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Clergymen running for public office is neither the only or even the best way for the Christian Gospel to impact our politics.
This may be a matter of opinion for many Christian churches, but for the Catholic Church, with many centuries of experience and a body of teaching correctly called Catholic Social Doctrine, it is a matter of canon law.
The sheer practical wisdom of our canon law on this matter is evident: “Clerics are to cultivate a simple style of life and are to avoid whatever has a semblance of vanity . . . . Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power . . . . Most, especially clerics, are always to foster that peace and harmony based on justice which is to be observed among all people.” (CL 282 #1-287#1)
Please note, the cleric is to foster only “that peace” that is based on justice, which is the public face of love of neighbour, as Martin Luther King once put it. He is to proclaim this justice to power, and he is to do so because he has been anointed to “proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), and to live and think in solidarity with the poor. The prophetic voice always comes from the periphery. This is why Pope Francis calls for “a poor church, a church of the poor”.
The Catholic clergyman should not even play an active role in either a political party or labour union unless, in the judgement of the competent church authority, to do so protects the rights of the church or the common good. (CL293#2)
The social doctrine of the Catholic Church is as important to our Christian identity as any other church doctrine, and should be taught equally vigorously and knowledgeably, so that Christians may properly impact every area of our national life, including our economy and our politics, without trying to make our country a theocracy!
Actually, Pope Benedict expressed the conviction that social democracy came closest to the requirements of the Gospel.
– FR LESLIE LETT