July 18 - July 31, 2005

FR. Roy Cimagala

Handling political power

MANY persons, even respectable institutions, have made their statements, expressed their views and positions regarding our present political crisis. Yes, sadly, we are again into some exciting times.

What explosion of personal insights and flashes of wisdom crises can generate! All of a sudden, some people become pundits, eager to pontificate even on highly opinionative matters.

While we can always take advantage of these views, we should be wary when they are made to sound like dogmas. All of us should take it easy; approach the issues with calm and objectivity.

What is important is that we don’t become too hasty and too idealistic that we end up creating more problems, inflicting more damage on ourselves than benefits that at best are only abstract and theoretical.

We need to be extremely prudent and discerning, considering many points, and not to insist so much, for example, on justice, because justice would be hollow if it does not end up in mercy and charity for all.

As our Compendium of the Church’s Social Doctrine says: “Love presupposes and transcends justice, which must find its fulfillment in charity…Human relations cannot be governed solely by the measure of justice.” (206)

Besides, our history tells us that “justice alone is not enough, and that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself.”

The same point goes on to say that “in every sphere of interpersonal relationships justice must, so to speak, be corrected to a considerable extent by that love which, as St. Paul claims, is patient and kind.”

In short, justice, yes, of course, but charity should always be upheld and pursued. Charity gives us a more complete picture of things. Justice tends to take a narrower, if legitimate, view. It gets entangled with the details.

This is the essential thing that we should focus on. Beyond the personalities involved, we have to see what is the root cause of the problems, and what appropriate solutions can be made?

We should not get entangled with the peripherals. While justice has to be served, let’s not insist so much on it as to forget mercy and the other objective requirements of the common good. We have to move on.

Again, from the present crisis we can and should derive a strong reminder about the nature and meaning of political power and authority. Its confusion and errors are the root causes of our problems.

Fact is, many of us have drifted away from the religious and human foundations of political power. We have made it basically an arena of our own personal self-interests.

This is the vicious virus afflicting our attitudes and mentality towards politics. We have forgotten that “there is no power but from God, and those that are ordained of God.” (Rom 13,1)

The pursuit, use or exercise, and the following of political authority and power have become a purely human affair, detached from God’s will, commandments and his providential designs.

We have shamelessly converted the legitimate autonomy that the realm of political power has into a total independence from God, where only the human designs reign. Are we still wondering why we have so much mess, so much corruption?

Earthly power and authority can only be a participation in the authority of God. As the Gospel, and not just any smart ideology, says, it is in “Jesus Christ, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth receives its name.” (Eph 3,15).

Yet, we pursue, use and follow political power mainly in accordance with our purely human designs. Are we still wondering why there is so much arrogance, vanity, lust for power, the belief that one is indispensable, is practically the messiah for all humanity?

There is hardly any show of humility and of disinterested service to all. Power and authority is not used for the common good, nor pursued to enhance solidarity among all and foster greater participation by all in social life.

This is the basic point to focus on. The religious leaders would do well to concentrate on this point, rather than get entangled with political opinions. That’s already a tremendous task to tackle.

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