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Reading for Module B, 1.2.5:

Excerpt from The Common Good and the Church’s Social Teaching (1996)

The political vocation

57 There is a strong Christian tradition of  public service in all the major British parties which we wish to  applaud, and we particularly wish to declare our respect and gratitude  towards all those who undertake the responsibilities of political  life, whatever party they belong to. We are especially grateful to  Catholic citizens who join and play an active part in the political  party of their choice, provided they take their Catholic principles, including those set out in this document, with them. We offer them  every possible encouragement.

58 Not the least of the concerns we have at this time is the low  status of politicians in public estimation, which is neither justified  by the evidence nor good for the health of democracy. Politics is  an honourable vocation, which often exacts great personal cost from  those who engage in it, and from their families. The fact that some  politicians from time to time fall short of the highest standards  is not grounds for dismissing the whole class of politician as unworthy  of respect.

59 An attitude of cynicism towards those engaged in public life is  one of those tendencies against which we feel we must speak out.  Not the least of its harmful consequences could be the discouragement  of those contemplating a political career. It is the teaching of  the Church that all rightful authority comes from God, and therefore  those who exercise legitimate political authority are worthy of respect.  It is not ignoble to want a successful political career, nor dishonourable  for politicians to seek political power.

60 At the same time politicians must be especially careful not to  use, or to appear to use, their privileged position for personal  gain. Those politicians who have, by their behaviour, contributed  to a climate of distrust must bear some considerable responsibility.  Part of the responsibility must also lie with the highly partisan  quality of public political debate, where it has become almost customary  to attribute the worst motives to one’s political opponents. Politicians  of one party should show more respect towards those of other parties.  Those who engage in political abuse can expect retaliation in kind, and they are inviting the public to believe the worst about all politicians  of every political persuasion.

61 This climate of mutual personal distrust and abuse has at times  been fostered quite recklessly by the mass media. It is a constant  theme of Christ’s teaching in the Gospels that one should be more  conscious of one’s own sinfulness than of the sins of others. Political  debate in Britain badly needs re-moralising and the injection into  it of an element of sincere humility, if people are to regain faith  in it. If they do not regain faith in it, the outlook for the future  of democracy in Britain is not good.

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The full text of this document is accessible (Mar. 2013) at:

http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Catholic-News-Media-Library/Archive-Media-Assets/Files/CBCEW-Publications/The-Common-Good-and-the-Catholic-Church-s-Social-Teaching

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