By allowing Caesar to collect taxes, Jesus opposes the Pharisees by acknowledging the practical reality of the Roman tax to pave roads, treat sewage, and restrain criminals. The Roman Missal directs us to pray for public authorities at Mass, as St. Paul instructs in 1 Timothy 2.2
But Jesus does not side with the Herodians because he says give to God what belongs to God implying that everything belongs to God, including Caesar. As an old preacher said: “Christ is Lord of all, or Christ is not Lord at all.”
Taxes go to government, and tithes go to God of our money, time, and talents. We are stealing from God if we don’t give God what is due him.
Although a tight union between the Church and State could support the stability of both, it also made it difficult to change either as seen in the eighth century when Pepin the Short captured territory from Italy and gave it to the Pope, creating the Papal States.
Today, the closest thing we have to Papal States is Ave Maria, Florida (near Naples), a master planned, Catholic Community!
Notice that Jesus threw the question back at them. Jesus has flipped the coin on the Pharisees: they must call head or tails! 1 And so must we.
The Church does not endorse any political party or form of government. This is from Gaudium et Spes 76 from Vatican II. Yet, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, with due consideration of public safety, health and morals, and the protection of the rights of others.
The Church used to require the State to promote the one, true faith. Now, the Church asks that the civil power grant to all peoples the freedom to seek the truth. And, if you seek the truth, you may eventually end up in the one, truth faith. So, the message is still the same, but the method has changed.
The separation of Church and State does not mean separation of faith and morals from the formation of public policy. “The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated.” Deus caritas est, 28.
Although, currently in this country, candidates for political office are not endorsed on Church property, per se, but the Church teaches voting principles like that voting pro-life is proportionally much more important than jobs, the economy, taxes, immigration, etc.
A candidate for political office does not have to perfect in all the issues.
E.g., In our First Reading, Cyrus, King of Persia, worshipped several gods, but is unconditionally praised in Jewish sources. After 50 years of captivity in Babylon, Cyrus released Israel after defeating Babylon. Isaiah says that God anointed him (45:1).
Five peaceful pro-life advocates who entered a Washington, D.C., abortion facility as part of a “rescue” in October 2020 were convicted of federal felony charges recently. Condemned for their efforts to protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings. Legally defending them and working to change this law in their civil disobedience to save lives is part of faithful citizenship. Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis told the European Parliament that, “it is the forgetting of God, and not seeking his Glory, that engenders violence.”
The pro-lifers remind me of Philippians 4:22: St. Paul was also in federal custody, and he describes some of his co-prisoners as being “saints from the house of Caesar.”
Acts 5:29 says, “We must obey God rather than men,” which means that a citizen is obliged in conscience not to obey the laws of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. This set-apart life is what we call holiness.
Otherwise, politics is about «bread and circuses.»
1. Jim Jonston, FranciscanMedia.org