Christ the King says that his kingdom is not of this world, but he also says to his disciples, “Go out into the world and preach the gospel.”
What is the proper relationship between Church and State? There are four models for the interaction between the civil authority.
1) The State Church: the civil authority enshrines the Christian Church as the established Church of the country. This started with the emperor Constantine and was evident throughout history in many societies. Sounds good for Christians, and it has certain benefits, but it usually ends in tears. The Church becomes corrupted by the wealth and power of the state and being established. Soon Christianity has become a watery, compromised religion. I doubt if this is what Jesus had in mind when he said his kingdom was not of this world.
2) The Church following the Culture: In this model Christians assume that they live in a Christian country and assume that the values and standards of their countrymen are Christian ones. The Christian Church does not have established status, but it is ruled by the prevailing trends of culture. This is radically the case in our present situation in America. The prevailing Protestant ecclesiology is essentially market forces Christianity–individualistic Christianity. The liberal denominations follow the culture on abortion, homosexuality, politics, feminism and contraception.
3.) The Church Against Culture: In this model the Christians declare the prevailing culture to belong to the devil and withdraw. The Desert Fathers were the first Christians to do this once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Many other Christian groups have done the same–various monastic movements, the Puritans in New England, various Protestant sects–the Amish, Mennonites, etc. This seems attractive, and it is the right option to those called to an enclosed monastic life, but as a model for the whole church it abdicates responsibility.
4.) The Church as Subversive Force: This fourth model is the one which is truest to the gospel for the whole church. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. We are there to bless what is good in our culture, and criticize what is bad. We are meant to be the prophetic voice against sin, but also the priestly voice of blessing when something is good. We are meant to be the salt of the earth, the yeast in the dough, the city set on a hill.
In our present culture, one of the many tasks we have is to clarify for the American people just what it means to be involved as loyal Americans and loyal Catholics. As clergy it is our duty to be involved in the public square, and to speak out. We will not be silent on abortion, the torture of prisoners, unjust war, oppression of the poor, and a whole range of moral issues. Outside of election times, we have the liberty to name names and discuss individual politicians. We simply cannot do so in any way that would influence voters specifically, or to sway elections.
We must understand exactly what the separation of Church and State really is. It means we do not have a European style established Church. That’s it. What it doesn’t mean is that America should be an atheistic, materialistic republic. It does not mean that church leaders may not speak out on matters of the public concern. It does not mean that church leaders are to be silent. The separation of Church and State along with the freedom of religion and freedom of speech enshrines the freedom to speak out and to bless what is good in our society and criticize what is evil. It allows the Church to act as a proper check and balance in our whole culture.
Finally, there are proper limitations on what clergy and official church documents may do. This limitation is not only in US civil law, but in Catholic canon law. Bishops priests and deacons are to build up the Kingdom of Christ–a kingdom that is not of this world. We are rightly limited in our political involvement.
However, while clergy and the Catholic Church as an organization is limited, individual Catholics are not. It is the job of the laity to be fully involved in the pro life battle. Lay people can and must speak out specifically and forcefully. They must be fully involved in the political process. They must work not only to have abortion banned, but until then to have abortion restricted. They must also work tirelessly to promote all pro life initiatives–programs for women in crisis pregnancies, programs to help them keep their babies, programs to promote fostering and adoption, programs that address the underlying philosophical, cultural and moral understanding of life.
This is the work of the whole Catholic Church–not just bishops, priests and deacons.
I suppose it depends what we mean by ‘seperation of Church and State.’While we should avoid at all costs the merging of Church and State that has caused such harm in the past(such as under Henry VIII) the state MUST acknowledge that the Catholic religion is true and govern according to its laws.Indeed Pope Leo XIII taught that it was a sin for the state not to acknowledge the truth of the Catholic faith. Unfortunately there are very few countries left in the world that do this!Here is a particularly relevent passage from his Encyclical Letter Immortale Dei:”As a consequence, the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him, since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its reaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion -it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will. All who rule, therefore, would hold in honour the holy name of God, and one of their chief duties must be to favour religion, to protect it, to shield it under the credit and sanction of the laws, and neither to organize nor enact any measure that may compromise its safety. This is the bounden duty of rulers to the people over whom they rule.” http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_01111885_immortale-dei_en.html
St Thomas More deserves a mention here, that epitome of the catholic lay statesman, and a father. Reading your post I almost felt that his painting should be at the bottom. You are calling for us all to behave like More. Of course More was martyred by Henry VIII for his opposing Henry making himself pope of the English church – an act still essentially in force today though shared with parliament. Our job is a bit easier than that, playing watchdog to a democratically elected and dismissible government.
One minor problem, Father:3.)…The Desert Fathers were the first Christians to do this…4.)…This fourth model is the one which is true to the gospel…I’m guessing this is unintentional (if it isn’t than this is more of a minor problem), but didn’t you just imply that St. Anthony the Great et al were not “true to the gospel”? I think St. Athanasius (who wrote St. Anthony’s life) would be quite surprised to hear that :)As much as it might be contrary to some people’s inclinations, I think all Christians are bound to admit that option #3 is a valid response to a wicked world. It may not be all people’s vocations, but it seems erroneous to say it isn’t anyone’s, or that it is a somehow substandard response.
P – good points. I’ve modified the post accordingly
Marcus says: “You are calling for us all to behave like More. Of course More was martyred by Henry VIII for his opposing Henry making himself pope of the English church – an act still essentially in force today though shared with parliament. Our job is a bit easier than that, playing watchdog to a democratically elected and dismissible government.”Shame you just elected the most secular leader of the free world then.What went wrong ? Fell asleep ?
Bernadette says: Shame you just elected the most secular leader of the free world then.What went wrong ? Fell asleep ?Your comment is pure trolling to kick up more Obama talk.The neocons are what went wrong. If you want to blame the swing of the electorate to the democrats on catholics like me I think you are seriously misguided. Again, the democrat controlled house and senate are more of a problem than the Presidency, IMHO, when it comes to the issues that really concern us. And in any event Father L’s post has nothing to do with Obama or the failure of the GOP. Even were McCain elected Catholics would continue to be called to be a ‘subversive force’ against McCain’s uncatholic policies which may well have tended towards support of unjust war and continued neglect of healthcare and poverty issues.As a small business owner I provide full health coverage for my employees and it is killing us. Taxes for people over $250K hurting small business? What a joke! Healthcare is hurting small business.Blue Cross and the other insurers, rather than spreading risk across all their customers, assigns risk only based on the population working for each business. It’s a huge scam, and BC/BS is a company that I actually have a lot of respect for. There needs to be a government alternative like the post office. You can choose… UPS, Fedex, or the USPS. A non-profit government alternative keeps business honest, and business competition in turn keeps the government service somewhat honest.But there I go rambling on. The fact is that the neocons were worried about whether or not to attack Iran, and the democrats were worried about how to provide healthcare to the huddled masses.That’s why the democrats lost.Now Ron Paul, he was anti-abortion and anti-war. He was for a return to the gold standard and against the bailouts. Ron Paul and Ron Reagan are the two icons that represent what the GOP should be if it were to be true to secular conservativism and palatable to Catholic voters.
Glad to have emitted such an impassioned response from you, Marcus.I could reply at three times the length. But I believe in picking my fights carefully. The correct one, well chosen, can result in victory.There are some issues right now which go way beyond mere considerations of whether we are going to become bankrupt because of our employees healthcare. Let us assume we all may. What then ?Yet, that is the one comment that stuck out from your response. Your Noble concern and care for your employees is going to lead you down a blind alley. And you are someone who means well and wants to do the right thing. What does that tell us of people who do NOT intend to do the right thing ? You are on the right track, Marcus, but it is out of focus.Advent begins this week.. a New Year, a new Beginning, a New Vision.Do something for me – no reason why you should, but, you seem like a very well-meaning person – go and spend an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament somewhere this week to consider these things, AND what God is calling YOU to be.I am certain God is calling you to be a leader of some kind – but not in your present state of thinking.I will do the same. I really like St Catherine Laboure, one of the saints for this week ( Friday, I think). Ask her intercession for your country and I will do the same.