The principal document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (“Light of the Nations”) addresses the laity in Chapter 4 with timeless wisdom for our political and social responsibilities. It says that since laity live in the secular world, they have a responsibility, a duty, to “remedy the customs and conditions” of it, rather than tolerate activities which are inducements to sin. Why? Because sin cannot bring about just societies.
People like to say we should keep our morals and politics separate, but that’s impossible. We have an obligation to favor the practice of virtue over vice in society, to “imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values.” This societal doctrine that societies should be built with no regard for religion is not a new idea, but Pope Paul VI warns in 1964, such a doctrine must be rejected. Human societies have always been shaped by religion, and the Church for all her history has led in influencing societies towards justice.*
Further, as Catholics we have rights and duties that belong to us as members of the Church, and although they are distinguished from our duties as members of society, we should strive to reconcile the two. We have to remember that everything we do in our domestic lives “must be guided by a Christian conscience.” Everything. In doing so, not only do we promote authentically just societies, we “better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God.” We open the doors of the Church wider with our message of peace.
Lumen Gentium says, “even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion.” As homemakers, educators, service providers, businessmen, and voters, we cannot separate our faith from anything else we do in life.
Or more simply — if faith isn’t everything, then it’s nothing.
It is urgent that we assert our dignity as People of God and let the harmony of our faith and our actions shine forth in all we do in our daily lives. This is our evangelical duty. Think about it: Human societies and governments serve the passing things of this world. The Church, however, is a divine society established by Christ, with a supernatural end as the Kingdom of Heaven. In turbulent political times, we must keep our eyes on the proper end of our life’s activities.
*Offered as a point of discussion on where just societies have progressed: Christianity originated in the geographical point at which the three continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe contact. The early missions reached just as much to the East as to the West, however the spread of Islam robbed Christianity in the Near East of much of its life and strength, and cut the Christian communities in India and Asia from the centers in Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor and, thus, to a great extent brought about their disappearance. From then, Christianity grew in Europe. (Paraphrased from Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Chapter 2 “Faith, Religion, and Culture” Section 2 “Is Christianity a European Religion?”, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)