Spirituality in politics
Our turbulent political debate gives the false impression that the real meaning and purpose of politics is simply the eventual crushing triumph of one side over the other. The way things are happening in this country is steering some people to distance themselves completely from the political ministry. It is as if politics is a dirty exercise, one should refrain from taking part in.
This idea directly opposes what the Catholic Church teaches on the subject. When addressing the 200 participants in a seminar held by the Robert Schuman Foundation for the Cooperation of European Christian Democrats, Blessed John Paul II had highlighted the contradiction of those who disdain political involvement but take no “responsibility for society’s well-being”.
He said “the complaints often made against political activity don’t justify an attitude of disengaged scepticism on a Catholic’s part, who has the duty, rather, of taking responsibility for society’s well-being.
“It’s not enough to call for the building of a just and fraternal society. There’s also a need to work in a committed and competent way for the promotion of perennial human values in public life, in accord with the correct methods proper to political activity”.
The Polish Pontiff was echoing the same teaching found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
In number 565, the Compendium rightly stresses that political participation is a genuine vocation in view of serving other members of society, especially the less fortunate. It also outlines the fundamental criteria that should guide Christian politicians who bravely decide to engage themselves in political activity.
These are “the pursuit of the common good in a spirit of service, the development of justice with particular attention to situations of poverty and suffering, respect for the autonomy of earthly realities, the principle of subsidiarity, the promotion of dialogue and peace in the context of solidarity”.
The enduring success of politics entirely depends on the strength of its soul. The moral dimension in the social and political sphere is paramount. Otherwise, political life betrays its purpose by sidelining the common good it has vowed to serve and merely ends up becoming an instrumentalised endeavour led by biased partisan groups.
Serious and committed political service always accentuates the formation of one’s own conscience on sound principles.
In the following number, the Compendium says: “Living and acting in conformity with one’s own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of confessionalism but, rather, the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person.”
If, in Blessed John Paul’s view, while quoting Paul VI, “politics is a demanding manner... of living the Christian commitment to the service of others”, it is essential that the Christian must realise that “the ‘salt’ of his Christian commitment does not lose its ‘flavour’ and that the ‘light’ of his Gospel ideals does not become obscured by pragmatism or, even worse, by utilitarianism.
“For this reason, he will need to deepen his knowledge of Christian social doctrine, striving to assimilate its principles and to apply it with wisdom where necessary”.
Subscribing to the spirituality of communion is the marked difference a Christian politician can ever make to the political public fora.
Blessed John Paul II defined spirituality of communion as “the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly but also as a ‘gift for me.’
“A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to ‘make room’ for our brothers and sisters, bearing ‘each other’s burdens’ (Gal. 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy” (Nove Millenio Ineunte § 43).
Since the Eucharist is the spirituality of communion’s resource, can our political parties adorn their premises by erecting an adoration chapel in which Mass is frequently celebrated and the Blessed Sacrament is routinely adored? Such chapels will surely inspire them to pray before the Eucharistic Jesus before making great decisions for our country.
Can this project be realised?