Gaudium et Spes 75

Gaudium et Spes continues on the political front. This section is a long one, so bear with it, if you can:

It is in full conformity with human nature that there should be juridico-political structures providing all citizens in an ever better fashion and without and discrimination the practical possibility of freely and actively taking part in the establishment of the juridical foundations of the political community and in the direction of public affairs, in fixing the terms of reference of the various public bodies and in the election of political leaders.(Cf. Pius XII, radio message, Dec. 24, 1942: AAS 35 (1943) pp. 9-24; Dec. 24, 1944: AAS 37 (1945), pp. 11-17; John XXIII encyclical letter Pacem In Terris: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 263, 271 277 and 278.) All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good. The Church praises and esteems the work of those who for the good of (society) devote themselves to the service of the state and take on the burdens of this office.

More optimism: citizen involvement not only as voters, but in policy-making. Note that voting is considered a duty, not a right one can opt to use. On a theoretical level, politicians are praised for the service they render and the burdens they undertake.

If the citizens’ responsible cooperation is to produce the good results which may be expected in the normal course of political life, there must be a statute of positive law providing for a suitable division of the functions and bodies of authority and an efficient and independent system for the protection of rights. The rights of all persons, families and groups, and their practical application, must be recognized, respected and furthered, together with the duties binding on all citizens.(Cf. Pius XII, radio message of June 7, 1941: AAS 33 (1941) p. 200: John XXIII, encyclical letter Pacem In Terris: 1.c., p. 273 and 274.)

A reiteration of the basic principle that leads to the seamless garment approach.

Among the latter, it will be well to recall the duty of rendering the political community such material and personal service as are required by the common good. Rulers must be careful not to hamper the development of family, social or cultural groups, nor that of intermediate bodies or organizations, and not to deprive them of opportunities for legitimate and constructive activity; they should willingly seek rather to promote the orderly pursuit of such activity. Citizens, for their part, either individually or collectively, must be careful not to attribute excessive power to public authority, not to make exaggerated and untimely demands upon it in their own interests, lessening in this way the responsible role of persons, families and social groups.

A commentary on the limits of political leadership, and the trap of abusing government for one’s own ends. This one seems to be more a condemnation of the principle of excesses in lobbying rather than so-called big government.

The complex circumstances of our day make it necessary for public authority to intervene more often in social, economic and cultural matters in order to bring about favorable conditions which will give more effective help to citizens and groups in their free pursuit of (a citizen’s) total well-being. The relations, however, between socialization and the autonomy and development of the person can be understood in different ways according to various regions and the evolution of peoples. But when the exercise of rights is restricted temporarily for the common good, freedom should be restored immediately upon change of circumstances. Moreover, it is inhuman for public authority to fall back on dictatonal systems or totalitarian methods which violate the rights of the person or social groups.

An attempt to strike a balance between individual rights and the good of the whole.

Citizens must cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism, but without being narrow-minded. This means that they will always direct their attention to the good of the whole human family, united by the different ties which bind together races, people and nations.

A challenge to consider that the “whole” for which one seeks good is larger than one’s circle of friends, neighbors, and citizens.

All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good. In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity. They must recognize the legitimacy of different opinions with regard to temporal solutions, and respect citizens, who, even as a group, defend their points of view by honest methods. Political parties, for their part, must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good.

A difficult consideration to handle, especially when tempers run high.

Great care must be taken about civic and political formation, which is of the utmost necessity today for the population as a whole, and especially for youth, so that all citizens can play their part in the life of the political community. Those who are suited or can become suited should prepare themselves for the difficult, but at the same time, the very noble art of politics, and should seek to practice this art without regard for their own interests or for material advantages. With integrity and wisdom, they must take action against any form of injustice and tyranny, against arbitrary domination by an individual or a political party and any intolerance. They should dedicate themselves to the service of all with sincerity and fairness, indeed, with the charity and fortitude demanded by political life.

Imagine! Being a public servant to serve and not to enrich oneself or one’s allies.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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