The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church
Christian revelation . . . promotes deeper understanding of the laws of social living. The Church receives from the Gospel the full revelation of the truth about man. When she fulfills her mission of proclaiming the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and his vocation to the communion of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in conformity with divine wisdom.
The Church makes a moral judgment about economic and social matters, when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it. In the moral order she bears a mission distinct from that of political authorities: the Church is concerned with the temporal aspects of the common good because they are ordered to the sovereign Good, our ultimate end. She strives to inspire right attitudes with respect to earthly goods and in socio-economic relationships …
The Church’s social teaching comprises a body of doctrine, which is articulated as the Church interprets events in the course of history, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in the light of the whole of what has been revealed by Jesus Christ. This teaching can be more easily accepted by men of good will, the more the faithful let themselves be guided by it.
—Catechism of the Catholic Church
In a letter dated September 1, 2011, and distributed to Priests and Parish Life Coordinators, Bishop James V. Johnston issued “Norms Regarding Speakers, Awards, Political Activity, and Voter Education.” A copy of those norms are below, Only those materials, programs or resources listed as “approved” may be distributed (or presented) by church employees in any context or by anyone on church property, regarding the participation of Catholics in elections, politics, and public life.
Awards, Honors, and Invitation to Speakers
Any Catholic entity in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, and any boards / fundraising committees affiliated with them, shall not give awards or honors or host presentations, speaking opportunities or appearances by individuals or organizations whose public position is in opposition to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Due diligence in researching the appropriateness of a speaker or honoree is the responsibility of the sponsoring parish or organization.
Political Activity and Voter Education
Parishes and Church organizations may not endorse, give money or other resources (including offering exclusive use of parish controlled property or resources) to a candidate or political party. Only those programs or voter education materials listed below (or subsequently approved) may be distributed in parishes, schools or other entities of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Voter registration and “get out the vote” drives can be permissible if truly nonpartisan.
Parishes and Church organizations should avoid any participation in, or authorization of, the distribution of campaign literature or other voter education materials on their property. Political signs should not be placed on property owned or rented for official business by a parish or Church organization.
Issue advocacy campaigns may be permissible if the campaign is conducted in a nonpartisan manner and the position taken is consistent with Catholic teaching and the public policy positions of the Missouri Catholic Conference and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Approved Resources for Promoting Catholic Participation in Public Life
All documents approved by the various congregations of the Vatican as well as those approved or promulgated by the Popes or Ecumenical Councils of the Church. In particular, the following resources are recommended:
Caritas in Veritate (In Charity and Truth), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009
Deus Caritas Est, (God Is Love), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005
“The Participation of Catholics in Political Life,” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
“Catholics in Political Life,” Statement of the USCCB, June 2004
“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” See, http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org
The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, especially holy Eucharist, that charity toward God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth. Thus every layperson, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), Vatican Council II.)