Can the Church just mind its own business and stay out of human affairs? Well, no. Our people are part of human affairs, and lay people bring their own faith-formed expertise to bear. We can’t be separated from our values.
276. For these reasons, the Church, while respecting the autonomy of political life, does not restrict her mission to the private sphere. On the contrary, “she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines” in the building of a better world, or fail to “reawaken the spiritual energy” that can contribute to the betterment of society. [Deus Caritas Est 28]
The Holy Father relies on his predecessor in this section.
It is true that religious ministers must not engage in the party politics that are the proper domain of the laity, but neither can they renounce the political dimension of life itself, [“Man is a political animal”, Aristotle, Politics, 1253a 1-3] which involves a constant attention to the common good and a concern for integral human development.
This is true that every priest is that “political animal.” But they have no business in government, and probably not either in the realm of leadership in political activity. Mentors, advisors, spiritual guides, teachers, yes.
When Pope Benedict cites a “public role,” he means laity.
The Church “has a public role over and above her charitable and educational activities”. She works for “the advancement of humanity and of universal fraternity”.[Caritas in Veritate 11]
More from Pope Francis:
She does not claim to compete with earthly powers, but to offer herself as “a family among families, this is the Church, open to bearing witness in today’s world, open to faith hope and love for the Lord and for those whom he loves with a preferential love. A home with open doors. The Church is a home with open doors, because she is a mother”.[Address to the Catholic Community, Rakovski, Bulgaria (6 May 2019): L’Osservatore Romano, 8 May 2019, p. 9]
At times, I think this is difficult for people in and out of the Church to see. Certainly the Church is indeed both family and mother, but the contrary witness we offer sometimes makes this difficult. We are perceived as institution. Not family. Certainly not a mother. And if clergy from top to bottom mostly act and self-identify as such, lay Catholics by and large define themselves as members rather than family. A lot of the post-conciliar retrenchment has reinforced this.
And in imitation of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, “we want to be a Church that serves, that leaves home and goes forth from its places of worship, goes forth from its sacristies, in order to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be the sign of unity… to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation”.[Homily, Santiago de Cuba (22 September 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 1005]
If we truly wish to offer this, it will take decades of heroism to convince those outside the Barque.
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