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Very relevant. And each time I spend a few minutes reading from, say, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, I find plenty of material directly applicable to current events. For example:  

410. Those with political responsibilities must not forget or underestimate the moral dimension of political representation, which consists in the commitment to share fully in the destiny of the people and to seek solutions to social problems. In this perspective, responsible authority also means authority exercised with those virtues that make it possible to put power into practice as service (patience, modesty, moderation, charity, efforts to share), an authority exercised by persons who are able to accept the common good, and not prestige or the gaining of personal advantages, as the true goal of their work.

411. Among the deformities of the democratic system, political corruption is one of the most serious because it betrays at one and the same time both moral principles and the norms of social justice. It compromises the correct functioning of the State, having a negative influence on the relationship between those who govern and the governed. It causes a growing distrust with respect to public institutions, bringing about a progressive disaffection in the citizens with regard to politics and its representatives, with a resulting weakening of institutions. Corruption radically distorts the role of representative institutions, because they become an arena for political bartering between clients' requests and governmental services. In this way political choices favour the narrow objectives of those who possess the means to influence these choices and are an obstacle to bringing about the common good of all citizens.

412. As an instrument of the State, public administration at any level — national, regional, community — is oriented towards the service of citizens: “Being at the service of its citizens, the State is the steward of the people's resources, which it must administer with a view to the common good”. Excessive bureaucratization is contrary to this vision and arises when “institutions become complex in their organization and pretend to manage every area at hand. In the end they lose their effectiveness as a result of an impersonal functionalism, an overgrown bureaucracy, unjust private interests and an all-too-easy and generalized disengagement from a sense of duty”. The role of those working in public administration is not to be conceived as impersonal or bureaucratic, but rather as an act of generous assistance for citizens, undertaken with a spirit of service.

Anyone familiar with the current state of U.S. politics can make the connections. Rejection of modesty and moderation? Check. Abuse of prestige and use of power for personal advantages? Check. Political corruption? Check. Distrust of government by many citizens? Check. Political favoritism? Check. Attitude of superiority rather than attitude of service? Check. Excessive bureaucratization? Check.

Or how about this section on "information and democracy"?

414. 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. It is necessary to guarantee a real pluralism in this delicate area of social life, ensuring that there are many forms and instruments of information and communications. It is likewise necessary to facilitate conditions of equality in the possession and use of these instruments by means of appropriate laws. Among the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of the right to objectivity in information, special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups. This has dangerous effects for the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishments.

415. The media must be used to build up and sustain the human community in its different sectors: economic, political, cultural, educational and religious. “The information provided by the media is at the service of the common good. Society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice and solidarity”.

The essential question is whether the current information system is contributing to the betterment of the human person; that is, does it make people more spiritually mature, more aware of the dignity of their humanity, more responsible or more open to others, in particular to the neediest and the weakest. A further aspect of great importance is the requisite that new technologies respect legitimate cultural differences.

Does the media in our nation, on the whole, make "people more spiritually mature ... more responsible ...", etc.? If your answer is, "Yes", I'd like to hear your reasoning. Turns out that studying social doctrine can also make a person a bit despondent as well. The bottom line, however, is simply this: without personal virtue, no political system, culture, nation, or civilization can thrive, be humane, or foster goodness. Virtue is absolutely necessary, whether in a democracy or a monarchy. Or, in the words of the Compendium:

The Church, the sign in history of God's love for mankind and of the vocation of the whole human race to unity as children of the one Father, intends with this document on her social doctrine to propose to all men and women a humanism that is up to the standards of God's plan of love in history, an integral and solidary humanism capable of creating a new social, economic and political order, founded on the dignity and freedom of every human person, to be brought about in peace, justice and solidarity. This humanism can become a reality if individual men and women and their communities are able to cultivate moral and social virtues in themselves and spread them in society. (par 19).

 
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Carl E. Olson editor@catholicworldreport.com

Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight.
 
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