Contemporary Issue: Role of the State
The Role of the State at its Essence
"[T]he safety of the commonwealth is not only the first law, but it is a government's whole reason of existence." (RN, 35)
"The attainment of the common good is the sole reason for the existence of civil authorities. " (PIT, 54)
Saint John Paul II
"It is the task of the State to provide for the defence and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces." (CA, 40)
What the State Must Ensure for its Citizens
In Centesimus Annus, Pope Saint John Paul II distilled seven key elements that any governing State must ensure:
What should and must the state do, and not do, regarding encouraging the economy?
The State, with regards to forms of government that it may take:
"The right to rule is not necessarily, however, bound up with any special mode of government. It may take this or that form" (ID, 4)
Government must be For the People:
"Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous without the presence of those who, invested with legal authority, preserve its institutions and do all that is necessary to sponsor actively the interests of all its members." (PIT, 46)
"Government should…be administered for the well-being of the citizens, because they who govern others possess authority solely for the welfare of the State."(ID, 5)
"Citizens must feel themselves represented by the public authorities in respect for their freedom." (Pope Francis, World Day of Peace Message, 1 January 2014, 8)
“Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all.”(ID, 5)
"[The State]has also the duty to protect the rights of all its people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and children. It can never be right for the State to shirk its obligation of working actively for the betterment of the condition of the workingman."(MEM, 20)
On limits to government:
"It is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, co-ordinated, defended and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily." (PIT, 60)
"Governmental authority, therefore, is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently, laws and decrees passed in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience, since "it is right to obey God rather than men". Indeed, the passing of such laws undermines the very nature of authority and results in shameful abuse." (PIT, 51)
On the relationship between the Church and the State:
"The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper." (DCE, 28)
Related EncyclicalsRerum Novarum Pacem in Terris Centesimus Annus Immortale Dei Mater et Magistra Deus Caritas Est
Related Thoughts on Role of the State
I invite you to look around at the new things which surround us and in which we find ourselves… (Saint John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 1991) Taken from "Catholic Social Teaching 101"
“The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern.” (DCE, 28) Taken from " What does Catholic Social Teaching say about a “Welfare State”? "
Catholic Social Teaching is a set of values for us to internalize, to evaluate the framework of modern society, and to provide criteria for prudential judgement and direction for current policy and action. Taken from "Precisely, What is Catholic Social Teaching? (Audio)"
Related Speakers / Panelists / Authors on: Role of the State
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