Can Religion and Politics Coexist?
Originally published at Focus on the Family Canada
(link no longer working)
October 12, 2005
Roman Catholic bishops should as "a sad necessity" withhold Communion (link no longer working) from political leaders who profess to be faithful Catholics but whose decisions violate the basic tents of their faith, says Edmonton Archbishop Thomas Collins (link no longer working).
"Politics is a sacred vocation. It's a life where we need people with a conscience," he told the Toronto Star (link no longer working; same story can be found here).
Collins is currently in Rome along with 256 Roman Catholic bishops, cardinals and heads of religious orders from 118 countries to attend a three-week Synod - the first to be called by Pope Benedict XVI since he was elected in April to succeed John Paul II.
One of the issues being raised at the Synod is the linkage between a person's faith and the Church's place in society. In a homily on the opening day of the Synod, Benedict stated, according to Reuters (link no longer working, but similar story can be found at CBC):
The type of tolerance which permits God as a private opinion but refuses to allow him in the public arena, is, in the reality of the world and our life, not tolerance but hypocrisy.
There can be no justice where man makes himself the only master of the world and of himself.
Earlier this year, the Vatican denounced Catholic politicians in the United States, Spain, Italy - and Canada - for their failure to oppose abortion and homosexual marriage. One Canadian parliamentarian so far has been denied Communion for having voted in favour of Bill C-38, which legalized gay marriage across Canada.
It is a position that apparently most Canadians do not support. According to an Ipsos-Reid-Associated Press poll (link no longer working) released in June, 72 per cent said that religious leaders should not try to influence government decisions. As one television newscaster recently claimed,
Canadians have long had a tradition of separation of church and state.
But Sudbury Star columnist Claire Hoy, a Presbyterian, counters that this so-called tradition
was never meant to bar religion from politics. In fact, it was meant to protect [the American] people from the state imposing a religion upon the people, as England had done.
has absolutely no legal, historical or constitutional standing whatsoever in Canada.
Churches of any denomination, Hoy added, are
entitled to say to a politician that you can't have it both ways: you can't, on the one hand, try to win votes among people of your faith by making a public show of attending the church of your choice, only to turn against church teachings on political issues and then expect no repercussions. . . .
[Either those] who take Communion - and partake in other church rites, whether Catholic, Protestant, or any other faith - uphold their end of the bargain or [they] lose their rights to participate.
Hoy also spoke to the common argument that politicians who get elected should disregard their religious beliefs when making political decisions.
Why should they? We don't expect them to jettison any other beliefs? Why should they renounce their faith in favour of secular partisan political values?