Sunday, September 16, 2012

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen on Politics

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen on Politics

By Patti Maguire Armstrong, 9/8/2012

It’s campaign time again – a season of anxiety. Pro-lifers vote for life; something that trumps all else. Those defending a mother’s right to abort her unborn baby, get downright angry at the thought of candidates minding someone else’s business – the business being the life of a baby. Protecting traditional marriages labels one a hater. Then, the HHS Mandate has become a line in the sand that unites all bishops against politicians that seek to twist Catholic arms of business owners who refuse to minimize mortal sin.

At the core, it’s those who follow their religious convictions pitted against those who say religious beliefs have no place in politics.   Although it would seem to be a more modern argument, it has been around as long as Christianity has been.

Sheen: A Lesson on Politics

Regarding  religion and politics, I was recently taken aback while reading Characters of the Passion (Liguouri/Triumph), a book written by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen in 1947.  He takes a look at the characters that played a role in the Passion of Jesus Christ and relates them to our modern world.  No one today would call 1947 modern, but the lessons of the Passion held true in 1947 and still do today.

In Chapter 3, “Pilate: A Lesson on Political Power”, Sheen discussed public opinion as it relates to politics.    He stated, “Those who have their finger on the pulse of contemporary civilization have probably noted that there are two contradictory charges against religions today.  The first is that religion is not political enough; the other is that religion is too political.  On the one hand, the Church is blamed for being too divine, and on the other, for not being divine enough.  It is hated because it is too heavenly and hated because it is too earthly.”  Same old, same old.

Sheen portrayed the political/religious process as Jesus stood before the political Pontius Pilate and the religious Annas and Caiaphas.  Christ was accused of being too religious before Anna and Caiaphas.  Under the veil of mock indignation at the supposed insult to God’s majesty, Christ was declared too religious, too concerned with souls, too infallible and too Godly.  After all, they cornered him into declaring Himself to be God.

Sheen writes:

“Because He was too religious, He was not political enough.  The religious judges said that He had no concern for the fact that the Romans were their masters, and that they might take away their country (John 11:47-48). By talking about a spiritual kingdom, a higher moral law, and His divinity, and by becoming the leader of a spiritual crusade, He was accused of being indifferent to the needs of the people and nation’s well being.”


Likewise, pro-lifers are accused of being too religious.  Who are they to know the mind of God…to know when life really begins? We are accused of trying to force our religion on others, of being fanatics, of being downright dangerous to a free society.

Ultimately, Jesus was sent into the political arena, to Pontius Pilate. There, religious charges would not have prevailed.  So instead, he was accused of being too political. Jesus is charged with meddling in national affairs; that He was not patriotic enough.  “We have found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he is Christ the king” (Luke 23:2).

Sheen explained:

“And so throughout history, these two contradictory charges have been leveled against the Person of Christ in His Body the Church.  His Church was accused of not being political enough when it condemned Nazism and Fascism; it is accused of being too political when it condemns Communism. It is the second charge that needs specific consideration, namely, that the Church is interfering in politics.  Is this true?  It all depends upon what you mean by politics.  If by interference in politics is meant using influence to favor a particular regime, party, or system that respects the basic God–given rights and freedom of persons, the answer is emphatically No! The Church does not interfere in politics.  If by interference in politics is meant judging or condemning a philosophy of life that makes the party or state, or the class, or the race, the source of all rights, and that usurps the soul and enthrones party over conscience and denies those basic rights for which the war was fought, then answer is emphatically Yes! 

Read the rest here.

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