Citizenship - Rights and Duties

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As members of a family we see how we are dependent on others and others depend on us.  We become more aware that the happiness and well-being of all men are connected.  Men come together and form larger societies.  So we are members not only of a family but also of a state.  Our parents exercise certain rightful authority over us, and so does the state.  The states authority over us is from God.  St. Paul tells us: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God . . .  Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed" (Rom 13:1-2).

The state has the authority to make just laws and regulations to govern its citizens.  The purpose of the state is to promote and preserve the welfare of all the members of its society.  Jesus never denied the rights of the state; he tells us to give to God what is God's, and to Caesar (the state) what is Caesar's.

The state can never demand something of us which is in violation of God's law.  If it did, the state would be denying its own authority, since that authority is from God.

As you probably already know, there are different kinds of government.  Now, God has never told us that one particular type of government is better than another.  There can be several legitimate and good ways to govern a nation.

Good Citizens

Just as the state has certain rights and duties, so do we as citizens.  As Christians we must be exemplary citizens, obeying all just laws and regulations, paying taxes to support the government, and when necessary defending our nation from attack.  Patriotism is the virtue of love of one's country.  This virtue is in keeping with Christianity because it is natural and good for us to love our fatherland.  But patriotism is not mere flag-waving.  It is dedication to the promotion of the true welfare of the whole country and its citizens.

As citizens, the health and well-being of the state is our concern.  We must use our influence to make it a just state.  The Christian input in society is essential.  If there is an unjust practice or immoral law, then we must do all in our power to overturn it.  We must work within the structure of our government to reestablish justice and to make it secure.

Just because the state declares that some action is legal, it does not necessarily follow that it is moral.  We have today the grave evil of "legalized abortion".  The state has declared a seriously immoral and evil act to be acceptable and "within the law".  Not only are we forbidden to support such a declaration but we are also required to do all in our power to overturn such a law.  We are not allowed to tolerate such violations of the law of God. "Better for us to obey God than men!" (Acts 5:29)

Across Boundaries

As followers of Christ we must not isolate ourselves within our own nation.  We must be concerned about the needs of all people.  Many people and nations are oppressed and deprived of basic human rights by severe poverty or by lack of freedom.  Just as there are different forms of good governments, so there are governments that are bad and threaten the well-being of the citizens.  Wealthier and stronger countries have a responsibility to aid these oppressed nations.  As citizens we must encourage our government to do what is possible to help people in need.

Above all, we must remember to pray for our country and is leaders.

 Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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