Roman Catholic Doctrine

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Roman Catholic Doctrine

Roman Catholic Doctrine

Why Roman Catholics believe this

While Christianity and classical Roman thought share some basic similarities in their assertions of natural law, human equality, and the necessity for justice, key differences ensured that they would lead to conflict. First, Christianity makes a claim of egalitarianism that is broader than the Roman assertion of essential human equality. According to the Apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:28, for Christians there could be no distinctions based on ethnicity, the lack of a Jewish heritage, a believer's gender, or whether one was enslaved or free. Second, according to the Christian Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Christian kingdom is not a physical kingdom but a spiritual one (see, for instance, John 18:36). For the Christian, this result is divided in loyalties that are the source of much of the original political thought emerging from Christianity. Paul instructs believing Christians in the Roman Empire is to be subject to their government, as the King James Version translates Romans 13:1-6:

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers is not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing”.

Christ, however, encourages his followers to give to the political state what it requires while simultaneously remaining loyal to the demands of God. In Matthew 22:17-21, debating with some of the Jewish leadership, Christ responds to the query, “Tell us therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Bouwsma, 1988) Scriptures they use to defend their position

Unlike Roman philosophy in which gods expects citizens to owe loyalty to the Emperor, for the Christian, it was only to the office of the ruler that citizen's owed allegiance, not to the specific individual. Although the question, of obligation to an unjust ruler is not new, (consider, for instance, the Greek playwright Sophocles and Antigone), this tension is embedded within Christianity. For the Christian, unlike the classical pagan, this religion has a higher calling on the individual than merely living a virtuous life as a citizen of the state. In fact, Christianity places a calling on an individual's life more powerful than merely the duty of civic obedience, demanding commitments from the individual that ...
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