right to vote ours

if we give him respect we also expect respect

in the modern world no one religion can be the deciding voice in public debate
law must allow for all voices

Edited at 2016-03-02 21:48 (UTC)
We have had a case here where a Catholic baker was asked to bake a wedding cake for two gays. He would not do it. They brought a case against him for discrimination. So where is your 'conscience' there?
Don't know how it is in Ireland
Here we have anti- discrimination laws
If you own a business you are a public facility and must serve ALL customers no matter what your private feelings are
Bake for all or don't bake at all!