Splendor of Truth - The Moral Life



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 common good.

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 1905-1912)

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.



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