The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Catholic Church influence in public life? The Church’s voice must be heard.
Sometimes the statement is made that the Catholic Church (or any Church) should have no influence on public life, no part to play in it. Such a statement can come from politicians or from secularists, working for what they believe to be a purely secular society. Here clarification on terms used is called for, not least for the sake of ordinary members of the Church itself. If by “church” the ministers of the Church, bishops, priests and others related to the “institution” are meant is once thing. But the church is more fundamentally the body of the faithful believers, who for some purposes are the body politic, that elect the politicians who exercise their duty in accord with their consciences.
The Church has a God-given mission and message. She has a confidence given by God to continue to proclaim this message. Her message is that of the biblical Book of Wisdom that all God’s creation is good and about life here and beyond, a conviction that her message and mission are such that they can confront problems intellectual and social arising in any age.
Public administration in good part deals with the well-being and the problems of society, in their many manifestations, from birth, child welfare, marriage arrangements, violence, murders, sexual excesses including prostitution and many others. They belong to human behaviour. The Church’s message also is about human behaviour. It is this, the good works and exemplary lives of believers, that bear witness to Christ, and glory to his heavenly Father. But there is another dimension to the Church’s Gospel message, namely its address to the inner person, to the source of action, to the souls of believers.
The Church should continue to proclaim its divine message. This message has to do, among other matters, individual conviction, with human living and society affairs. Legislation can aim at remedying affairs, and apply sanctions. But at the root of many such problems lies in the human heart. The message of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount on many issues, such as forgiveness of enemies, establishing friendships, building bridges, makes for a stable society. All these can be effective already in public life, bearing witness to the presence of the Church’s message. A prevailing ignorance or neglect of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” leads to disregard for human life. Similarly one may say with regard to sexual morality. Theologians speak of a hierarchy of truths, with regard to the Creed and other beliefs. Similarly with regard to sexual morality, which is often equated with contraception, homosexuality and the use of condoms, whereas it can range from such actions as rape to minor ones. Neglect of the commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, and related matters can lead to the proliferation of brothels by reason of the fact of restraint by those calling on their service. Commandments may cause problems, but give restraint. Thus, by reason of its message the Church is part of public life, and in dialogue with changing society.

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