Sunday, July 29, 2007

Deacons in politics (Contribution)

Being faithful to the scriptures, the Roman Catholic Church has three orders of clergy - bishops, presbyters and deacons - each with different functions.

Church law expressly forbids bishops and priests from seeking elected office under any circumstances, but deacons are not universally forbidden; it depends upon the local bishop's assessment of the particular situation.

Sadly, many of us Jamaicans accept our tribal Jamaican politics as 'normal' since we have known little else.

The phenomenon of 'garrison constituencies' with their dons and enforcers must never be seen as 'normal', in any sense of the word.

The phenomenon of political gunmen and political violence mixed with drug trafficking which has produced a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world is not 'normal' in any sense of the word.

The high incidence of political corruption in Jamaica with lack of transparency around political donations making it difficult to detect influence peddling, especially in terms of the allocation of political spoils, is not 'normal'.

The polarisation of Jamaican society caused by Jamaican politics is, in fact, pathological; Jamaican society is a sick society, and we must be careful not to become so accustomed to it that we condone it and become corrupted by it.

Church's role

The Church is 'in the world' but is not supposed to be 'of the world'. She is called to play an important prophetic role (and here I use the term in its original biblical sense of 'bearing witness' to God's Word and His will, and not anything to do with soothsaying or predicting the future).

All members of the Church are called to work hard to make God's kingdom come, to make God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, to create a society of freedom and peace, justice and equality. The vast majority of the Church (the Laity) are encouraged to enter political life and to seek elected office to work in a direct way to make it happen. The role of the clergy is tooffer moral guidance and spiritual direction.

Under normal conditions there would be no objection to a deacon seeking elected office, and Church law allows it.

But in those situations where to seek elected office means to join a political tribe, to take a side in a deeply scarred and polarised society, this would be a betrayal of the Church's prophetic role.

In Jamaica, to be a member of the People's National Pary or Jamaica Labour Party means to either associate with political thugs, or to associate with people who employ political thugs.

To be a politician in Jamaica means that violence may be done to others in your name, even though you may not have ordered it or don't even know about it.

To be a candidate in a constituency which has garrison communities means that people may try to commit electoral fraud in your name, to stuff ballot boxes so that you will win it by more than 100 per cent of the registered voters. In this context, it is not appropriate for a deacon to be contesting an election.

Deacons joining tribes

Deacons proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and preach His Word, in season and out of season.

In a politically tribalised society, how can a deacon build unity within the church, how can a deacon be a 'Repairer of the Breach', if he joins one of the tribes and associates himself with those who divide rather than unite?

It is laudable to wish to change our corrupt political system, but it is more likely that we will be changed and corrupted by the corrupt system we have; and the Church will be the loser in the end.

There is a real danger that instead of being a voice of peace and justice, the Church will itself become tribalised, will become 'of the world'.

Sometimes we have to compromise, but we must never compromise on essentials.

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The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

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