(Editor’s note: The following is an article written by Roy A. Cimagala on our present political culture.)
IN a talk about business ethics that I gave to a group of young entrepreneurs recently, one came up with a naughty grin and a naughtier question.
“Father,” he asked, “is there also such a thing as political ethics?”
I must admit that I could not help but be naughty myself as I replied:
“Well, my son, if ever there was, I’m afraid it had no chance to survive, what with all the crooks and clowns we have as our political leaders!”
Of course, when sobriety returned, I had to say there surely was such a thing, there should be, and that it was important to promote and spread it as widely as possible. It should be the fruit of a Gospel-inspired political culture.
I immediately quoted what the Compendium of the Church’s Social Doctrine had to say about this:
“Fostering a social and political culture inspired by the Gospel must be an area of particular importance for the lay faithful.” (555)
Politics should not be driven simply by any kind of ideology and much less by purely personal interests.
And I proceeded to describe what this Gospel-inspired political culture may involve. The Compendium gives the following very interesting points:
- For the lay faithful, political involvement is a worthy and demanding expression of the Christian commitment of service to others. (565)
In other words, politics should be encouraged to all those who have the proper conditions for it. It should not be left in some exclusivist hands, those who for practical more than Christian reasons may find it convenient to be there.
- Those involved should be absolutely convinced of the necessity of the moral dimension in doing politics through thoughtful contributions to the political debate, planning and the chosen actions. (566)
This should be made clear from the beginning. Otherwise, we will be wasting our time and opening ourselves to more complicated problems.
- The exercise of political authority should be seen as service to be carried out always in the context of moral law for the attainment of the common good.
In short, it should not be seen as a function of simply personal interests and goals, using Machiavellian methods.
- A method of discernment, at both the personal and community levels, should be developed to help lay faithful to identify steps that can be taken in concrete political situations with the view of putting into practice the principles and values proper to social life. (568)
- This method of discernment can be structured around certain key elements, like: knowledge of the situations, analyzed with the help of the social sciences and other appropriate tools; systematic reflection on these realities in the light of the unchanging message of the Gospel and the Church’s social teaching; identification of choices aimed at assuring that the situation will evolve positively.
- However, an absolute value must never be attributed to these choices because no problem can be solved once and for all. Christian faith cannot impose a rigid framework on social and political questions.
I feel this where many times we commit mistakes. We tend to absolutize options that cannot satisfy everyone. We have to have room to accommodate legitimate variety of positions.
There can be many more that can be said, but these few points may suffice for the moment. I hope that we can find time to study them well and to cultivate the relevant attitudes and virtues. This is indispensable.
The clergy should lead the way in spreading these relevant points in the social doctrine so that the lay faithful, the primary players in the political arena, would be properly guided.
Lastly, it should not be forgotten that this Gospel-inspired political culture should include willingness to make sacrifices, to be patient, to enter into constant dialogues with all parties, to forgive and to ask forgiveness, and all that our Lord has shown us with his life and death.