“Corruption is theft from the poor," warn the Bishops of the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference.
In a recently published Pastoral Letter dedicated to the scourge of corruption, the bishops of the SACBC (which brings together the Bishops of the South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana) point out that "Corruption harms the whole community. When bribery becomes a way of life for civil servants, business people or church personnel, their real responsibilities are put aside in pursuit of making money for themselves”.
And the document continues, outlining how corruption leads us to become cynical about each other, to distrust the people we regard as our leaders and as honorable people.
The President of the SACBC, Cape Town Archbishop Stephen Brislin, spoke to Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni about the Pastoral Letter which he says, was triggered by the need to address what is an enormous issue, around the world and in South Africa…
Archbishop Stephen Brislin says that there have been a number of cases in his country which have brought corruption to the fore, and in a country where there are many many poor people, the issue is perhaps even more poignant.
Quoting from the Pastoral Letter itself: “Corruption is theft from the poor. Money diverted into the pockets of corrupt people could have been spent on housing for the homeless, on medicine for the sick or for other needs. Aid should reach those it is intended for”. So, Archbishop Brislin points out “unless we are able to root out corruption in our society and in our country we are stealing from the poor, we are preventing the advancement of poor people, we are preventing poor people reaching their full potential as human beings”. “Corruption – he explains – is endemic; it is at every level of society, and therefore we have to look at it in the broadest possible way”.
The document includes a quote by Pope Francis in which he says that corruption is worse than other sins, because when it becomes a habit it hardens the heart. Archbishop Brislin says he thinks this is very true:“it is a very selfish action. It is saying I want to enrich myself, I want to enjoy the benefits and the fruits that other people can’t have”. So he says: “it harms the whole community. It is a poison, an evil that must be eradicated from the whole of society”.
The Archbishop confirms that the bishops of Southern Africa have called on their people to embrace the international ecumenical “Exposed” Campaign – which calls individuals to take action and in fact indicates that corruption is a universal issue.
And Archbishop Brislin says that this Letter is a way of preparing for the upcoming April elections that mark 20 years of democracy in South Africa. However he reveals the bishops will be issuing another Pastoral document in celebration of that event. “What we would like for people in SA to do is to consider very carefully when they are going to the polls who should be voting for in terms of issues and the issues which affect our country”.
The Archbishop also comments on the part of the letter in which the bishops call on members of the Church to examine their attitudes, he says that Church members must be stewards of the donor money they receive for projects, so “we have got to make sure we have the right processes in place, the right systems in place to ensure there is no corruption, and should there be a case of corruption, that we immediately take the right action”.