Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 29, 2004
Catholic politicians act by faith
Elected officials must serve the human person, says law professor
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Accountability was a common catch phrase heard during recent political campaigns on both sides of the 49th parallel.
But what about authenticity? Considering key national leadership candidates were Catholic, should they abandon their faith and its teachings for the popular vote?
Jane Adolphe, associate professor of law at the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich., says absolutely not.
In her Nov. 19 address to Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association annual convention titled, The Catholic Politician: Faith in Action, the convention's keynote speaker said Catholic politicians must base their decisions on their faith.
Respect the person
"The politician's fundamental role is not representing the views of those who elected him so much as fulfilling the essential obligation to serve the human person," Adolphe said. "Respect for the full personhood of every human being lies at the heart of the common good in any democratic system."
Adolphe cited the American and Canadian elections and how different the situations were. U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic, was besieged by the media for his pro-choice support. People called for the Church to refuse him Communion.
In Canada, only two people - Calgary Bishop Fred Henry and Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais - consistently raised their voices at the apparent hypocrisy of former and current Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, both Catholics, she said.
Originally from Calgary, Adolphe said Henry's criticisms keyed on the federal government's support of same-sex marriages, abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
"Even if moral neutrality were possible, authentic democracy cannot be indifferent as to what is good," she said. "There are morally objective principles rooted in human nature knowable through reason discerning the basic principles of natural law which do not require defence based on the profession of Christian faith.
"And to condemn a Catholic politician for acting according to his conscience formed by Catholic principles, all of which confirm basic precepts about the human person, is to engage in a form of 'disingenuous tolerance.' This would amount to an intolerant secularism, where respect is shown for the individual conscience of only some people."
Adolphe said, "We have to get our spiritual house in order before we can think about helping other people. It has to be done on a daily basis."
"Spiritual growth occurs over the years. I have learned that my personal relationship with Christ must come first. It fuels everything," she said.
Catholic politicians should not abandon morals. They need to form their consciences and make decisions accordingly.
"We have to know our faith in terms of the infallible doctrines that are binding on our conscience," Adolphe said in an interview. "Some of the essentials include abortion. In the mainstream, we have euthanasia and the destruction of embryos for research. There is also the natural family that is being pushed by the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church. We have to be firm on combatting same-sex marriage."
As Catholics, we have a lot to offer about an authentic definition of dignity, she said. We can do it by "commonsensical arguments," but we are informed by our faith.
"We are part of the mystical body of Christ through the sacrament of Baptism and are established as the people of God. In this way, we have a special dignity which has been imprinted upon our souls. And with such an elevated dignity comes great responsibility.
"Pope John Paul states that we must see our daily activities as an occasion to join ourselves to God, fulfill his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ."
Adolphe said there was concern that if both Kerry and Martin followed their Catholic teachings and were elected, then a sort of "Catholic takeover" would occur because the men would be viewed as "Vatican operatives."
Rather, the real concern is that politicians who act according to their Catholic consciences are "infusing an ethic which is contrary to mainstream thought in a post-Christian world.
"Their position butts up against the promotion of subjectivity as an absolute and opposes the abandonment of the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of human existence," she said. "The Catholic Church exhorts persons of good will to consider objective truths through reflection upon the human person, his or her moral responsibilities, and the role of the state."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.