Francis’ political philosophy in Malta - Fr Joe Borg
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Francis’ political philosophy in Malta - Fr Joe Borg

Politics: as an act of charity; as service to the people; as respect for the primacy of justice and law; the defence of those most vulnerable; as a bridge between peoples and builders of peace and as a means to rethink of our common destiny.

This is indeed a formidable list about what politics should be. This political philosophy can be compiled from the Pope’s World Peace Day message (January 1, 2019) and his January 7, 2019, address to diplomats accredited by the Holy See.

Some could get the impression that Francis is more political than his predecessors. It is true that one-eighth of his tweets reflect a political issue, but a study by Federica Geno­vese in the April 1, 2018, edition of the Washington Post concluded that this Pope’s communications aren’t more political, or more often political, than other Popes’ writings have been in the past. Francis’ innovations are a reaction to new realities ad­dressed from the richness of the Church’s long-standing teaching on the subject.

Can Maltese politics benefit for these insights of the Pope?

The defence of the vulnerable is given prio­rity by Francis. Top on the Pope’s list are not only refugees but also migrants who are ‘forced to emigrate’ because of poverty, persecution, natural catastrophes and climatic disturbances.

Our readiness, and that of other EU leaders, to comply with the Pope’s position was tested by the drama of 49 people on two rescue boats off Malta’s coast. After three weeks of shameful jostling by the strong and the powerful the migrants are now fortunately safe.

Did the behaviour of our and other political leaders show that they really believe in politics as the defence of the most vulnerable? Is playing the brinkmanship game with the lives of innocent people an honourable thing to do? Is the real or perceived danger of creating a precedent justified in such circumstances? The government deserves the support of everyone when it pressures the EU Member States to live up to the ideal of solida­rity of the founding fathers. But vulnerable people should not be the lever used to put this pressure to bear.

The primacy of justice and law is the first pillar of Francis’s political philosophy

It is very clear that the honeymoon enjoyed by our country for reasons never clearly explained during Matteo Renzi’s premiership is now over. The crisis is over but others will soon come. The government should not give in to the pressures of the hundreds if not thousands who shamefully share so much anti-refugee hatred on Facebook. How could the people of a Catholic country harbour so much hate in their hearts?

The primacy of justice and law is the first pillar of Francis’s political philosophy. For quite some time this has been one of the phrases most commonly mentioned in our political, public discourse.

The government was justifiably at the wrong end of the stick of comments by local and foreign dignitaries. But it has now adopted a crafty strategy. One minister after another continuously sing the praises of the rule of law with the same frequency, though not commitment, that Buddhist monks chant their mantras.

Last week’s sentence of the Appeals Court on a case related to the Panama Papers made many ask whether our courts have now gone the same rancid route already taken by the police, the Attorney General and the FIAU. While reading the sentence I could not but remember the series of articles penned by Judge Emeritus Giovanni Bonello on court sentences given during the notorious 1970s and 1980s. One prays and hopes that our judges do not do like some judges back then and morph into contortionists.

Our local politicians can learn a thing or two, for example, from the way Pope Francis lambasted short-termism:

“Politics must be farsighted and not limited to seeking short-term solutions. A good politician should not occupy spaces but initiate processes; he or she is called to make unity prevail over conflict, based on solidarity in its deepest and most challenging sense.” 

The underpinning of our current economic policy is the secular capitalist dogma that ‘if it makes a profit, then it is good’. Pope Francis counteracts this by putting forward a political option based on the respect of “the transcendent dimension of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God” and concretely shown in the “respect for the dignity of each human being”.

Today, current policies are showering more millions on the big-moneyed bullies while handing out crumbs for the new poor. If you don’t believe me, ask people living in garages or the ever-increasing numbers of those who cannot make ends meet.

Our public life is not based on what Francis describes in his address as the ethic of solidarity. This leads to partial and subjective visions of humanity that risk leading to new forms of inequality, injustice and discrimination.

The Pope in his address warned of the general lack of trust and a crisis of credibility in political life. This is a reality also in Malta. Unless more and more politicians adhere to the six pillars mentioned by the Pope in his message and his address, the effect of this general lack of trust and credibility will be devastating. 

joseph.borg@um.edu.mt

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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