COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL
Is man in his essence necessarily called to live in
community? (CCC 1877-1889)
Yes. Love of neighbor is inseparable from the love of God.
Man in his essence is a social being, meant to live in
communion, friendship and love with others. There are many
facets to this characteristic of our human nature, and we will
explore a few.
First, we find our salvation and holiness through living in
communion with one another. We love God first, among all others.
However, how do we go about actually performing acts of
love toward God? By loving one another. Jesus expresses this
clearly when he welcomes into heaven those that clothed the
naked, fed the hungry and visited those in prison, and He sends
away from Heaven those who did not. “That which you have done
for the least of your brothers you have done for me.” Since God
is not present physically on earth as a human person, we
actually show our love for Him by loving Him in other people.
Loving other people is the way we actually become holy. Prayer
is essential, but in a sense, it is the fuel and the root of our
works. Prayer should lead us to love others. By itself, without
leading us to loving acts, prayer is not having any real effect.
In prayer, we speak and converse with God, and we deepen our
love and friendship with Him. This will necessarily lead us to
love those around us better each day. If it does not, we are not
growing in love of God, and our prayer is ineffective despite
what we may feel during it. Prayer should lead to action.
Second, we were created in the image and likeness of God. God
is a Trinity of three Persons. Even God Himself lives in
communion with others. Why is this important? Because God is
Love, and love – in order to be love – must be given away. In
order to love, you must have someone to give love to. Therefore,
if God is love, He must have someone to love– the three Persons
of the Trinity are an unending, eternal communion of love. They
are eternally giving and receiving love between one another.
Therefore, if we are created in God’s image, we also must have
others with whom to give and receive love.
Are people required to submit
to the authorities of their government, employers, etc.?
(CCC 1897-1904, 2238-2243)
In general, yes. To begin, “Every human community needs an
authority to govern it” (Immortale Dei). It is part
of our human nature, and it is necessary for the unity and
order of society. Scripture instructs us to submit to these
authorities: “Let every person be subject to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and
those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he
who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed,
and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom 13:1-2). As
well, we are called to treat these authorities with respect,
gratitude and good-will. Charity actually calls us to be
grateful to government and civil authorities for all the
service and goods they provide for us.
However, if an authority is asking or ordering us to sin, we
have the duty to refuse. As well, we have the duty to justly
criticize civil authorities when they are not acting
according to human dignity and the common good; love impels
us to speak – always with love and prudence.
As well, authorities are not to abuse power or behave like a
tyrant. They have a great moral responsibility to treat
those under them with dignity and respect and to uphold the
What does it mean to “seek the common good of all,” and how does
the Church expect us to live this out in our daily lives? (CCC
To seek the common good means to promote social conditions
that will allow all people to find fulfillment and
happiness more fully and to reach it more easily. To promote the
common good means that all people must do a number of things.
First, we must all have respect for the human person. This
means that all people have certain, inalienable rights that
should not be denied. For example, all people should be able to
freely fulfill their vocation. All people should be able to
freely act according to their conscience, practice their
religion, have privacy, and educate their children.
Second, all people are naturally entitled access to the
things needed to live a human life: food, clothing, health,
work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to
establish a family, and so on. The society should be able to
develop, grow, and make progress.
Last, there should be peace in a society. The society
should be just and stable. Using morally acceptable means, the
authorities have the responsibility of making sure that the
people live in security and stability.
The state (i.e. the government) has the responsibility of
promoting the common good of the society and the people within
it. As individual citizens, we must do what is in our power to
uphold and maintain the common good or improve it. We start by
respecting these basics rights of the people in our lives. As
well, we should use various means of helping those who have been
denied these rights.
Am I morally required to
participate in promoting the common good and/or taking an
active part in public life? (CCC 1913-1917, 2238-2243)
Yes. All people are required to participate in the promotion
of the common good. There are two levels to this. Our first
obligation in the promotion of the common good must take
place in all the things for which people are personally
responsible. This includes taking care of the education of
your family, working at your job with care and
responsibility, and ethically handling all your affairs,
both work-related and personal. Second, as far as possible,
one must participate in public life to help promote
the common good. We are morally obligated to pay taxes,
vote, and defend our countries. The extent to which we
participate beyond that will depend on people’s states in
life, age, talents, financial means, etc. However, in the
world today, there are a great variety of organizations that
provide a means for all people, of all states in life, to
participate in public affairs at some level. In general, it
is healthy and just to understand that we are indebted to
our nation for what they provide for us, and we should look
for ways in which to give back and uphold that which gives
to and upholds us.
Can the Church mandate who I vote for?
The Church does not endorse specific political parties or
people. However, the Church instructs us on the principles
according to which we should vote. Faith and reason demonstrate
there are absolute moral principles that need to be acknowledged
and that the human person has a fundamental human dignity. As
members of the human race, we have an absolute obligation to do
everything in our power to uphold the dignity of the human life
(from conception until natural death) and to promote the common
good of all. As a Catholic and a human being, we all have the
duty to vote and the duty to vote for laws and lawmakers that
uphold this dignity and promote the common good.
Doesn’t “separation of Church and state” require me to keep my
religious beliefs out of politics?
First we must understand what is properly meant by separation
of Church and state. Politics and civil affair have a legitimate
autonomy (separation from) the Church. In other words, the
Church does claim to run the affairs of governments or propose
specific solutions to the affairs concerning them. However,
political and civil affairs do not have autonomy from morality.
Like the human beings that make them up, political and civil
bodies must set policies according to absolute moral principles
that uphold the dignity and common good of all human people. We
should clearly be able to see that if political systems claim to
have no moral norms, complete moral anarchy will result; they
would be able to justify anything, even murder (which in fact we
already do with abortion and euthanasia). Lawmakers and
governments must have a clear understanding of the human person
and the things that constitute the human good, and they must set
their policies according to them. In they do not possess this
understanding, they will invariably end up making laws that harm
people and society.
Therefore, when we demand that governments, laws, and
lawmakers set policies in conformation to the common good and
the dignity of the human person, we are not imposing our
religious beliefs on them or society. This is our duty out of
love for our brothers and sisters – we must promote systems that
serve their growth, health, development, and pursuit of true
happiness. By doing this, I am not imposing religious beliefs on
them (requiring that all people profess the Catholic faith would
be doing this); instead I am loving fellow man.
Especially concerning the matters of abortion and euthanasia,
are Catholics allowed to vote for laws that will decrease
abortions and euthanasia, but not get rid of it?
John Paul II addressed this question directly in his
encyclical Evangelium vitae, and we will quote his words.
“An elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to
procured abortion was well known, could licitly support
proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at
lessening its negative consequences at the level of general
opinion and public morality” (EV, 73). We as voters are required
to do the same. We must do all we can to fight against these
evils, but we can vote for laws which lessen the consequences.
What are our social duties towards one another? (CCC 1928-1942)
First of all, we are called to look at
each person as another person, with a fundamental human
dignity that cannot be violated. We are to look at each person
as our “neighbor,” someone to be loved, respected, and treated
as Christ treated us. In this way, we are called to help those
in need and live in friendship with one another. We all have
equal dignity and we should uphold the dignity of others in our
relationships with them. As well, we must understand that we
need one another. All have been gifted by God in a unique
way – some more than others. But this variety does not mean that
some have greater dignity. Each one of us has something to offer
the other; each person possesses something than another lacks.
Those who have been given more, more will be expected. We should
live amongst one another knowing that only when each person
offers his or her gifts for the service of all is the human
family truly complete and functioning as it should.