Conclusion: The Enduring Connection Between Religion and Politics
While many point to the decline of religion in modern political systems, this study has addressed the continuing importance of religion in shaping the process of political development, nurturing political cultures, and influencing the political values of American Catholics. Despite a common perception that the tie between religion and politics has been severed, the connection between these two realms is complex and persistent, though it has undergone change. While the role of religion is no longer as dominant as that in traditional societies, it nonetheless remains a salient force in modern systems.
A dynamic view of religion and its capacity for change is needed to fully appreciate the complexity of the religious influence. The main emphasis of early Christian theology was on the importance of the community of believers. Since early Christians suffered from discrimination and persecution, the Church became a defender of the outcast and downtrodden. As the Church was accepted by and absorbed into the state in the fourth century, church fathers preached the virtues of obedience and submission to the state. Especially since Vatican II, however, as the Catholic Church has sought to reconcile its position within the modern world, it has attempted to return to its earlier roots and has been more willing to side with the poor and oppressed. An emphasis has been placed on reforming the world's economic and political systems in order to secure the human rights of all persons, especially the poor. A Catholicism that once stressed obedience and submission to temporal powers has now found a justifica-