Everyone knows the Fourth Commandment requires us to "honor your father and mother," but did you know that exercise of, and obedience to, legitimate political authority also falls under this commandment?
This subject is particularly important for Americans as we enter into the "final" seven months of the presidential campaign in the United States.
This November, Americans will select a chief executive, as well as many members of Congress and a host of local officials, and while we have the opportunity to throw the "rascals" out again if we don't like them, some of the choices they'll make on our behalf will far outlast their terms in office. That makes the exercise of their authority, and our obedience to that authority, a matter of grave consideration to us as Christians.
In paragraph 2235, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the first duty of those with authority. "Those who exercise authority should do so as a service. 'Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.' The exercise of authority is measured morally in terms of its divine origin, its reasonable nature and its specific object. No one can command or establish what is contrary to the dignity of persons and the natural law."
Natural law and the dignity of persons is a hierarchy of needs, beginning with the fundamental right to life. In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II wrote "laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law." (#72)
Abortion and euthanasia are therefore the first "non-negotiable" for the Christian…these acts can never be justified and can never be supported by the Christian without risk to his own soul. Political authorities that advocate the unjust killing of innocents in abortion are not exercising their authority justly, and cannot be supported by the Christian when there is an alternative that does support the right to life of the unborn and the helpless. Without the right to life, no other right matters.
The coming elections raise the question as to how obedient we are to the Fourth Commandment. We have a duty as Christians to participate in society, to do our best to be obedient to God and those He grants earthly authority to in temporal matters. We have the right to expect that those in authority exercise that authority in light of God's law first. In America, we have the ability to "interview" our leaders and select those we believe will serve us best.
What we should not overlook is that we have the right to expect that our leaders will follow God's laws as well.