Friday, October 19, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes – Part 9

In the second part of Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II Fathers discuss some of the “more urgent problems” facing the world today and illuminate them with the light of Christ. Each of the five chapters in the second part focuses on a particular issue relevant to the modern world: marriage and family, culture, economic and social life, the political community, and peace and international communion. 

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in Part II, Chapter IV, of Gaudium et Spes.

Chapter IV – The Political Community 

Modern Public Life 

* Transformations in modern life have led to a greater concern for civil liberty and the common good. 

* Modern people have a “keener awareness of human dignity,” and many seek to protect the rights of all people. 

* Modern people also have a “growing desire” to participate in political life in order to better exercise their rights and to contribute to the common good. 

* All political life must be based on humanity and promote justice, the common good, and true human development. 

Nature and Purpose of the Political Community 

* Human beings naturally tend toward involvement in a political community, which “exists for the common good.” 

* “The common good embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve fulfillment more completely and more expeditiously.” 

* Authority is necessary to guide a political community toward the common good, but this authority must always be a moral force that promotes both freedom and responsibility in its citizens. 

* Citizens must obey political authority that is acting according to the moral order and the common good. Citizens do not, however, have to obey a corrupt, immoral authority and have the right to defend themselves against such according to the law of the Gospel. 

* The ultimate purpose of the political community is to form “a human person who is cultured, peace-loving and well disposed towards his fellow men with a view, to the benefit of the whole human race.” 

Participation by All in Public Life 

* All citizens must have the opportunity to participate in the establishment and administration of the political community. 

* Citizens have the right and duty to vote. 

* The political community must protect citizens' rights and promote family, culture, and social organizations. 

* Citizens must provide reasonable “material and personal services” to the political community and not abuse the system by “untimely and exaggerated demands for favors and subsidies.” 

* The political community should strike a balance between individual freedom and the common good while citizens should strike a balance between patriotism and care for the “whole human family.” 

* Christians must serve as an example of responsibility to the political community. Christians can model the complementary pairs of “personal initiative” and solidarity; freedom and authority; and unity and diversity. 

* All citizens should receive a “civil and political education.” 

* A true politician seeks the common good rather than his or her own interests. A true politician works “with integrity and wisdom” for the “welfare of all in a spirit of sincerity and fairness, of love and of courage...” 

The Political Community and the Church 

* The Church “is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system.” She illustrates “the transcendental dimension of the human person.” 

* The goals of the Church and the political community overlap in that both seek justice and strive toward the common good, yet the Church and the political community remain autonomous. 

* The Church respects “the political freedom and responsibility” of citizens. 

* The Church has the right to preach and teach the faith, to “carry out its task,” and to “pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics.” 

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online at the Vatican website.

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