Some Moral Principles Take Precedence over Plurality, Says Vatican

Attacks on Human Life Are Unjustified, Insists Document

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 16, 2003 ( Although there is room for plurality in the political action of a Catholic, the believer must opt for fundamental moral principles, the Holy See says.

The exhortation appears in the «Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life,» published today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with papal approval.

The document acknowledges that there can be «a plurality of political parties in which Catholics may exercise — especially through legitimate assemblies — their right and duty to contribute to the public life of their country.»

«This arises because of the contingent nature of certain choices regarding the ordering of society, the variety of strategies available for accomplishing or guaranteeing the same fundamental value, the possibility of different interpretations of the basic principles of political theory, and the technical complexity of many political problems,» the document continues.

«It should not be confused, however, with an ambiguous pluralism in the choice of moral principles or essential values,» it says.

«The legitimate plurality of temporal options is at the origin of the commitment of Catholics to politics and relates directly to Christian moral and social teaching,» the document states. «It is in the light of this teaching that lay Catholics must assess their participation in political life so as to be sure that it is marked by a coherent responsibility for temporal reality.»

«The Church recognizes that while democracy is the best expression of the direct participation of citizens in political choices, it succeeds only to the extent that it is based on a correct understanding of the human person,» the doctrinal note adds.

Respect of the person, therefore, is presented as fundamental. «Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle, for otherwise the witness of the Christian faith in the world, as well as the unity and interior coherence of the faithful, would be non-existent,» the note says.

For this reason, «those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life,» the note insists.

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