Church as ‘voice of conscience’

This story was originally published by Catholic News Singapore on 20 March 2011. Republished with permission.

By Darren Boon

‘If we are to vote, we vote … according to our faith and our informed conscience.’

– Fr Adrian Yeo to Catholic lawyers

Catholics should dialogue and work with others in the public sphere, especially on issues concerning human dignity and the common good. However, they must not force their principles on others, said a priest.

Fr Adrian Yeo, who has a licentiate in Canon Law was speaking to Catholic lawyers at the Church of the Risen Christ on the topic, Church & State: Role of Religion in Public Square.

The March 4 event was organised by the Catholic Lawyers Guild.

Fr Adrian explained that the Church’s duty to defend the dignity of the person has a biblical basis – all people are “created in the image and likeness of God”.

The Church is thus against euthanasia, the death penalty, human cloning and abortion.

“Because of you being Catholic, you must stand for life,” Fr Adrian stressed.

One cannot make a distinction between one’s faith and life, such as attending Mass to worship God and then not living one’s faith in the public arena.

However, Fr Adrian cautioned that the Church “cannot and must not take upon herself the political battles to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the state, yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain in the sidelines in the fight for justice”.

The Church does not call Catholics to be politicians, but to be “active politically”, such as educating people and forming conscience, he said.

“The Church in the marketplace must be the voice of conscience to tell the world where it has gone wrong. That means the Church needs to live out its prophetic mission … to be a prophet in the world,” he said.

Catholics need to know their own faith principles well before they try to form others, he added.

What Catholics should do, Fr Adrian suggested, is to “sit down and reflect” on the circumstances surrounding a given situation.

When a country proposes a bill or law, Catholics should reflect on and understand what the law is saying and where society is heading towards.

Catholics can then highlight the Church’s social teachings, its stance and what the Church has to say about the situation, Fr Adrian said.

Catholics can voice their opinions and dialogue with people, he said. They have to respect freedom of speech and cannot force their principles on others or force others to follow them, Fr Adrian said.

However, he acknowledged the difficulty of making the Catholic voice heard in a secular society and noted that a fine line exists between politics and religion.

On voting politicians into office, Fr Adrian said: “In general, if we are to vote, we vote looking at our moral principles, according to our faith and our informed conscience.”

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