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Why the Catholic Church calls us to be "active citizens"


Stephanie MacGillivray, Parliamentary Officer for Catholic Education Service, looks at what the Catholic Church teaches on citizenship and involvement in politics.

This article was written prior to the 2015 General Election 


In the run up to this year’s general election, the Catholic bishops are encouraging all Catholics to register and speak with a democratic voice by exercising their right to vote on 7th May. For this reason the Catholic Education Service is supporting the Show Up campaign and will be providing resources for schools along the theme of active citizenship.

What is it that the Church teaches?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that as Catholic citizens we have a duty to work with civil authority for building up society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity and freedom. By voting, Catholics have a chance to participate in and promote such values. This is underpinned by scripture, for example in 1 Timothy 2:2 where St Paul writes that as a member of society one should “lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.” This reminds us that submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country.

Pope Francis encourages this, emphasising that those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts. Accordingly, their loyal collaboration also includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of all people and to the good of the community.

What can we do?

We are obliged in conscience to help the poor and the sick, to promote good education for young people and to care for our world so that we are able to provide for future generations. To be active members of society is to live out these values in our daily lives and make our voices heard through the power of our vote.