The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has published a a note concerning the duties of Catholics when participating in politics in democracies. (Catholic World News, subscription required)
In a strongly worded new document on the political responsibilities of the Catholic faithful, the Vatican has emphasized that believers can never legitimately give their support to policies that violate fundamental moral principles or the natural law. ... In public life, the Vatican document states, Catholics have the “legitimate freedom” to pursue any policy that is “compatible with the faith and the natural moral law.” Thus different Catholic activists might pursue radically different approaches to various public issues.
However, there are some issues on which a Christian cannot compromise his moral principles, the Note observes. The Church does not dictate the political preferences of the faithful, but the magisterium does seek to form the consciences of believers, so that they recognize the unchanging principles of moral law. The document continues: “a well formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.”
In other words, while there is a lot of leeway in applying Catholic teaching to the political ordering and governance of society, there are some things which are always impermissible. The document also goes on to say that requiring Catholics to follow the Church’s teachings in political decisions does not violate the religious freedom or valid plurality of secular nations. It says that the fact that the Catholic Church teaches some moral precepts does not make them sectarian, but only means that they prescind from the natural law, that is the law written on the hearts of men.
To read more complete excerpts of the document, click on the “...More” link at the bottom of this post.