Catholic View of the Political Community (Part 3)
To continue with the building up of a genuine Catholic worldview regarding the nature and purpose of the Political Community- we move on with the authoritative teachings from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church Chapter 8.
In Paragraph 379, we begin to see how Jesus Christ relates to political authority and what kind of revolution he represents. What is interesting here for me is how Jesus sets up the proper balance of power between God and Caesar. We cannot put patriotism above religious conviction. The State has a business to run- so to speak- and so taxes and rule of law is necessary and even a good thing if the leadership is competent and takes on the proper attitude of what true leadership is all about. Service. Leaders are bound to serve the common good, not their own self-aggrandizement or the powerful interest groups. When they do this, they seem to be in line with Jesus’ teaching on rendering to God and to Caesar. Jesus does not say that Caesar’s realm is pure evil and good people should disdain or separate themselves from the political order. But Jesus also does not endear Himself to the ultra-patriotic Zealots, who have no patience with God’s ways- these are the ‘might makes right’ guys, and the ‘let’s go with what works’ pragmatists/consequentialists. In my reading here, Jesus is setting up something that fits quite nicely with the development of Catholic social doctrine. An orthodox Catholic should be able to avoid the “My Country Right or Wrong” abuse of patriotism, and also the various “Liberation Theologies” that seemingly turn the Good News of Jesus Christ – which is our liberation from sin- into a mostly political message of socio-political reforms/revolutions. Catholic social doctrine fulfills Jesus’ own example and message conveyed during his own volatile political era. Here is Paragraph 379 for your edification:
b. Jesus and political authority
379. Jesus refuses the oppressive and despotic power wielded by the rulers of the nations (cf. Mk 10:42) and rejects their pretension in having themselves called benefactors (cf. Lk 22:25), but he does not directly oppose the authorities of his time. In his pronouncement on the paying of taxes to Caesar (cf. Mk 12:13-17; Mt 22:15-22; Lk 20:20-26), he affirms that we must give to God what is God’s, implicitly condemning every attempt at making temporal power divine or absolute: God alone can demand everything from man. At the same time, temporal power has the right to its due: Jesus does not consider it unjust to pay taxes to Caesar.
Jesus, the promised Messiah, fought against and overcame the temptation of a political messianism, characterized by the subjection of the nations (cf. Mt 4:8-11; Lk 4:5-8). He is the Son of Man who came “to serve, and to give his life” (Mk 10:45; cf. Mt 20:24-28: Lk 22:24-27). As his disciples are discussing with one another who is the greatest, Jesus teaches them that they must make themselves least and the servants of all (cf. Mk 9:33- 35), showing to the sons of Zebedee, James and John, who wish to sit at His right hand, the path of the cross (cf. Mk 10:35-40; Mt 20:20-23).