Our Civic and Political Obligation

It is lamentable that many good Catholics have withdrawn from politics – even from voting – so as to avoid all the mudslinging and false accusations different parties and candidates use in order to get their results. Yet we can’t abandon the political sphere to the devil and his minions. As St. Josemaría continues telling us:

Actually, even among apparently responsible and upright Catholics, the error of thinking that they are obliged only to fulfill their family and religious duties is quite common. Often, they hardly want to hear about civic duties. This is not a question of selfishness, but simply a lack of formation. No one has ever told them clearly that the virtue of piety (part of the cardinal virtue of justice) and their feeling of Christian solidarity are also exercised by their taking part in the life of society, and by their being aware of and helping to solve the problems that affect the whole community.

St. Josemaría really wanted to have us formed in our civic duties from our youth so that each of us can help achieve the common good:

I will tell you, in this regard, what is my great desire. I would like to see children’s catechisms spell out clearly those basic points where we cannot yield when we act one way or another in public life. And at the same time, I would also want them to affirm our obligation to act and not abstain, to lend our own collaboration in serving the common good with loyalty and with personal freedom. This is a great desire of mine because I see that in this way Catholics would learn these truths from their childhood and would know how to practice them later as adults…

But it would also be good in the field of pedagogy and human formation, if teachers, without imposing personal opinions in what is open to debate, were to teach the duty of acting freely and responsibly in the field of civic activity.

What is important is learning to be faithful to Catholic dogma while respecting the freedom of others. As St. Josemaría writes:

This commitment to doctrine and life that the Catholic Church gives us, which impels you, my children, to serve God while you are serving your country, is made specific in some firm, unshakeable truths. These are unquestioned principles that make up the common denominator, the vinculum fidei, not just for you, my children [in Opus Dei] but for all Catholics, for all the faithful children of Holy Mother Church.

No to One Party Politics

What St. Josemaría really despised was to see people, especially Catholics, absolutize non-absolutes, that is, matters open to legitimate freedom of opinion.

You see, dearly beloved children, how great is the need to form Catholics with a very specific aim: to lead them to unity regarding essentials while at the same time leaving them to use their legitimate freedom in temporal affairs, with charity and understanding toward everyone. Freedom: no more dogmas in debatable matters.

It is contrary to human dignity… to arbitrarily establish certain absolutes truths in matters where every individual necessarily looks at them from their own viewpoint… Besides, a one-party system, the necessary consequence of introducing only one possible option, is unable to direct a country’s public life over a long period.

St. Josemaría avoided every effort to coerce people into one party or people who claimed to be Catholic in politics:

I have another piece of advice, my children, about public affairs… never be official Catholics. Catholics who use religion as a springboard, not to leap towards God but to rise to positions of importance and obtain things they covet like honors, wealth, and power. Speaking of people like this, a levelheaded person used to say with good humor, perhaps exaggerating, that they set their eyes on heaven, and their hands on anything they can find.

Such Catholics make a profession of calling themselves Catholics…They deny the principle of personal responsibility, and they expect all the Catholics of a country to form a solid bloc and relinquish all their free opinions in temporal matters in order to support en masse a single party, a single political group, of which they—the official Catholics—are masters, with the consequence that the party is also officially Catholic.

Let’s respect the freedom of others and use our own freedom to draw them toward the truth: toward the truth of the dignity of the human person and life from conception to natural death, the sacredness of human love and marriage, and the right of parents to educate their children according to the dictates of their conscience. May the Holy Spirit guide each of us in fulfilling our Christian duty in the approaching election.

St. Gregory Recovery Center
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.