Catholics in Politics: From February 17, 2003

During his 22 years in Congress Representative Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) was among the most prominent Catholics in American political life. In 2003 America published his reflections on “Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life," which was released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in late 2002:

Perhaps the most important thing the doctrinal note does is to remind all of us, irrespective of party or political philosophy, that democracy is not a machine that can run by itself. Democracy is not a matter of simply getting the procedure of government—legislative, executive, judicial—right. Democracy is more than a matter of procedures, and democracy requires more of us than procedural imagination and finesse....

The great divide in American public life today is not so much between left and right or between political parties. It is between those who think of democracy merely as an ensemble of procedures and those who think of democracy as a matter of substance—an ongoing experiment in a people’s capacity to be self-governing. By demonstrating how the substantive understanding of democracy arises, not from sectarian or confessional presuppositions, but from the moral law written on the human heart, the doctrinal note makes a genuine contribution to the reflections of all thoughtful Americans.

For too long in our national history, the question—sometimes cruelly overt, sometimes subtle—was, “Is Catholicism compatible with democracy?” As the doctrinal note makes clear, the real question is, “Can democracy long endure if it ignores the truth about the human person?” That is a publicly accessible truth, and Catholics in America should be grateful and proud that their church proposes that truth, in and out of season, in American public life.

Read "Catholics in Political Life."

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

El don de Dios es la sabiduría. Salomón la recibe como un acto misericordioso de Dios.
Juan Luis CalderónJuly 26, 2017
Then ask: Is it a pearl of great price?
Terrance KleinJuly 26, 2017
Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
The people behind “An Inconvenient Truth” can be forgiven for indulging in a bit of “I told you so” in their follow-up film, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”
John AndersonJuly 26, 2017
Catholic Relief Services delivers seed and farming tools in Central African Republic in 2014. Photo: Kevin Clarke.
The impact of the Trump foreign aid reductions, if enacted, “would be swift, devastating, and felt for years to come, imperiling millions of lives and the course of global development, stability, and partnership.”
Kevin ClarkeJuly 26, 2017