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January 30, 2006



I'll suggest that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI are reminding us of distinctions recognized at Vatican II.

From Gaudium et Spes:

"Christ, to be sure, gave His Church no proper mission in the political, economic or social order. The purpose which He set before her is a religious one.(11) But out of this religious mission itself come a function, a light and an energy which can serve to structure and consolidate the human community according to the divine law."


anonymous seminarian

Great article. I agree with the Prof. Sisk that we should see JPII's frequent prophetic addresses regarding human rights as just that- prophetic. They were calls to conversion of heart in the face of inherent and manifest evil. They were not endorsing this or that political agenda. Vastly different political entities could respond to these appeals in different ways. One aim of Vatican II, stessed again and again by JPII, is that the Church should make space for legitimate secular human activity in a way roughly analogous to how scholasticism made space for the excercise of human reason (I don't think he ever used this analogy, but I find it helpful). That is not to say that the Church is unconcerned with secular affairs; only that the way to influence the secular sphere is to teach, evangelize and sanctify lay apostles who will then go forth to tranform social and political stuctures. This is why I get somewhat annoyed (I think justly) when I hear priests, bishops, curial officials, ect...advocating for specific political initiatives (and attempting to do so using the influence of their office). This seems to me to be undercutting the Church's teaching on the legitimacy and independence of the secular sphere and intruding upon the jurisdiction of laypeople.

Michael Hugo

It is important, though, to keep the religious leadership religious. Catholic/Christian history is sadly littered with the Church's "strange bedfellows". The minute the Church starts talking about immigration policies or, worse, economic policies, it goes into the weeds.

The U.S. Bishops know as much about economics as they do about running a seminary.

But, more to the point, JPII was a truly great leader when it came to articulating the Church's role with regard to human rights, etc. He was just asleep at the wheel when it came to running the Church.

Charity begins at home, and I hope PBXVI focues on removing the plank from the Church's eye. By this, I mean just what I said above: we must keep our religious leadership religious.

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