- "Considering the human person as the foundation and
purpose of the political community means in the first place working to
recognize and respect human dignity through defending and promoting
fundamental and inalienable human rights....
“The subject of political authority is the people considered in its entirety as those who have sovereignty. In various forms, this people transfers the exercise of sovereignty to those whom it freely elects as its representatives, but it preserves the prerogative to assert this sovereignty in evaluating the work of those charged with governing and also in replacing them when they do not fulfil their functions satisfactorily. Although this right is operative in every State and in every kind of political regime, a democratic form of government, due to its procedures for verification, allows and guarantees its fullest application.[Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 46: AAS 83 (1991), 850- 851; John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris: AAS 55 (1963), 271.] The mere consent of the people is not, however, sufficient for considering 'just' the ways in which political authority is exercised.
“Authority must be guided by the moral law ....If, as a result of the tragic clouding of the collective conscience, scepticism were to succeed in casting doubt on the basic principles of the moral law,[Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Summi Pontificatus: AAS 31 (1939), 423.] the legal structure of the State itself would be shaken to its very foundations, being reduced to nothing more than a mechanism for the pragmatic regulation of different and opposing interests. [Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 70: AAS 87 (1995), 481- 483; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, 97, 99: AAS 85 (1993), 1209- 1211; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life (24 November 2002), 5-6, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2002, pp. 11-14.]
“whenever public authority — which has its foundation in human nature and belongs to the order pre-ordained by God [Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 74: AAS 58 (1966), 1095-1097; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1901.] — fails to seek the common good, it abandons its proper purpose and so delegitimizes itself….
"Unjust laws pose dramatic problems of conscience for morally upright people: when they are called to cooperate in morally evil acts they must refuse.[Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 73: AAS 87 (1995), 486-487.]....Such cooperation in fact can never be justified, not by invoking respect for the freedom of others nor by appealing to the fact that it is foreseen and required by civil law. No one can escape the moral responsibility for actions taken, and all will be judged by God himself based on this responsibility (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).
“The Church's social doctrine indicates the criteria for exercising the right to resistance: 'Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met:
1) there is certain, grave and prolonged violation of fundamental rights,
2) all other means of redress have been exhausted,
3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders,
4) there is well-founded hope of success; and
5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution”.
[Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2243.]....
the danger that recourse to violence entails today makes it preferable in any case that passive resistance be practised....
"The State has the twofold responsibility to discourage behaviour that is harmful to human rights and the fundamental norms of civil life, and to repair, through the penal system, the disorder created by criminal activity....
“Unfortunately, the conditions under which prisoners serve their time do not always foster respect for their dignity; and often, prisons become places where new crimes are committed....
“The activity of offices charged with establishing criminal responsibility…must strive to be a meticulous search for truth and must be conducted in full respect for the dignity and rights of the human person....In carrying out investigations, the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed....Likewise ruled out is 'the use of detention for the sole purpose of trying to obtain significant information for the trial'.[John Paul II, Address to the Italian Association of Judges (31 March 2000), 4: AAS 92 (2000), 633.] Moreover, it must be ensured that 'trials are conducted swiftly: their excessive length is becoming intolerable for citizens and results in a real injustice'.[John Paul II, Address to the Italian Association of Judges (31 March 2000), 4: AAS 92 (2000), 633.]....
“presuming the full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the guilty party, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude the death penalty 'when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor'. [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2267.] Bloodless methods of deterrence and punishment are preferred as 'they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person'. [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2267.]....
“The Encyclical Centesimus Annus contains an explicit and articulate judgment with regard to democracy.... An authentic democracy is not merely the result of a formal observation of a set of rules but is the fruit of a convinced acceptance of the values that inspire democratic procedures:
• the dignity of every human person,
• the respect of human rights,
• commitment to the common good as the purpose and guiding criterion for political life.
If there is no general consensus on these values, the deepest meaning of democracy is lost and its stability is compromised.
“The Church's social doctrine sees ethical relativism, which maintains that there are no objective or universal criteria for establishing the foundations of a correct hierarchy of values, as one of the greatest threats to modern-day democracies....
“Democracy is fundamentally 'a ‘system’ and as such is a means and not an end. Its ‘moral’ value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behaviour, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs'. [John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 70: AAS 87 (1995), 482.]….
“The Magisterium recognizes the validity of the principle concerning the division of powers in a State....As an instrument of the State, public administration at any level — national, regional, community — is oriented towards the service of citizens....Excessive bureaucratization is contrary to this vision.... The role of those working in public admini-stration is n0ot to be conceived as imper-sonal or bureaucratic, but rather as an act of generous assistance for citizens, undertaken with a spirit of service.
"Political parties have the task of fostering widespread participation and making public responsibilities accessible to all....
“Information is among the principal instruments of democratic participation. Participation without an understanding of the situation of the political community, the facts and the proposed solutions to problems is unthinkable....The media must be used to build up and sustain the human community in its different sectors....one fundamental moral principle always applies: the human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media. A second principle is complementary to the first: the good of human beings cannot be attained independently of the common good of the community to which they belong.[Cf. Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Communications (4 June 2000), 22, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2000, pp. 23-25.]….
“The Church has contributed to the distinction between the political community and civil society above all by her vision of man, understood as an autonomous, relational being who is open to the Transcendent. This vision is challenged by political ideologies of an individualistic nature and those of a totalitarian character, which tend to absorb civil society into the sphere of the State. The Church's commitment on behalf of social pluralism aims at bringing about a more fitting attainment of the common good and democracy itself, according to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and justice. Civil society is the sum of relationships and resources, cultural and associative, that are relatively independent from the political sphere and the economic sector....
“The political community and civil society, although mutually connected and interdependent, are not equal in the hierarchy of ends. The political community is essentially at the service of civil society....Civil society…has priority because it is in civil society itself that the political community finds its justification. The State must provide an adequate legal framework for social subjects to engage freely in their different activities and it must be ready to intervene, when necessary and with respect for the principle of subsidiarity….
"The activities of civil society… represent the most appropriate ways to develop the social dimension of the person, who finds in these activities the necessary space to express himself fully. The progressive expansion of social initiatives beyond the State- controlled sphere creates new areas for the active presence and direct action of citizens, integrating the functions of the State. This important phenomenon has often come about largely through informal means and has given rise to new and positive ways of exercising personal rights, which have brought about a qualitative enrichment of democratic life.
“Cooperation, even in its less structured forms, shows itself to be one of the most effective responses to a mentality of conflict and unlimited competition that seems so prevalent today....
“ The Second Vatican Council committed the Catholic Church to the promotion of religious freedom….The just limits of the exercise of religious freedom must be determined in each social situation with political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority through legal norms consistent with the objective moral order....
“Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups.[Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, 6: AAS 58 (1966), 933-934; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2107.]....
“Although the Church and the political community both manifest themselves in visible organizational structures, they are by nature different because of their configuration and because of the ends they pursue....
“The duty to respect religious freedom requires that the political community guarantee the Church the space needed to carry out her mission. For her part, the Church has no particular area of competence concerning the structures of the political community: 'The Church respects the legitimate autonomy of the democratic order and is not entitled to express preferences for this or that institutional or constitutional solution',[John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 47: AAS 83 (1991), 852.] nor does it belong to her to enter into questions of the merit of political programmes, except as concerns their religious or moral implications.
“The mutual autonomy of the Church and the political community does not entail a separation that excludes cooperation....The Church has the right to the legal recognition of her proper identity....The Church therefore seeks:
• freedom of expression, teaching and evangelization;
• freedom of public worship;
• freedom of organization and of her own internal government;
• freedom of selecting, educating, naming and transferring her ministers;
• freedom for constructing religious buildings;
• freedom to acquire and possess sufficient goods for her activity; and
• freedom to form associations not only for religious purposes but also for educational, cultural, health care and charitable purposes.
[Cf. John Paul II, Letter to the Heads of State Signing the Final Helsinki Act (1 September 1980), 4: AAS 72 (1980), 1256-1258.]
“In order to prevent or attenuate possible conflicts between the Church and the political community, the juridical experience of the Church and the State have variously defined stable forms of contact and suitable instruments for guaranteeing harmonious relations.”