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Such laws must defend the basic right to life from conception to natural death. In the same way, it is necessary to recall the duty to respect and protect the rights of the human embryo. Analogously, the family needs to be safeguarded and promoted, based on monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, and protected in its unity and stability in the face of modern laws on divorce: in no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on the same level as marriage, nor can they receive legal recognition as such. The same is true for the freedom of parents regarding the education of their children; it is an inalienable right recognized also by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Certain pacifistic and ideological visions tend at times to secularize the value of peace, while, in other cases, there is the problem of summary ethical judgments which forget the complexity of the issues involved. Principles of Catholic doctrine on the autonomy of the temporal order and on pluralism. Moreover, it cannot be denied that politics must refer to principles of absolute value precisely because these are at the service of the dignity of the human person and of true human progress.

For Catholic moral doctrine, the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the Church — but not from that of morality — is a value that has been attained and recognized by the Catholic Church and belongs to inheritance of contemporary civilization.

The state must not interfere, nor in any way require or prohibit these activities, except when it is a question of public order. The right and duty of Catholics and all citizens to seek the truth with sincerity and to promote and defend, by legitimate means, moral truths concerning society, justice, freedom, respect for human life and the other rights of the person, is something quite different.

It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church. Instead, it intends — as is its proper function — to instruct and illuminate the consciences of the faithful, particularly those involved in political life, so that their actions may always serve the integral promotion of the human person and the common good.

The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries.


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The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity. In democratic societies, all proposals are freely discussed and examined. Those who, on the basis of respect for individual conscience, would view the moral duty of Christians to act according to their conscience as something that disqualifies them from political life, denying the legitimacy of their political involvement following from their convictions about the common good, would be guilty of a form of intolerant secularism.

Such a position would seek to deny not only any engagement of Christianity in public or political life, but even the possibility of natural ethics itself. Were this the case, the road would be open to moral anarchy, which would be anything but legitimate pluralism. The oppression of the weak by the strong would be the obvious consequence.

The marginalization of Christianity, moreover, would not bode well for the future of society or for consensus among peoples; indeed, it would threaten the very spiritual and cultural foundations of civilization. In recent years, there have been cases within some organizations founded on Catholic principles, in which support has been given to political forces or movements with positions contrary to the moral and social teaching of the Church on fundamental ethical questions. Such activities, in contradiction to basic principles of Christian conscience, are not compatible with membership in organizations or associations which define themselves as Catholic.

Similarly, some Catholic periodicals in certain countries have expressed perspectives on political choices that have been ambiguous or incorrect, by misinterpreting the idea of the political autonomy enjoyed by Catholics and by not taking into consideration the principles mentioned above. According to G.

Ulmen, translator of Roman Catholicism and Political Form, this book is important not only for its content, even more relevant at the end than at the beginning of this century, but also for its author, one of the 20th century's most seminal thinkers. While exploring and elaborating the meaning of "political theology" in Germany in the s, Carl Schmitt had occasion to address the question of the relation between Roman Catholicism and the modern--even post-modern--world.

As Schmitt saw it, the state, as the principal agent of secularization and the supreme accomplishment of occidental rationalism, was the core institution of the modern world, which lasted from the 16th to the end of the 19th century, when the assumptions and concepts of the jus publicum Europaeum and the Eurocentric epoch of world history began to decline. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were a period of enormous political flux, with contending rulers like the Kingdoms of Venad later Travancore , Cochin, the Pandyas, the Nayak of Madurai, and the Zamorin of Calicut seeking to control both the pearl trade and populations associated with it, and enlisting Portuguese support in this.

The Paravars converted in in exchange for Portuguese protection of their independence in the pearl trade Bayly , Schurhammer , Fernando , while access to the Mukkuvars was enabled by Portuguese support for the Venad king against the Pandyas in Narchison et al Other pre-Christian traditions endured such as the pulling of a decorated chariot for the feast days of the church, as in a temple festival; and caste histories and oral traditions which relate the Paravars and their rituals to the great Hindu temples of southern Tamil Nadu Bayly The question of caste hierarchies was contentious from the very beginning.

Influential priests such as Robert de Nobili took the position that the maintenance of caste separation having different churches for different castes, or serving them mass at different times was necessary for the survival and spread of the Church in the region and had no religious implications.

This received papal assent in the early s, while later Popes overturned it as a religious sacrilege. In practice, separate churches were constructed for the inland Nadars and the coastal Mukkuvars and Paravars; in some churches a wall was erected to separate seating areas for the higher and lower castes Roche , Subramanian The Roman Church had been allowed by the Raja of Venad to arbitrate in civil and criminal matters for its members. Xavier and subsequent missionaries used the village leaders as a kind of moral police against drunkenness, adultery, idolatry, and other transgressions.

The missionaries also introduced new structures of administration, appointing a judge and a policeman in every village, and themselves adjudicating more serious cases Thekkedath Lay involvement in running the parish and in ministry was solicited from the outset to make up for the shortage of priests; the first pious association, the Confraternity of Charity, was set up some twenty years after the Paravar conversions Thekkedath Although the kings of Venad, Quilon and Cochin contributed to the erection of churches in their territory, and for a while to their maintenance, and the Portuguese Governor during Xavier's time paid an annual sum to support the missionaries Schurhammer , Xavier n.

A variety of levies were imposed, to the extent that the Portuguese priests were commonly referred to as kuthagaikkara samigal [levy-priests] Sivasubramanian By the s the Jesuits found that caste notables could decide what sacraments each family was permitted Bayly In the Jesuits' campaign to regain control over these decisions, they drew on the support of disaffected mejaikarar [white-collar] families, and even kamarakarrar [fishing] families who had grown rich on trade but did not have ceremonial status in the village.

But the leading families were likewise able to retaliate by exploiting the schisms within the Church, threatening to shift to new affiliations like the Protestant London Missionary Society, 3 or even threatening to leave the fold Bayly In other cases, the less powerful villagers also organised against the hierarchy, including the parish priest, using allegations of financial or moral corruption to call on the Bishop to replace their priest, threatening conversion if he failed to do so.

The Church was one of the few avenues for social mobility in the villages and many Mukkuvars became clergy. The new diocese moved rapidly to reform some of the most hated elements of Church governance in the villages, and with more limited success, to strengthen a more doctrinal Catholicism against the forms of popular devotion that were central to religious practice in the region, such as shrines to St. Antony and other saints to cure possession and other ailments.

One of the earliest reforms was to the kuthagai system of revenue generation for the coastal parishes, based entirely on levies on the fishery. Following sustained campaigns by fishing families, intra-village divisions between pro- and anti-levy factions, and the conversion by a group of anti-levy Paravar to Hinduism Sivasubramanian , the diocese eventually took steps to curb expenditure and redistribute levies to all village residents Villavarayan However, secularism as the increasing desacralisation of life remained a powerful aspiration for modernising leaders like Nehru.

This posed new challenges for the Indian Church, given that opposition to secularisation was a key principle of the Church's involvement in politics across the world, along with opposition to communism Houtart In the second general elections in , for example, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India CBCI issued a statement which was read in all churches, asking Catholic electors not to support candidates who were against religion, morality, and the sanctity of family life. In the following elections too, Catholics were asked by the Tamil Bishops not to vote for the communists or the social reformist Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam DMK , as both were opposed to religion.

In general, the Catholic Church in Tamil Nadu was, for the first decades after independence, explicitly in favour of the Indian National Congress Narchison et al , It also expanded its long-standing work in education and health in this period, cooperating with the government in these areas Wilfred Historically, society, Church, and state were considered organically interlinked, with political authority seen as ultimately derived from God. The Vatican II documents express an acceptance of religious, social, and political pluralism, a constitutional state, and the principle of freedom of the Church in society Hehir The result of Vatican II at the national and local level was greater lay participation, both in parochial administration and in the liturgy.

This was to be facilitated by new structures of administration, such as the Parish Councils, and new pastoral strategies, such as the Basic Ecclesiastical Communities. In addition, there was new theological reflection, best known in the Liberation Theology of Latin America, but also elsewhere, as in the Contextual Theology of South Africa Lehmann 49, Littwin The idea of social ministry — the understanding that the work of the Church is the defence of the person — became central. This was to be performed, not through direct political involvement, as in the standing of clergy or religious for office, but through social activism.

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An Indian theology of liberation emerged from theologians such as George Soares-Prabhu , M. Thomas 4 , and Sebastian Kappen Kappen It was cross-pollinated by Gandhian tropes of indigenous development; in the early s by the ideas of Naxalbari and the Jayaprakash Nararyan movement, both of which challenged, albeit in different ways, the class bias of the Indian development model; and by the emergence of a voluntary sector Shah Here, the true community of Christ, if it was to offer the promise of transforming social structures, must necessarily be larger than the Christian community.

His efforts led to the formation of the Kottar Social Service Society KSSS in , which over the decades took up numerous activities, such as a community health development project, cottage industries, and cooperatives for fishermen and farmers. The churches he helped build in the small, remote inland communities in which he served as parish priest in the s were the first and still the only local churches in the Dravidian style, rather than the standard pseudo-Gothic Collins Leading diocesan priests expressed a growing sense that even developmental works might not be radical enough:.

The developmental works of KSSS, commendable though in themselves, are they not still becoming unwittingly agents of alienation? Do they not deflect the Church from raising fundamental questions about the condition of the society and the structures of injustice at work?

The strength of the developmental work can well become the weakness of the Church in Kottar, in the sense that they can make the Church insensitive to the real causes of poverty and underdevelopment and blunt the Christian conscience of its social responsibility. They can make us forget that as Church we are called upon to be catalysts and agents of change in society. This responsibility of every Christian cannot be simply delegated to a developmental organization. Narchison et al A pastoral letter issued by Bishop M. Arokiaswamy in April traces the problems of the people to the unjust socio-economic structures of feudalism and capitalism and speaks of the danger that religion might legitimise them.

Strategies that involve violence are not condemned out of hand; rather, structures that oppress people are seen as violent in themselves. The action plan calls for priests and lay people to work together as equals, and for youth and women to be involved.

Carl Schmitt

Political awareness and involvement is seen as a Christian duty, the priests being responsible for fostering it among the laity. This was reflected in the Indian Church, which also exercised greater caution about questions of social justice, a greater emphasis on spirituality, and a re-separation of the notions of development and evangelisation. Even prior to this retreat, the CBCI had maintained silence, and even tacit support for the Emergency , perhaps necessary and inevitable for a minority institution; it spoke out only against the compulsory sterilisations carried out by state agencies in this period.

Despite the overall retreat from more radical positions, the commissions departments established in this period, such as the Labour Commission, and the Committee for Social Welfare, continued to take strong stands on social justice. Rather, their influence appears to have been due to the leadership of key Bishops and other clergy. However, insofar as there was a clear shift away from liberationist positions by the end of the nineties, the impetus for this was not the outcome of internal contestation, but of shifts in the global Church, and, importantly, of the need to respond to external threats: the rise of Hindu nationalism as a significant political force, and the growing popularity of Protestant Evangelical Churches, even among the Catholic masses.

One response, which may have succeeded in arresting the spread of these churches, was the charismatic movement within the Catholic Church encouraged under Pope John Paul II; its prayer meetings resemble those of the Evangelical movement, with elements such as catchy music, prophetic preaching, and collective cathartic participation. Relations between the Catholic fishing communities and their Hindu and Muslim neighbours had not been markedly conflicting.

Of the 66 incidents of conflict recorded since in the police stations covering half the fishing villages, only 21 were between the Christian fishing communities and Hindu or Muslim communities.

Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life

While there were no subsequent incidents of similar scale in the district, smaller incidents continued to occur, such as the destruction of a church in Indian Express , Kottar Newsletter For instance, in the mids, when expressing frustration with the local priest, or the diocese more generally, more than one fisherman voiced to me in private a threat usually rhetorical to convert; such a conversion of a few families did take place in the neighbouring diocese Fishing Chimes, More significantly, in , Catholic trawler owners voted as a group for the BJP, upset that the radical politics of the diocesan Church had led it to favour the small-scale artisanal fishermen over them in their conflicts over space and catch Subramanian These included establishing elite educational and medical institutions, and development work, which now consisted increasingly of microcredit groups for women and various kinds of training programs around health, hygiene, or computer literacy.

The parish priests embody this dual relationship, for they are functionaries of the Church, and also frequently themselves come from the coastal villages. The or so diocesan clergy are drawn from the district's Catholic castes: Nadar, Paravar, and Mukkuvar. Although the inland Nadar priests appointed to coastal parishes are commonly said to have a harder time than Mukkuvar or Paravar priests, virtually every priest regardless of caste had his critics in the village.

Rude jokes about their soft hands and clean-shaven faces in a region where manliness presumes a moustache , and rumours rarely substantiated of financial corruption, or intimacy with women, were in constant circulation. The youth wanted dynamic priests with new ideas.