The Catholic Church and the Nation-State: Comparative Perspectives

The Catholic Church and the Nation-State: Comparative Perspectives

The Catholic Church and the Nation-State: Comparative Perspectives

The Catholic Church and the Nation-State: Comparative Perspectives

Excerpt

In 2004, the Roman Catholic Church was intensely involved in an amazing range of international, national, and subnational politics around the world. Internationally, the Church was actively influencing the language of international agreements being negotiated within various United Nations organizations. Pope John Paul II spoke eloquently in opposition to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, including during his private discussions with the American president, George W. Bush. For his part, since his 2005 election as pope, Benedict XVI has been warning the world about the dangers of a “dictatorship of relativism,” which rejects absolute truth and exalts personal desires.

At the national level, the Chilean Church lost a battle to stop the legalization of divorce but convinced legislators to require a longer period of separation before a divorce could be granted. Some American bishops influenced the 2004 presidential elections by announcing that they would deny Holy Communion to Senator John Kerry, the first Catholic presidential candidate in a generation, because he was pro-choice. In Europe, the Spanish Church became the focus for national mourning and consolation as it conducted the March 2004 state funeral mass for the victims of the Madrid train bombing. The Polish Church lobbied a leftist government to maintain strict antiabortion policies. In Africa, Bishop Ernest Kombo openly criticized the conduct of officials from the Congolese government and the Congolese Church. At the subnational level, the Church was actively involved in lobbying state legislators in the United States, Brazil, and Germany on a range of issues from antipoverty policies to sex education to health care programs to laws affecting Church-run schools and hospitals.

Conceiving of the Church in the Political Sphere

Making sense of this range of activity is complicated, and the sheer diversity of cases poses a severe challenge for any inductive understanding of Catholic . . .

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