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Christians at the heart of public life


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Rafael Domingo Oslé

Full Professor and head of the Chair Álvaro d'Ors of the ICS.

Throughout more than twenty centuries of history, and based on the experience of distinguished Christians, the Church has been developing a doctrine on the social participation of Christians in public life. 

This teaching is currently contained, among many other documents, in the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes of the Second Vatican Council (esp. nos. 23-32) and the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici of St. John Paul II. The Catechism of the Catholic Church(nos. 1897-1917) offers a wonderful synthesis of it all. 

The core of this doctrine can be summarized as follows: every Christian, through the fulfillment of his civic duties, must assume in conscience, with full freedom and responsibility staff, his own social commitment to animate the temporal order in a Christian way, respecting his own laws and autonomy. This willing duty of promote the common good through a voluntary and generous commitment is inherent to the dignity of the human person. 

Among the central issues affecting public life, the Church has always recalled the primacy of the person over society and the State, the preeminence of morality over law and politics, the defense of life from the moment of conception to its natural end, the centrality of the married family, the right and duty to work in dignified conditions; the right to health and the Education, private property with its social function as a necessity and guarantee of freedom in solidarity; the care of the planet as the common home of humanity, the need to develop a free, solidary and sustainable economic system, the construction of a just and stable peace through the establishment of an international community ordered by law.

A public life marked by secularism

Unfortunately, in the West, public life is far removed from the Christian principles that animated it at its birth and from the moral principles formulated by the natural law and the doctrine of the Church, which we have just outlined. This has been expressed by important thinkers such as Joseph Ratzinger, Charles Taylor, Jean-Luc Marion or Rémi Brague, among many others. 

Our era has been described as secular, postmodern, post-Christian, post-truth and transhumanist. And all these adjectives are correct, all of which respond to a common denominator: to live as if God did not exist and as if the human being had the right to take his place: homo deus

Our public spaces, especially in some countries such as France, have become completely secularized; religions have been relegated to the private sphere if not to that of intimacy; natural law is seriously questioned and even flatly rejected by some Christians (just think of Karl Barth's famous No!), metaphysical thinking has been replaced by weak and relativistic thinking, as this is considered the most suitable for an open and pluralistic society.

Moral conscience is treated as mere subjective certainty.

Political authority has been detached from any binding moral principle beyond human rights, which are no longer considered as natural requirements, but as products of human consensus, and therefore modifiable and extendable to the protection of acts contrary to nature.

Legal positivism stifles legal systems and suffocates citizens. 

The matrimonial family has become one of the many options within an offer that is already knocking at the door of polygamy as another way of family unity. Abortion has become a right, but an abortion as a right!

The right to Education is being trampled by the public authorities, who use it as an instrument of social indoctrination. 

A politically correct speech has become widespread, restricting freedom of expression and imposing ways of speaking and behaving even in the most liberal academic circles. There is constant pressure to live together according to ideological uniformity. 

The truth is considered a factory product that is produced in the laboratories of the powerful who only seek to dominate the world at any price. In the discussion of many modern and advanced democracies, the denial of truth coexists with the dictatorship of the majorities.

The result is the so-called culture of cancellation that has come to validate revenge as a political weapon. Populism is rampant in the public space. Meanwhile, the religious internship has fallen alarmingly.

Moreover, the physical persecution that Christians are suffering in the world is similar to that suffered by our brothers and sisters in the faith during the Roman imperial era. The annual report presented by the Open Doors organization states that the issue total number of Christians killed in 2022 was 5,621 and the issue total number of churches attacked under different levels of violence reached 2,110.

Christians committed to the truth

Thus, transforming public life today requires not only great ideas, but also and above all great people, exemplary and courageous Christians who are recognized in parliaments and public forums for their unwavering commitment to the truth, for their deep respect for all people regardless of the ideas they defend, for their ability to forgive seventy times seven, for their strong commitment to the poor and most needy, and for their outright rejection of any form of political corruption. 

Our times demand a handful of magnanimous citizens, authentically free, who ennoble the public space with their good deeds, turning it into a place of meeting with God and service to humanity.