What Bishops Should Preach about Politics
Byline: Bernardo M Villegas
THE very visible participation of a few Catholic bishops in partisan politics has sown confusion among both Catholics and non-Catholics about the role of the church hierarchy (to be distinguished from the church which comprises mostly lay people) in the political life of a nation. Fortunately, last July, 2005 a" at the height of the "Garci tapes" controversy a" the Catholic Bishopsa Conference (CBCP) clearly stated that bishops and priests should limit themselves to enunciating the moral principle governing political activity and should leave it to the laity (who constitute more than 99 percent of Catholics) to freely debate on the many equally moral options that human ingenuity can discover (e.g. resignation, impeachment, Charter change, coalition government, etc.). Although bishops and priests are also private citizens who are entitled to their own private views about political matters, prudence dictates that they keep quiet about partisan politics so as not to mislead the faithful that the personal opinions they are expressing are the only "Catholic solutions."
Bishops and priests must, however, shout to the four winds what the Catholic Church teaches about the moral obligation of those who exercise authority in civil society. I would like to hear them teach in as many creative ways as possible, whether opportune or not, the following points contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2235-2237):
a" Those who exercise authority should do so as a service. "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant." The exercise of authority is measured morally in terms of its divine origin, its reasonable nature, and its specific object. No one can command or establish what is contrary to the dignity of persons and the natural law.
a" The exercise of authority is meant to give outward expression to a just hierarchy of values in order to facilitate the exercise of freedom and responsibility by all. Those in authority should practice distributive justice wisely, taking account of the needs and contribution of each, with a view to harmony and peace. …