CST4 Politics, International Community and Globalisation


Jesus and political authority

"Jesus refuses the oppressive and despotic power wielded by the rulers of the nations (cf. Mk 10:42) and rejects their pretension in having themselves called benefactors (cf. Lk 22:25), but he does not directly oppose the authorities of his time. In his pronouncement on the paying of taxes to Caesar (cf. Mk 12:13-17; Mt 22:15-22; Lk 20:20-26), he affirms that we must give to God what is God's, implicitly condemning every attempt at making temporal power divine or absolute: God alone can demand everything from man. At the same time, temporal power has the right to its due: Jesus does not consider it unjust to pay taxes to Caesar." (CSDC 379)

The early Christian communities

"Submission, not passive but “for the sake of conscience” (Rom 13:5), to legitimate authority responds to the order established by God. Saint Peter exhorts Christians to “be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution” (1 Pet 2:13). It concerns free and responsible obedience to an authority that causes justice to be respected, ensuring the common good." (CSDC 380) "When human authority goes beyond the limits willed by God, it makes itself a deity and demands absolute submission; it becomes the Beast of the Apocalypse, an image of the power of the imperial persecutor “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev 17:6). Before such a power, Saint John suggests the resistance of the martyrs; in this way, believers bear witness that corrupt and satanic power is defeated, because it no longer has any authority over them. " (CSDC 382) "The Church proclaims that Christ, the conqueror of death, reigns over the universe that he himself has redeemed. His kingdom includes even the present times and will end only when everything is handed over to the Father and human history is brought to completion in the final judgment (cf. 1 Cor 15:20-28). " (CSDC 383)


The human person is the foundation and purpose of political life

"The human person is the foundation and purpose of political life.[775] The political community, a reality inherent in mankind, exists to achieve an end otherwise unobtainable: the full growth of each of its members, called to cooperate steadfastly for the attainment of the common good,[779] under the impulse of their natural inclinations towards what is true and good." (CSDC 384)

Human society must primarily be considered something spiritual

“Human society must primarily be considered something pertaining to the spiritual. Through it, in the bright light of truth men should share their knowledge, be able to exercise their rights and fulfil their obligations, be inspired to seek spiritual values, mutually derive genuine pleasure from beauty of whatever order it be, always be readily disposed to pass on to others the best of their own cultural heritage and eagerly strive to make their own the spiritual achievements of others." (CSDC 386)


"For every people there is in general a corresponding nation, but for various reasons national boundaries do not always coincide with ethnic boundaries.[784] Thus the question of minorities arises, which has historically been the cause of more than just a few conflicts. The Magisterium affirms that minorities constitute groups with precise rights and duties, most of all, the right to exist, which “can be ignored in many ways, including such extreme cases as its denial through overt or indirect forms of genocide”.[785] Moreover, minorities have the right to maintain their culture, including their language, and to maintain their religious beliefs, including worship services. " (CSDC 387)

Defending and promoting human rights

"Considering the human person as the foundation and purpose of the political community means in the first place working to recognize and respect human dignity through defending and promoting fundamental and inalienable human rights." (CSDC 388)

Social life based on civil friendship

"The profound meaning of civil and political life does not arise immediately from the list of personal rights and duties. Life in society takes on all its significance when it is based on civil friendship and on fraternity.[790] The sphere of friendship, on the other hand, is that selflessness, detachment from material goods, giving freely and inner acceptance of the needs of others.[791] Civil friendship [792] understood in this way is the most genuine actualization of the principle of fraternity, which is inseparable from that of freedom and equality.[793] In large part, this principle has not been put into practice in the concrete circumstances of modern political society, above all because of the influence of individualistic and collectivistic ideologies." (CSDC 390)

"A community has solid foundations when it tends toward the integral promotion of the person and of the common good. In such cases, law is defined, respected and lived according to the manner of solidarity and dedication towards one's neighbour. Justice requires that everyone should be able to enjoy their own goods and rights; this can be considered the minimum measure of love.[794] Social life becomes more human the more it is characterized by efforts to bring about a more mature awareness of the ideal towards which it should be oriented, which is the “civilization of love”.[795]… The human person, in fact, although participating actively in projects designed to satisfy his needs within the family and within civil and political society, does not find complete self-fulfilment until he moves beyond the mentality of needs and enters into that of gratuitousness and gift, which fully corresponds to his essence and community vocation." (CSDC 391)

"The gospel precept of charity enlightens Christians as to the deepest meaning of political life. In order to make it truly human, “no better way exists ... than by fostering an inner sense of justice, benevolence and service for the common good, and by strengthening basic beliefs about the true nature of the political community and about the proper exercise and limits of public authority”.[798] The goal which believers must put before themselves is that of establishing community relationships among people. The Christian vision of political society places paramount importance on the value of community, both as a model for organizing life in society and as a style of everyday living." (CSDC 392)


The foundation of political authority

God is the author of political authority.

“Since God made men social by nature, and since no society can hold together unless some one be over all, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good, every civilized community must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its author" (CSDC 393)

Political authority must follow subsidiarity and attain the common good.

"Political authority must guarantee an ordered and upright community life without usurping the free activity of individuals and groups but disciplining and orienting this freedom, by respecting and defending the independence of the individual and social subjects, for the attainment of the common good. " (CSDC 394)

Political authority is answerable to the people

"The subject of political authority is the people considered in its entirety as those who have sovereignty. In various forms, this people transfers the exercise of sovereignty to those whom it freely elects as its representatives, but it preserves the prerogative to assert this sovereignty in evaluating the work of those charged with governing and also in replacing them when they do not fulfil their functions satisfactorily.” (CSDC 395)

A democratic government guarantees the sovereignty of the people

“Although this right is operative in every State and in every kind of political regime, a democratic form of government, due to its procedures for verification, allows and guarantees its fullest application.[803] The mere consent of the people is not, however, sufficient for considering “just” the ways in which political authority is exercised." (CSDC 395)

Authority as moral force

"Authority must be guided by the moral law. All of its dignity derives from its being exercised within the context of the moral order,[804] “which in turn has God for its first source and final end”.[805] Because of its necessary reference to the moral order, which precedes it and is its basis, and because of its purpose and the people to whom it is directed, authority cannot be understood as a power determined by criteria of a solely sociological or historical character. “There are some indeed who go so far as to deny the existence of a moral order which is transcendent, absolute, universal and equally binding upon all. And where the same law of justice is not adhered to by all, men cannot hope to come to open and full agreement on vital issues”.[806] This order “has no existence except in God; cut off from God it must necessarily disintegrate”.[807] It is from the moral order that authority derives its power to impose obligations [808] and its moral legitimacy,[809] not from some arbitrary will or from the thirst for power,[810] and it is to translate this order into concrete actions to achieve the common good.[811]" (CSDC 396) "Authority must recognize, respect and promote essential human and moral values. …If, as a result of the tragic clouding of the collective conscience, scepticism were to succeed in casting doubt on the basic principles of the moral law,[814] the legal structure of the State itself would be shaken to its very foundations, being reduced to nothing more than a mechanism for the pragmatic regulation of different and opposing interests.[815]" (CSDC 397)

Political authority which does not follow the moral law is illegitimate

"Authority must enact just laws, that is, laws that correspond to the dignity of the human person and to what is required by right reason. “Human law is law insofar as it corresponds to right reason and therefore is derived from the eternal law. When, however, a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; in such a case it ceases to be law and becomes instead an act of violence”.[816] Authority that governs according to reason places citizens in a relationship not so much of subjection to another person as of obedience to the moral order and, therefore, to God himself who is its ultimate source.[817] Whoever refuses to obey an authority that is acting in accordance with the moral order “resists what God has appointed” (Rom 13:2).[818] Analogously, whenever public authority — which has its foundation in human nature and belongs to the order pre-ordained by God [819] — fails to seek the common good, it abandons its proper purpose and so delegitimizes itself." (CSDC 398)

The right to conscientious objection

 "Citizens are not obligated in conscience to follow the prescriptions of civil authorities if their precepts are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or to the teachings of the Gospel.[820] It is a grave duty of conscience not to cooperate, not even formally, in practices which, although permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to the Law of God. " (CSDC 399)

The right to resist

"Recognizing that natural law is the basis for and places limits on positive law means admitting that it is legitimate to resist authority should it violate in a serious or repeated manner the essential principles of natural law. Saint Thomas Aquinas writes that “one is obliged to obey ... insofar as it is required by the order of justice”.[823] Natural law is therefore the basis of the right to resistance. There can be many different concrete ways this right may be exercised; there are also many different ends that may be pursued. Resistance to authority is meant to attest to the validity of a different way of looking at things, whether the intent is to achieve partial change, for example, modifying certain laws, or to fight for a radical change in the situation." (CSDC 400) "The Church's social doctrine indicates the criteria for exercising the right to resistance." (CSDC 401)

Inflicting punishment

"In order to protect the common good, the lawful public authority must exercise the right and the duty to inflict punishments according to the seriousness of the crimes committed[827]. " (CSDC 402) "Punishment does not serve merely the purpose of defending the public order and guaranteeing the safety of persons; it becomes as well an instrument for the correction of the offender, a correction that also takes on the moral value of expiation when the guilty party voluntarily accepts his punishment.[829] …Nonetheless, the environment of penal institutions offers a privileged forum for bearing witness once more to Christian concern for social issues: “I was ... in prison and you came to me” (Mt 25:35-36)." (CSDC 403) "The Church sees as a sign of hope “a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of ‘legitimate defence' on the part of society. … The growing number of countries adopting provisions to abolish the death penalty or suspend its application is also proof of the fact that cases in which it is absolutely necessary to execute the offender “are very rare, if not practically non-existent”.[836] " (CSDC 405)


"The Encyclical Centesimus Annus contains an explicit and articulate judgment with regard to democracy: “The Church values the democratic system … Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person." (CSDC 406)

Values and democracy

"An authentic democracy is not merely the result of a formal observation of a set of rules but is the fruit of a convinced acceptance of the values that inspire democratic procedures: the dignity of every human person, the respect of human rights, commitment to the common good as the purpose and guiding criterion for political life. If there is no general consensus on these values, the deepest meaning of democracy is lost and its stability is compromised.  The Church's social doctrine sees ethical relativism, which maintains that there are no objective or universal criteria for establishing the foundations of a correct hierarchy of values, as one of the greatest threats to modern-day democracies. " (CSDC 407)

Institutions and democracy

"The Magisterium recognizes the validity of the principle concerning the division of powers in a State: “it is preferable that each power be balanced by other powers and by other spheres of responsibility which keep it within proper bounds. This is the principle of the ‘rule of law', in which the law is sovereign, and not the arbitrary will of individuals”.[840] In the democratic system, political authority is accountable to the people. " (CSDC 408)

Moral components of political representation

"Among the deformities of the democratic system, political corruption is one of the most serious [843] because it betrays at one and the same time both moral principles and the norms of social justice. " (CSDC 411) "As an instrument of the State, public administration at any level — national, regional, community — is oriented towards the service of citizens: " (CSDC 412)

Instruments for political participation

"Political parties have the task of fostering widespread participation and making public responsibilities accessible to all." (CSDC 413)

Information and democracy

"Information is among the principal instruments of democratic participation. " (CSDC 414) "The media must be used to build up and sustain the human community in its different sectors: economic, political, cultural, educational and religious.[848] The essential question is whether the current information system is contributing to the betterment of the human person; that is, does it make people more spiritually mature, more aware of the dignity of their humanity, more responsible or more open to others, in particular to the neediest and the weakest. " (CSDC 415)


Value of civil society

"The political community is established to be of service to civil society, from which it originates. The Church's commitment on behalf of social pluralism aims at bringing about a more fitting attainment of the common good and democracy itself, according to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and justice. Civil society is the sum of relationships and resources, cultural and associative, that are relatively independent from the political sphere and the economic sector. “The purpose of civil society is universal, since it concerns the common good, to which each and every citizen has a right in due proportion”.[853] This is marked by a planning capacity that aims at fostering a freer and more just social life, in which the various groups of citizens can form associations, working to develop and express their preferences, in order to meet their fundamental needs and defend their legitimate interests." (CSDC 417)

Priority of civil society over the political community

"The political community and civil society, although mutually connected and interdependent, are not equal in the hierarchy of ends. The political community is essentially at the service of civil society and, in the final analysis, the persons and groups of which civil society is composed.[854] Civil society, therefore, cannot be considered an extension or a changing component of the political community; rather, it has priority because it is in civil society itself that the political community finds its justification." (CSDC 418)

Application of the principle of subsidiarity

"The political community is responsible for regulating its relations with civil society according to the principle of subsidiarity.[855] It is essential that the growth of democratic life begin within the fabric of society.” (CSDC 419)

Volunteer work fosters solidarity and cooperation

The activities of civil society — above all volunteer organizations and cooperative endeavours in the private-social sector, all of which are succinctly known as the “third sector”, to distinquish from the State and the market — represent the most appropriate ways to develop the social dimension of the person, who finds in these activities the necessary space to express himself fully. " (CSDC 419) "Cooperation, even in its less structured forms, shows itself to be one of the most effective responses to a mentality of conflict and unlimited competition that seems so prevalent today. …Many experiences of volunteer work are examples of great value that call people to look upon civil society as a place where it is possible to rebuild a public ethic based on solidarity, concrete cooperation and fraternal dialogue. All are called to look with confidence to the potentialities that thus present themselves and to lend their own personal efforts for the good of the community in general and, in particular, for the good of the weakest and the neediest. In this way, the principle of the “subjectivity of society” is also affirmed.[856]" (CSDC 420)



"The Second Vatican Council committed the Catholic Church to the promotion of religious freedom. The Declaration Dignitatis Humanae explains in its subtitle that it intends to proclaim “the right of the person and of communities to social and civil freedom in religious matters”. In order that this freedom, willed by God and inscribed in human nature, may be exercised, no obstacle should be placed in its way, since “the truth cannot be imposed except by virtue of its own truth”.[857] The dignity of the person and the very nature of the quest for God require that all men and women should be free from every constraint in the area of religion.[858] Society and the State must not force a person to act against his conscience or prevent him from acting in conformity with it.[859] Religious freedom is not a moral licence to adhere to error, nor as an implicit right to error.[860]" (CSDC 421) "Freedom of conscience and religion “concerns man both individually and socially”.[861] The right to religious freedom must be recognized in the juridical order and sanctioned as a civil right; [862] nonetheless, it is not of itself an unlimited right. The just limits of the exercise of religious freedom must be determined in each social situation with political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority through legal norms consistent with the objective moral order." (CSDC 422) "Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups.[864]" (CSDC 423)


"Although the Church and the political community both manifest themselves in visible organizational structures, they are by nature different because of their configuration and because of the ends they pursue. The Second Vatican Council solemnly reaffirmed that, “in their proper spheres, the political community and the Church are mutually independent and self-governing”.[867] For her part, the Church has no particular area of competence concerning the structures of the political community: “The Church respects the legitimate autonomy of the democratic order and is not entitled to express preferences for this or that institutional or constitutional solution”,[868] nor does it belong to her to enter into questions of the merit of political programmes, except as concerns their religious or moral implications. " (CSDC 424) "The mutual autonomy of the Church and the political community does not entail a separation that excludes cooperation. " (CSDC 425) "The Church has the right to the legal recognition of her proper identity." (CSDC 426)



"The biblical accounts of creation bring out the unity of the human family and teach that the God of Israel is the Lord of history and of the cosmos. " (CSDC 428) "The Lord Jesus is the prototype and foundation of the new humanity. Thanks to the Spirit, the Church is aware of the divine plan of unity that involves the entire human race (cf. Acts 17:26), a plan destined to reunite in the mystery of salvation wrought under the saving Lordship of Christ (cf. Eph 1:8-10) all of created reality, which is fragmented and scattered." (CSDC 431) "The Christian message offers a universal vision of the life of men and peoples on earth [874] that makes us realize the unity of the human family.[875] “The unity of the human family has always existed, because its members are human beings all equal by virtue of their natural dignity. Hence there will always exist the objective need to promote, in sufficient measure, the universal common good, which is the common good of the entire human family”.[879]" (CSDC 432)


The international community and values

"The centrality of the human person and the natural inclination of persons and peoples to establish relationships among themselves are the fundamental elements for building a true international community, the ordering of which must aim at guaranteeing the effective universal common good.[880] …In particular, any theory or form whatsoever of racism and racial discrimination is morally unacceptable.[881] The coexistence among nations is based on the same values that should guide relations among human beings: truth, justice, active solidarity and freedom.[882] The Church's teaching, with regard to the constitutive principles of the international community, requires that relations among peoples and political communities be justly regulated according to the principles of reason, equity, law and negotiation, excluding recourse to violence and war, as well as to forms of discrimination, intimidation and deceit.[883]" (CSDC 433) "International law becomes the guarantor of the international order,[884] The international community is a juridical community founded on the sovereignty of each member State, without bonds of subordination that deny or limit its independence.[887] Understanding the international community in this way does not in any way mean relativizing or destroying the different and distinctive characteristics of each people, but encourages their expression.[888] Valuing these different identities helps to overcome various forms of division that tend to separate peoples and fill them with a self-centredness that has destabilizing effects." (CSDC 434) "The Magisterium recognizes the importance of national sovereignty, understood above all as an expression of the freedom that must govern relations between States.[889] Culture constitutes the guarantee for the preservation of the identity of a people and expresses and promotes its spiritual sovereignty.[891] National sovereignty is not, however, absolute. Nations can freely renounce the exercise of some of their rights in view of a common goal." (CSDC 435)

Relations based on harmony between the juridical and moral orders

"To bring about and consolidate an international order that effectively guarantees peaceful mutual relations among peoples, the same moral law that governs the life of men must also regulate relations among States: The universal moral law, written on the human heart, must be considered effective and indelible as the living expression of the shared conscience of humanity, a “grammar”[895] on which to build the future of the world." (CSDC 436) "This last principle should be especially emphasized in order to avoid “temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law”.[900]" (CSDC 437)


The value of international organizations

"The Church is a companion on the journey towards an authentic international “community”, which has taken a specific direction with the founding of the United Nations Organization in 1945. " (CSDC 440) "Because of the globalization of problems, it has become more urgent than ever to stimulate international political action that pursues the goals of peace and development through the adoption of coordinated measures.[916] The Magisterium recognizes that the interdependence among men and nations takes on a moral dimension and is the determining factor for relations in the modern world in the economic, cultural, political and religious sense. In this context it is hoped that there will be a revision of international organizations, a process that “presupposes the overcoming of political rivalries and the renouncing of all desire to manipulate these organizations, which exist solely for the common good”,[917] for the purpose of achieving “a greater degree of international ordering”.[918]" (CSDC 442) "The Magisterium positively evaluates the associations that have formed in civil society in order to shape public opinion in its awareness of the various aspects of international life, with particular attention paid to the respect of human rights, as seen in “the number of recently established private associations, some worldwide in membership, almost all of them devoted to monitoring with great care and commendable objectivity what is happening internationally in this sensitive field”.[921]" (CSDC 443)

The juridical personality of the Holy See

The Holy See operates on an international level as a country in its own right. It therefore participates in international relations with its diplomatic relations (papal nuncios).

"The Holy See, or Apostolic See,[923] enjoys full international subjectivity as a sovereign authority that performs acts which are juridically its own. It exercises an external sovereignty recognized within the context of the international community which reflects that exercised within the Church and is marked by organizational unity and independence. " (CSDC 444) "The diplomatic service of the Holy See, the product of an ancient and proven practice, is an instrument that works not only for the freedom of the Church (“libertas Ecclesiae”) but also for the defence and promotion of human dignity, as well as for a social order based on the values of justice, truth, freedom and love. " (CSDC 445)


Cooperation to guarantee the right to development

"The solution to the problem of development requires cooperation among individual political communities. These difficulties must nonetheless be met with strong and resolute determination, because development is not only an aspiration but a right [928] that, like every right, implies a duty." (CSDC 446) "The spirit of international cooperation requires that, beyond the strict market mentality, there should be an awareness of the duty to solidarity, justice and universal charity.[932] " (CSDC 448)

The fight against poverty

"At the beginning of the New Millennium, the poverty of billions of men and women is “the one issue that most challenges our human and Christian consciences”.[935] The fight against poverty finds a strong motivation in the option or preferential love of the Church for the poor.[939] In the whole of her social teaching the Church never tires of emphasizing certain fundamental principles of this teaching, first and foremost, the universal destination of goods.[940] Constantly reaffirming the principle of solidarity, the Church's social doctrine demands action to promote “the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all”.[941] The principle of solidarity, even in the fight against poverty, must always be appropriately accompanied by that of subsidiarity, thanks to which it is possible to foster the spirit of initiative, the fundamental basis of all social and economic development in poor countries.[942] The poor should be seen “not as a problem, but as people who can become the principal builders of a new and more human future for everyone”.[943]" (CSDC 449) "The right to development must be taken into account when considering questions related to the debt crisis of many poor countries.[944] " (CSDC 450)

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