Freedom in Temporal Affairs

S t. Josemaría, in his recently translated, Collected Letters, vol. 1, makes some important points that can benefit us as we approach another election cycle.

A key point he makes is the freedom and independence that Christians in the middle of the world have in the public sphere. This freedom is essential for our mission to sanctify the world. As his January 9, 1932 letter says:

To be the best sons and daughters of the Church and the Popewe have to love freedom. You must avoid an abuse that seems to be aggravated in our time: to create dogmas out of temporal doctrines. This abuse is evident and appears in countries all over the world. It reveals a desire contrary to the lawful independence of men, to force everyone to form a single group in matters open to debate

We have come to sanctify all noble human tasks, that is, ordinary human work, and we do this right in the middle of the world in a lay and secular manner, as a service to the Holy Church, to the Roman Pontiff, and to all souls.

To achieve this, we have to defend freedom.

(Collected Letters, 3/1-2)

It is important that the Faith not be tied to any political party or position in matters open to debate. Positions on global warming and the causes of climate change are debatable, while the need for us to care for the gift of creation and our global home is not. Another position not open to debate is the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death.

Our Lord has fished us with the net of his love, amid the waves of this unsettled world. He has done so, not to take us out of the world, out of our ordinary surroundings and work, but so that we remain in the world while being at the same time totally his… “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one(John 17:15).

This net, which unites us to Christ and keeps us united to one another is very roomy and it leaves us free and personally responsible as Christians who want to serve Godto follow the Churchs Magisterium with the utmost fidelity.

Because we are as free as fish in water, and because we are in Christs net, we dont confuse the Church with the errors of any individual. Nor are we prepared to let anybody confuse our own personal errors with the Church. No one has a right to drag the Church into politics, into their own political activity that, no matter how successful it may be, is always a matter of their personal opinion. It is a very easy approach to takeand very unfair.

(Collected Letters, 3/47)

Respecting the freedom of all, and defending our own freedom, means not coercing others by saying that our position is Catholicwhen it is not. If a Catholic priest were to call sinfula Catholic voting for or against a debatable position, that priest would be abusing his position to influence politics. Likewise, for a politician to say, Im a good, practicing Catholic…” while promoting abortion, he/she would be abusing his/her connection to the Church to promote error, something contrary to clear Catholic teaching. Good Catholics should oppose both.

Lets learn to respect the freedom of each person in all debatable matters. This was so dear to St. Josemaría that he always refrained from asking others about their political opinions:

I have never asked you what you think in political matters and I never will, because I respect your rightful freedomI know that among you, my daughters and sons, there is a great variety of opinions, and I am happy with that. I respect all these opinions, and indeed I will respect any temporal option of any one of my children, provided it is within the Law of Christ.

You dont know my personal opinion on particular political matters, because I do not speak about them. Andpriests in the Workshould follow the same rule of conduct, since their mission will be, like mine, exclusively spiritual. Besides, even if you did know my personal political opinions, you would be under no obligation to follow them. My opinion is not dogma nor is yours. Dogmas are established only by the Magisterium of the Church in matters referring to the deposit of faith.

(Collected Letters, 3/48-49)

So it is important to respect any position truly open to debateand the people who hold those positionseven if we strongly take the opposite position.

We would not be consistent if we did not respect the opinions of others different from our own, just as my [lay] children would not be consistent if they failed to exercise their right to make know their political views in matters of free debate.

(Collected Letters, 3/49)

In this way, we will foster healthy debate that leads to solutions to problems in the world that truly promote the common good for all.

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.