December 7, 2000
volume 11, no. 254


The Commandments of God
sixteenth segment

The Fourth Commandment
part four:

Civic Duties

    Among the civic duties is that of voting. All who are granted this right should exercise it. They must not prostitute their right, but use it justly for the good of all. It is the duty of every citizen to be loyal to his country, to support its institutions, and to respect its laws and its flag. A good Catholic is a good citizen.

    A citizen must love his country, be sincerely interested in its welfare, and respect and obey its lawful authority. God gave us our country, and we show Him our gratitude by rendering it our love and service. Love is shown not by words, but by actions. But true love of country is always subject to the law of Him who gave us our country.

    A citizen shows a sincere interest in his country's welfare by voting honestly and without selfish motives, by paying just taxes, and by defending his country's rights when necessary. We are responsible to God for the men we elect to office, for He has permitted us to have the right and duty to select the men we want. Every one who has the right to vote has likewise a serious obligation to use that right properly. Sadly, some in Florida didn't take this serious obligation seriously until after they had voted, whining because the man they wanted and, because of that, insisted on a recount. It isn't a recount, but a recast of votes to favor their man. That is another reason the Electoral College was established by the Founding Fathers, to protect the rights of all. Electors must choose men of experience and Christian principles. If we elect men with no religious principles, we should not be surprised if later in office they turn out unsatisfactory. We have seen this over the past eight years with a flaunting of the law of the land, a flaunting of respect for the Ten Commandments and an administration that has passed regulations and legislation that fly in the face of God's Laws.

    It is wrong to sell one's vote; it is selling one's convictions. Persons who buy votes are not likely to use the office they might thereby gain for the good of anyone else but themselves. Every Catholic who has the right to vote should exercise that right. Matters closely connected with the life of the people are the constant subject of legislation or debate. Even if your vote does not enable the good candidate to win, at least it will lessen the margin of his defeat. A Catholic elector who gives his vote to a candidate hostile to the Church, or be abstaining from voting contributes towards the success of such a candidate, has much to answer for. We have reiterated this constantly in the DAILY CATHOLIC during the months leading up to the election and yet 50% of the Catholic voters voted for a candidate hostile to the Church.

    It is the Catholic voter's duty to vote for candidates that will act justly in questions of morals, and have the Christian principles at heart. That is another reason we so staunchly endorsed the candidate that would uphold the Sanctity of Life. It is not a political issue, but rather a moral one. Those who do not have the right to vote, such as children, ought to pray for a result in the election favorable to upright men and the country in general.

    A Catholic elector must not vote for any candidate who despises the teachings of the Church. Before voting, he should find out the candidate's views of education, marriage, observance of Sunday, etc. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops published two documents - "Living the Gospel of Life" in emphasizing the excellent encyclical by His Holiness Pope John Paul II Evangelium Vitae, and a guide to issues entitled "Faithful Citizenship" which, though weak in truly delineating black and white, still earmarked which candidate was Pro-Life and which was Pro-Abort. Yet many pastors and parishioners neglected these guidelines and aids and, in effect, turned their backs on the teachings of the Church.

    It may happen that all the candidates for an office are indifferent or hostile to religion. In that case, if no other candidate can be made available, the Catholic should vote for the one less hostile to Christian principles, most moral in his qualities. The Holy Father emphasized this in his encyclical "The Gospel of Life."

    We are bound to contribute towards the expenses of government by paying taxes. It is wrong to cheat the State in the matter of taxation. It is only just that the citizens should contribute towards the maintenance of peace, order, good works, the army, etc. Our Lord Himself paid taxes (cf. Matthew 17:26). It is only just that we should help support the government that secures us protection.

    In case of a just war, men should be ready to render military service for the defense of their country. A war of conquest in which the just rights of other peoples are overridden is not just. Those who during wartime offer their lives for the defense of their homeland will receive an eternal reward if they are in God's grace.

    We must respect and obey the lawful authority of our country because it comes from God, the Source of all authority. God has entrusted the maintenance of peace and order in human society to the secular authorities. It is His will that among so many some should rule and the others be subject to that rule, for law and order. "By God kings reign and lawgivers decree just things" (Proverbs 8:15).
"There exists no authority except from God" (Romans 13:1).
"Be subject…whether to the king as supreme, or to governors as sent through him…for such is the will of God" (1Peter 2:13-15).

    Our civil rulers or superiors are those who have authority in the government. We call them civil officials. Most of our officials obtain their offices by the vote of qualified electors. Therefore if we get a bad government, it is our own fault. Our civil officials are the President, Senators, Representatives, Justices of the Supreme Court and other judges, governors, mayors, etc. Others, such as sheriffs, policemen, etc. are also civil officials.

    We should be loyal to our civil officials, obey their just laws, and pray for them. We are bound to obey just laws, because all lawful authority comes from God. (cf. Romans 13: 1-7). We are not bound to obey unjust and wicked laws. Laws contrary to divine law, opposed to the law of God, cannot be just. If, therefore, we are commanded to do what God forbids, or to desist from doing what He commands, we "must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). This conflict between civil law and the moral law was also reinforced by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Divini Redemptoris (1937), by Blessed Pope John XXIII in his encyclical Pacem in Terris (II, loc cit. 271) and John Paul II, who proclaimed in Evangelium Vitae 1995, p.73: "In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.'"

    We should pray for our civil superiors, as Saint Paul urges us: "I urge therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings, and for all in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all piety and worthy behavior" ( 1 Timothy 2: 1-2). We have a serious obligation towards our civil officials even if they are not the ones that we voted for, providing they follow the moral law. If God permitted them to obtain the post, we must render them support. If we oppose them because of the moral law, then, like Jesus, we must be willing to give our lives for this principle as well.

    It is a sin to plot against our government and country. Treason is a crime against God and our fellowmen. We are bound to love our country and defend it against all its enemies, within and without. "Therefore he who resists the authority resists the ordinance of God; and they that resist bring on themselves condemnation" (Romans 13:2). However, we must remember the order of priority, God and country; not country, then God.

    We are obliged to take an active part in works of good citizenship, because right reason requires citizens to work together for the public welfare of the country. The citizens of a State are mutually dependent: the welfare of all depends on the active contribution made by all. A country is like an anthill: all the members should be working, to increase the food store, to protect the hill from the weather and from enemies, etc. Those who take no interest in the work of the nation are dead weights that the others must bear; they contribute nothing to the welfare of the country in which they life. It is in a State where the citizens have no interest that evil men get into the public service in order to loot it, and enrich themselves at the expense of the public. This has happened all to often and we need to remember that our country was founded on the rights given not by the state, or the federal government, but by God that "all men are created equal with the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Next Thursday: The Fifth Commandment - "Thou shalt not kill"

December 7, 2000
volume 11, no. 254

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