This was recently brought to my attention, and it is worth reading: a timely excerpt from “The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests,” issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy in 2013.
The priest is a servant of the Church, which by virtue of its universality and catholicity cannot have ties with any historical contingency, and hence he will therefore remain above and beyond any political party. He may not play an active role in political parties or the management of labor unions, unless, according to the judgement of the competent ecclesiastical authority, the rights of the Church and the promotion of the common good so require. In fact, even though these are good things in their own right, they are nonetheless alien to the clerical state since they can constitute a grave danger of division of ecclesial communion.
Just like Jesus (cf. Jn 6:15 ff), the priest “must forego engagement in forms of active politics, especially when biased as almost inevitably occurs, in order to remain the man of all from the viewpoint of spiritual fraternity.” Therefore, all the faithful must always be able to approach the priest without feeling inhibited for any reason.
The priest will remember that “it is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens”; nonetheless, following the criteria of the Magisterium, he will not fail to attend to the correct formation of their conscience.” The priest therefore bears special responsibility for explaining, promoting, and, if necessary, defending – always pursuant to the orientations of the law and the Magisterium of the Church – religious and moral truths, also in the presence of public opinion, and even in the vast world of the mass media if he does have the specific preparation necessary. In an increasingly secularized culture where religion is often disregarded and considered as irrelevant or illegitimate in social debate, or at the most relegated to the intimacy of consciences alone, the priest is called to sustain the public and community significance of the Christian faith, transmitting it in a clear and convincing manner on all occasions, welcome or unwelcome (cf. 2Tm 4:2), and keeping ever in mind that patrimony of teachings that constitutes the Social Doctrine of the Church. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is an incisive instrument that will help him to present this social teaching and illustrate its richness in today’s social context.
The reduction of his mission to temporal tasks of a purely social or political nature, or in any case alien to his identity, would be not a conquest but a most grave loss for the evangelical fecundity of the entire Church.
The entire document, complete with footnotes, can read here.
Related: Deacons and politics: walking the tightrope by Deacon Bill Ditewig