Text Size

United by Consent

United by Consent
A Study Document issued by the Rhodesia Catholic Bishops’ Conference
6 December 1977

   

Part 1

   

UNITED...

   
1.
Rhodesia is living in a state of conflict. It is imperative for all races to examine what they can contribute towards peace and justice for all.
   

Towards a New Spirit of Understanding

   
2.
Since the second World War several attempts have been made to promote a multiracial government in Rhodesia. After an encouraging start, political leaders often tended to concentrate fairly quickly on the technical aspects of economic development and only rarely did they turn to human problems. The collective self-interest of the races has often obscured the ideal of a common good. However, our communities will never succeed in building a powerful and creative nation on the narrow basis of racial egoism. Rhodesia is not only rich in raw materials, but it is also rich in spiritual values. The development of these spiritual values, which is needed both for the survival of the nation and for the well being of its neighbours, requires close co-operation on the part of all.
   

Building the Future

   
3.
In order to transform a state into a dynamic nation, mere generalisations are not enough. We must turn evangelical ideals of love and justice into an effective plan of action. What can we do?
   
Destined to be a Free Man
   
4.
St. Paul writes that we are destined to become free men (Gal. 5:13). To liberate our country we have to start by freeing ourselves from our chains. The love of God and of our fellow men requires that we detach ourselves from greed, lust for power, and ambitions which isolate us from each other. (James 4:1).
   
5.
i.)
Yearning for possessions
   
   
Excessive accumulation of private property, financial and real estate speculation, the holding of several offices, bribery, sharp practices which make essential products scarce, all these enslave us. We must free ourselves from our passion to possess more at all costs. What is true for the individual is equally true for society at the regional and national level. Without moderation in the search for personal gain, solidarity and justice will remain not to be had.
   
6.
ii).
Desire for power
   
   
In politics, use of intimidation must be stopped. It is unacceptable that some people are restricted, while other demand uncontrolled forms of power. Indeed, all power must be brought into the public view so that abuses can be checked. The principles of the constitutional state, and especially that of the separation of powers, must be maintained; judicial power in particular must remain independent from political power.
   
You Shall Liberate My People
   
7.
With the compelling words: “You shall liberate my people”, God told Moses to free his people from their political and social slavery and to help them go their own spiritual way. These words can be applied to our society today. In trying to answer the call of the book of Exodus, one realises that evangelical justice demands not only the liberation of oneself, but also the liberation of one’s fellow citizens. The just man is one who works to obtain rights for his fellow men. Since we are all children of one and the same divine Father, we should value the common good above individual interests.
   
8.
All human beings share the same destiny. In the end, even freedom and prosperity become intolerable and unacceptable if other remain deprived of what is theirs by right. In an ethically developed society the members know they are responsible both for the welfare of their fellow citizens and for the society as a whole. Concern for the common good in the cultural, social and economic fields is one of the main duties of all, both individuals and institutions.
   
9.
In working to bring about a sense of solidarity, we cannot follow an obsolete concept of human dignity. In our present society, human dignity demands that each man’s right to life be guaranteed. It includes the right to ownership, to food, to clothing, to physical and spiritual education, to religion and religious practice, to health care, to freedom and to respect. It includes also the right to participate in decisions, and to take initiatives.
   
10.
i).
Redistribution of wealth
   
.
 
Without denying the right to private property, we must remember that wealth is, first of all, intended to satisfy the common welfare. In order to be faithful to the Gospel, one should, in the matter of taxation, take into account the common good and the rights of the poorest. In the redistribution of salaries and pensions the needs as well as the achievements of everyone will have to be considered. Creative solutions which improve the social services and use profits for securing employment and finding new jobs will have to be sought. The true love of mankind as it is taught by Jesus Christ, will, through education and training, make for a spirit of fraternal sharing. It will teach man to work for others as for himself, to share with them, to devote himself freely to the community, and to give others what is theirs by right.
   
11.
ii)
Redistribution of powers and responsibilities
   
   
What we needed now are new, broader concepts of government: an effective and legally guaranteed kind of participation, the chance to express one’s opinion without fear, and the opportunity for all citizens, including those less-favoured, to participate adequately in decision-making. This sort of liberation cannot be achieved without redistribution of powers at both the local and national levels.
   
12.
iii)
Redistribution of respect
   
.
 
If one believes in the basic equality of all human beings before God, it is time to make this effective between black and white, each having due respect for the other. One should also attempt to achieve this in labour relations. Industrial and social concerns, social services and training institutions need to be developed in such a way that the person is given priority. Laws are needed to protect the poorest, the minorities, and the minors. Those who take risks or responsibility for the sake of others deserve our praise and gratitude. The Gospel demand that, in education and training, all human qualities be given full opportunity to develop. At the local and national levels, the individuality of each ethnic group should be protected and fostered. Immigrants should be treated as full citizens and be given a chance to participate in decision-making. There is need for an ecumenical spirit which fosters useful contacts with philosophies and religious convictions other than one’s own. A united country is not drably uniform, not one big melting pot. By and through unification, the peoples of our nation will become aware of their individuality and of the contributions which only they can make to the common task. At the same time they will be freed from self-satisfaction and from the tendency to judge things according to their own opinions and prejudices.
   
Meeting the Liberator
   
13.
To free ourselves and others, individually and collectively, is a task which can be attained only when the citizens of this nation face the future with new spiritual vitality. Jesus'’ words apply here: "“pen your eyes and watch the fields; they are white, ripe for the harvest."”(John 4: 35). If one wants to accompany Jesus, courage is needed for the task. Pessimism and fear will lead to decay and decline; Jesus’ optimism can bring a new vigour to our land.
   
14.
The basis of this optimism is faith. The believer who lives according to the Gospel can, with the power of the Spirit, withstand all calamities. He is supported by the certainty that God cares for each human being and holds the history of mankind in his hands. This biblical version is not a mere ideal. The Lord assures us that all those who first look for the kingdom of God and its justice, can rely on Him that everything else will follow. (Mt. 6: 33). To know that one is in God’s hands fills the heart with a profound feeling of peace. One learns to find happiness and to live in the joyful freedom of God’s children.
   
15.
One may be invited by the Spirit of Christ to go even further, and to abandon himself to evangelical detachment. In the belief that by God’s mercy he already participates in the resurrection of Christ, he is filled with great hope. He can give himself in service, because of his confidence in the future. He can accept Jesus’ invitation: “If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, let him disown himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24).
   
16.
Working for others is the second characteristic of Christ’s hope. People who follow Him are not guided by the rule of power, personal gain, or any ambition to govern others. They recall that they have received their talents freely from God; and they find it quite normal to be God’s ministers on behalf of the community.
   
17.
In this atmosphere of optimism one will receive courage and power. The renewal of this land will be realised only by people who strive steadily and strongly to spread a new spirit throughout the country. People who are willing to bring about this liberation will be subjected to mockery and scorn. Misfortune and partial failure must not stop them.
   
18.
No one man can perform this task single-handed. This is why God gives us the power of the Spirit. The Bible is not solely a book of moral instructions. First and foremost, it is the meeting place with our Liberator. Jesus is the way to real liberation: “If then the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free” (John 8: 36). Trusting in Him, we dare to assert with St. Paul: “I can do everything in Him who makes me strong” (Phil. 4:13). In our days too, the fire of Pentecost can turn men into innovators of a new world and creators of a new culture: “The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will call to mind everything that I have told you” (John 14: 26-27). In personal contacts with the Father, in prayer, in reflection on the Scriptures, and in participation in the liturgy, men will find confidence, rest for living, and vitality. When people want to work for a great ideal, they work with great hope. They live and work in love and “love will never perish” (1 Cor. 13:8).
   
19.
Inspired by Christian hope we will look for ways leading to a rebirth of our land. The move to unify the country must be supported by great love. We need moral and spiritual strength. We owe it to ourselves and to the world to build a new future in the spirit of the Gospel. A new nation will arise from people who free themselves, and who wish to bring freedom to others: a united nation.
   

Part II

   

...BY CONSENT

   

A Thought on Citizenship

   
A right and a duty of all
   
20.
Citizens must be aware of their serious responsibility and duty of participating in government. Each member of the body politic is co-responsible for the destiny of the community and should assume his obligations without allowing the State to supplant them or pressure groups to manipulate them.
   
No party represents the church
   
21.
No political party is capable of realising fully and satisfactorily the essential values of the Christian concept of life. No one is permitted to arrogate exclusively in favour of his political views, the moral support of the Church. The Church is not committed to any one political party. On the contrary, the ambit of the Christian faith embraces diverse political opinions provided they are not opposed, either in programmes or in methods of action, to the Gospel teaching.
   
The Christian is free to chose between different parties and programmes
22.
Christians, in their role as citizens, are free to opt for that party or for that programme which, according to their informed conscience, is the one which best guarantees the good of the human person and of society in the totality of its legitimate needs and rights.
   
The Christian should give political support according to his conscience, and therefore, in a way consistent with his faith and moral principles.
   
23.
Though it is true that political decisions must be made in accord with personal conscience, it is no less certain that, for a Catholic, the judgement of his conscience may not be separated from the demands of his faith, as interpreted by the magisterium of the Church.
   

Values which the Christian Ought to Favour with his Support

   
Liberty
   
24.
The recognition of the worth of liberty is inseparable from effective recognition – and not by words only – of human rights.
   
25.
The Christian, then, cannot, in conscience, contribute to the establishment of any type of totalitarianism, no matter by what name it is called.
   
Justice
   
26.
The Christian option for justice requires the liberation of the oppressed and the disappearance of unjust inequalities. The underprivileged have a right to organise and to struggle for their liberation. Hence, the citizen must examine programmes that request his support, to see if they propose the reform of structures that are objectively unjust: for instance, distribution of land along racial or tribal lines; concentration of riches in the hands of a few; monopoly of power by an oligarchy; lack of equity in the distribution of wealth; and the impossibility of ordinary people to attain to higher levels of education; and discrimination on the basis of race, tribe, colour, or religion.
   
To live together in peace
   
27.
Christians should not collaborate with those who employ crime, hatred, and falsehood to achieve their ends.
   
28.
Christians should approach every situation of conflict with a sincere desire for reconciliation, and should remain faithful to the ethical norms of honesty, truth, and respect for the rights of others. There cannot be a way of reconciliation which tolerates the denial of those same rights which it pretends to establish.
   
29.
Christian consciences and the experience of history equally condemn recourse to violence. This violence expresses itself not only in the shedding of blood, and in threats to one’s person, but also in offensive words, in systematic intolerance, and in oppressive structures designed to favour a few of the expense of many.
   
Respect for human life
   
30.
Existing social pluralism cannot justify making abortion legal. Fundamental ethical values, above all the respect owed to every human being, can never be subordinated to this social pluralism.
   
31.
Wars, terrorism, indifference, lack of concern in the face of catastrophes suffered by peoples of races, are signs of under-valuation of human life.
   
Stability of the family
   
32.
The stability inherent in the marriage bond is a benefit of highest importance for the affective life of the spouses and for the firmness of the family. At the same time it is a fundamental integrating element for the common good of society. The breaking of the marriage bond by divorce jeopardises these benefits. Hence an effort should be made to obtain legislation concerning marriage which will protect, by every possible means, the stability of the marriage bond. The good of the state requires that the legal system provide a solid defence of the stability proper to every marriage.
   
Education for all
   
33.
Public opinion will no longer tolerate that large numbers of underprivileged citizens be denied access to cultural values which are regarded as necessary to safeguard the dignity of human persons in society.
   
34.
The recognition of the presence of the Church in the schools system is based upon the irrevocable right of citizens to religious education.
   
Freedom of parents to choose the school for their children
   
35.
The urgent demand to extend education to all citizens, in the light of the right which all have to basic levels of formation, must include a definite plan to respect other rights no less important, such as: the right of all the baptised to a religious formation within the precincts of the school; the rights of parents to select the type of education which they want for their children, without discrimination because of financial circumstances; the right of members of society and of social groups to establish centres of instruction for the service of all.
   
Equality of economic support provided by the state for education
   
36.
The economic support which the state provides for education should be distributed justly between those centres of instruction established through government initiative and those established through non-governmental initiative. The reason for this is that both systems serve society with equal educational facilities, and without discrimination towards students.
   
Rights of minorities and of regions with respect to the common good
   
37.
New insights into the nature of ethnic minorities and their cultural values compel us to assert an unquestionable right, on the part of such groups, to preserve their identity, and to express and develop their unique cultural values. Society and the state must provide the necessary legal safeguards and administrative mechanisms for the proper exercise of such legitimate rights within the context of the common good.
   
Subordination of private interests to the common good
   
38.
In matters concerning payment of taxes and the use of public funds, social justice demands that private interests be subordinated to the common good, and not the other way round. No one is exempt from temptations of corruption and for this reason the interests of the community should be safeguarded by an effective system of controls, i.e., courts of justice, parliament, public opinion. Also, there should be an end to the system of secrecy which obstructs access to information, a right recognised today as a true right of citizens, at least in those matters which affect and obligate them.
   
Favourable conditions for moral life in society
   
39.
It is true that the State is not directly responsible for the morality of private conduct, and that not every moral defect can or should be corrected by law. But this is far removed from what is called the “permissive society”. There is no reason to doubt that legislation and other means of government, in establishing conditions favourable to moral life in all its dimensions, provide a valuable service and a guarantee of progress for the Christian community.
   
Rights and duties
   
40.
“Those, therefore, who claim their own rights, yet altogether forget or neglect to carry out their duties, are people who build with one hand and destroy with the other.” (John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, No. 30).
   

Christians Must Reject...

   
Those who oppose the right of professing religion in public
   
41.
A society which restricts the natural right to worship according to the proper norm of one’s conscience and to profess religion in private and in public, cannot be considered just.
   
Those who promote an economic system which engenders or favours social injustice
   
42.
Christian ought to deny their support to those parties whose programmes are incompatible with the faith as, for example, those who deny the fundamental rights and liberties of man; those who promote the secularisation of education, thus violating the rights of parents to select the school they prefer for their children; those who hold profit to be the essential and exclusive stimulus for economic progress; those who regard competition as the supreme economic law, and who view private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right, without limits or corresponding obligations.
   
Marxist ideology
   
43.
“The Christian who wishes to live his faith in a political activity which he thinks of as a service cannot without contradicting himself adhere to ideological systems which radically or substantially go against his faith and his concept of man. He cannot adhere to the Marxist ideology, to its atheistic materialism, to its dialectic of violence and to the way it absorbs individual freedom in the collectivity, at the same time denying all transcendence both to man and to his personal and collective history.” (Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, No. 26).
   
Liberal Ideology
   
44.
“Neither can the Christian adhere to the liberal ideology which believes that it exalts individual freedom by withdrawing it from every limitation, by stimulating through exclusive seeking of interest and power, and by considering social solidarity as more or less the automatic consequence of individual initiative, and not as an aim and a major criterion of the value of the social organisation.” (Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, No. 26).
   

Critical AttitudeToward Deceitful or Concealed Tactics

   
45.
Since it can happen that the programme of a party may not reveal its true plan, either because of strategy or because it refers only to a phase of the plan, every responsible voter and especially a Christian, ought to consider, in examining the programmes of the parties, the possibility that there might be found an ideology, a complex of interests, or a plan based on concepts which are incompatible with Christian thought.
   
46.
We repeat that the Christian cannot be satisfied with solemn declarations on the value of liberty, justice, and morality. What matters is not what is being said but what is done. If those who claim to defend liberty, promote injustice; if those who promise to defend justice, crush liberty; and it those who present themselves as defenders of morality, in fact permit of encourage corruption in all its forms, then one is forced to rely, for the purpose of giving support, not so much on the words or ideals which are invoked, but upon the results which follow or can be foreseen.
   

Choose After Weighing Everything

   
47.
Each political option offered to the citizen presents both positive and negative aspects. The Christian must choose in conscience what he regards as best. Even after opting for one choice he must continue to maintain a critical attitude towards his own option and to correct as far as he can its negative aspects.
   
48.
It is not always easy to make an exact judgement concerning a political programme, nor, within it, to sift out its values. Each case must be governed by prudence.
   
49.
“Christians should not wear themselves out in interminable arguments, and under pretext of the better or the best, omit to do the good that is possible and therefore obligatory.” (John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, No.238).
   

Conclusion

   
The responsibility of the Christian
   
50.
The obligation of participating in political life requires all to contribute by personal effort, as well as through associations, to a social and political evolution which will satisfy more closely what is required for the dignity of the person.
   
Attitudes of the Christian in relation to politics
   
51.
  • To commit himself to the establishment of a just social order, according to his personal calling and resources.
  • To keep alive the consciousness of his own political responsibility.
  • To act realistically and accomplish what is possible at each instant time.
  • To be aware that no one has the truth and that the choices of others contain positive elements.
  • Always to be disposed to dialogue, to mutual respect and to understanding.
  • To reject violence as incompatible with the conscience of humanity and the spirit of the Gospel.
  • Always to cherish a firm hope.
   
52.
“The order which prevails in society is by nature moral. Grounded as it is in truth, it must function according to the norms of justice, it should be inspired and perfected by mutual love, and finally it should be brought to an ever more refined and human balance in freedom”. (John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, No. 37).
   

References

   
We acknowledge with gratitude the use of:
   
A Vigorous Europe, by the Bishops of Belgium, Declaration of November 1976 (cf. Lumen Vitae, Brussels, v. XXXII, 1977, No. 2, pp. 217-224); and, A Selection of Texts, prepared by the General Secretariat of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. (cf. Ecclessia: No. 1, 838, p. 11, 1977).
   
We also made use of the following documents
   
Mater Et Magistra
New light on Social Problems. Encyclical Letter, John XXIII, 15 May 1961.
   
Pacem in Terris
Peace on Earth. Encyclical Letter, John XXIII, 11 April, 1963.
   
Populorum Progressio
The Development of Peoples. Encyclical Letter, Paul VI, 26 March, 1976
   
Octogesima Adveniens
Social Problems. Apostolic Letter, Paul VI, 15 May, 1971.
   
Gaudium Et Spes
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Second Vatican Council, 7 December, 1965.
   
Paul VI
Discourse on Apartheid, 1974.
   
A Call to Christians
Pastoral Message of Rhodesia Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 5 June, 1969.
   
A Crisis of Conscience
Pastoral message of Rhodesia Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 17 March, 1970.
   
Reconciliation in Rhodesia
Pastoral Message of Rhodesia Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 21 January, 1974.