Cardinal Ratzinger on Principles of Catholics' Autonomy in Politics

Sees Need to Avoid «Theologization» and «Ideologization»

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ROME, APRIL 10, 2003 ( Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that Catholics’ involvement in politics as well as church-state relations must avoid the «theologization of politics» as well as the «ideologization of religion.»

In a round-table discussion Wednesday at the University of the Holy Cross, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained the conditions for «the rightful autonomy of the participation of lay Catholics» in politics.

Together with Italian politicians, intellectuals and theologians, he commented on the doctrinal note on «Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life,» which the doctrinal congregation published in January.

«The right profanity of politics excludes a theocracy,» the cardinal explained, adding that the doctrinal note insists on «the need that politics has to remove the theocratic concept of politics on one hand, and on the other, to exclude a positivism that mutilates reason.»

«The mutilation of reason destroys politics,» Cardinal Ratzinger said. He defended the notion that politics is part of the sphere of common sense, which enables us to «know the great values that determine our actions.»

Faith can cure sick reason, as «there is a certain connection between faith and reason: faith can enlighten [reason], cure it when it is sick, and help it to be itself.»

If only materialist criteria prevail, reason would be blind to moral values, which would be relegated to the sphere of the individual, Cardinal Ratzinger said. Such a «mutilation … destroys politics and transforms it into a mere instrument conditioned by the strongest,» where morality is excluded, he warned.

«At the same time, politicians who are believers can illuminate the political discussion with their conduct, witnessing to faith as a real presence, thus contributing with reason in the governance of every political act,» he said.

«The moral imperatives that the Catholic politician has are values to be defended always, including when the majority is opposed to them,» the cardinal said.

The prelate of Opus Dei, Monsignor Javier Echevarría, greeted the participants and described politics «as a way of holiness,» as demonstrated by the example of St. Thomas More, patron of political leaders and politicians.

Other speakers at the meeting were Italian Senator Francesco Cossiga, former president of Italy, and professors Giuseppe De Rita, Ernesto Galli della Loggia and Paolo del Debbio, and theologian Monsignor Ángel Rodríguez Luño.

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