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Thomas More, patron of politicians.

Politicians have been given a new patron saint as a model to imitate. Pope John Paul made this decision in the context of the Jubilee of Parliamentarians held in Rome at the end of October. Over one thousand politicians, mostly from Europe, attended this meeting. Americans and Canadians were too busy with electioneering to go to Rome, even if they had wanted to do so.

The Pope's choice: Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England, martyr for the unity of the Church, and for the integrity of the individual conscience. Henry VIII had him beheaded in 1535 for refusing to accept the king as head of the Catholic Church in England, a bizarre idea but one full of danger for anyone who dared to oppose it. Only one bishop, John Fisher, sainted together with More in 1935, dared to do what More did. He, too, lost his head, as did some small number of friars and priests.

The rest of the bishops, clergy and people submitted to the travesty, some caring nothing, some hoping for better days in the future, many going along with the trend of the day as the politically correct thing to do.


Needless to say, Thomas More's selection as the new patron of politicians does not come in a vacuum. Why did the Pope do it? Because all over the world, but especially in Europe and North America, Catholic politicians seem to have surrendered to the idea that their personal convictions as believers in Jesus Christ should have no bearing on the business of the land. The idea is utterly repulsive and irrational, yet during the last 35 years it seems to have established itself as a 'fact of life'. It has done so directly contrary to the Second Vatican Council, which during the years 1962-1965 repeatedly called upon the laity to assume the task assigned to them, namely to Christianize the world of politics and the professions, of commerce and civilization.

Pope John Paul II maintains that in the case of laws such as those which claim to legitimize abortion or euthanasia, there is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead "there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13: 1-7; Pet 2: 13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5: 29)...

The passing of unjust laws often raises difficult problems of conscience for morally upright people... Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement... Christians, like all people of goodwill, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law... Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God Himself' (Encyclical Evangelium vitae, March 25, 1995, no. 73-74).

St. Thomas More did exactly that. His attitude is a light for our times. And he is not a patron saint for Catholics only. Like Ghandi, he is admired by many people of other beliefs and convictions.

As Pope John Paul put it on October 31, 2000,

"His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue. Unwavering in this rigorous moral stance, this English statesman placed his own public activity at the service of the person, especially if that person was weak or poor; he dealt with social controversies with a superb sense of fairness; he was vigorously committed to favouring and defending the family; he supported the all-round education of the young."

In Canada it should now be clear to believing and active Catholics that over the past 35 years the Catholic political community has by and large failed its task, as has the spiritual leadership that was supposed to support and encourage it but didn't. Contrary to what is currently believed by the leading classes of our society, liberal democracy in Canada needs a vibrant Christianity--without which it cannot and will not survive.

May many follow More's example of virtue, incorruptibility, integrity and courage.

Happy Christmas to your all.
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Title Annotation:decision by Pope John Paul II
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Previous Article:Prominent Jews reflect on Christianity.
Next Article:Letters to the Editor.

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