The primary mission of the Church is to preach the good news for the salvation of the world. Therefore, evangelization in all aspects of life --- social, political, economic, cultural spiritual, and even environmental --- is her immediate challenge. So as Lay Faithful we are to discern and be able to contribute in the evangelization-mission of the Church in transforming its socio-political dimension. This, as “we commit our church personnel to the indispensable task of raising social awareness and forming social consciences through political education. We cannot say that we have done enough to educate our people in the social teachings of the Church.” (CBCP, "Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics," 1997)
What is the basis for the Church's mission in politics? According to the Catechism on the Church and Politics issued last May 11, 1998 by the CBCP
The main reasons why the Church has a mission in politics are the following:
First, because politics has a moral dimension. Politics is a human activity. It may hurt or benefit people. It can lead to grace or to sin.
Second, because the Gospel and the Kingdom of God call the Church to political involvement. To proclaim the gospel to all creation necessarily includes evangelizing the political world. Moreover, at the center of Jesus' mission is the proclaiming of the Kingdom of God. But the Kingdom of God calls us to repentance and renewal (Mk. 1:15). This call to renewal is
to renewal is addressed likewise to the political field.
Third, because the mission of the Church of integral salvation involves the political sphere. Integral salvation is the salvation of the total person, soul and body, spiritual and temporal. This is why Jesus not only forgave sins but also healed people from sickness. The Church must likewise bring the healing grace of salvation to the temporal, including political, sphere.
Are there other reasons why the Church must be involved in politics?
Yes, there are. Another reason is because salvation of the human person is from personal and social sin. We know that in the political field, social sins unfortunately abound, such as graft and corruption, "dirty politics" of "guns, goons, and gold", deceit and unprincipled compromises, "politics of greed". In the mind of the Church, systems where such social sins have been imbedded through constant practice are "structures of sin
or structures of injustice.”
Still another reason is because the Church has an Option for the Poor. In the Philippines, politics is heavily tilted against the poor. The poor often become in a real sense voiceless and powerless. Laws are often passed that merely support vested interests rather than promote the common
good of all.
Finally, because John Paul II said that the concrete human being living in history is "the way for the Church" (RH, 14; CA, 53-54). The temporal and spiritual development of the total human person is the way by which the Church accomplishes the mission to proclaim the Gospel. We know very well that politics can dehumanize the human person and entrap the person in sinful behavior or structures.
Yes, there are. Another reason is because salvation of the human person
In short, politics cannot claim to be above or outside the natural law and the moral law. Politics has moral and religious dimensions. Therefore, the Church has to be involved in the political world. (Catechism on the Church and Politics issued last May 11, 1998)
II. Discernment: Pro-active response
There are situations in life which need our response in the family, community, and in our workplace. The way we deal with situations is sometimes reactive. What do we mean by reactive? This means that for example in the family a child fails in his study and parents would right away punish the child or blame the child instead of inquiring and trying to explore possibilities to help the child. Retaliation against the person who inflicts harm to us—could be one of the examples of being reactive. But as Christians we are called to be pro-active—trying to see and discover long term and wholistic solution of a problem in the family, community (society) and in the workplace. For example the community suffers flooding when it rains. The leader would gather the community—discuss, consult, plan and implement the solution as a result of the gathering. Rather than implementing something which does not pass through consultation and discussion or even blame the community for the flooding.
In the context of the nation and the city—the coming election we need to witness as Catholic Christians. We need to witness in a pro-active way through discernment. What is discernment? “Discernment” comes from the word “discern”, or, “dis” in Latin which means “off, away”, and “cerne” which means “distinguish, separate, sift”. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/discernment) We need to discern, asking the Holy Spirit’s guidance whom to vote especially pro-God and pro-Life candidates. We need this kind of witnessing so that our action would be motivated by Faith. When we vote with a discerning heart we can let go of the political culture where we are in right now as a nation and as a city: Patronage politics, politics of personalities and politics of pay-off.
What is meant by “patronage politics”?
Deriving from the feudal system of master and servant, the politics of patronage considers the relationship between public official and ordinary citizen as that of patron (master) and client (servant). Rewards or benefits are distributed according to the loyalty of clients to their patrons. Clients or voters depend on their patrons or public officials for every development project or assistance, and solutions to community problems. Rewards or development projects are distributed, then, on the basis not of justice due to people but on the basis of the government official's "kindness" and the loyalty of the people to the public official. Thus political leaders and followers who show support are rewarded with projects, money or jobs. Dependence and subservience, passivity and inaction on the part of citizens is characteristic of such a system. This accounts for the lack of viable political organizations among the poor on the one hand and the concentration of power in the hands of the few on the other. In addition because political positions are treated like feudal properties, public funds are used by some officials as their own, for personal or family interests. In fact a political office is often treated as some sort of a feudal title to be passed on from one generation to another. This is at the basis of so called "family dynasties." (Catechism on the Church and Politics issued last May 11, 1998)
What is meant by “politics of personalities”?
This is a system where the popularity of political candidates rather than issues count more than knowledge and competence. The popularity of personalities and the "connection" of personalities to the powers that be are more often than not the main criteria for judging who should be elected. Thus, candidates for political office who are popular in movies, sports, or are connected to powerful political families have a significant headstart in elections. Coupled with Filipino values of family-centeredness, family connections have resulted in family political dynasties. Moreover, the politics of personalities has made it possible for frequent changes in political party affiliation or political "turn-coatism". Parties do not have political ideologies that present voters with clear cut alternatives on key social issues such as environmental protection, globalization, trade liberalization, etc. PCP-II observed that people themselves "seem to care more for the projects and gifts and less for the substantive issues on which their elected political representatives should
take a stand" (PCP-II, pp. 279-80) (Catechism on the Church and Politics issued last May 11, 1998)
What is meant by “politics of pay-off?”
It is a system of politics where political advantage is the reason that a politician takes one position over another with regard to issues. The political debate depends on answers to such questions as "What will you do for me if I support you on this issue"? Pay-off can be in terms of financial "commissions", political appointments, or of better political leverage. This is sadly the belief of what goes on in the halls of Congress. It is not rare that decisions are based not on principles but on "horse trading", vested interests and on so called "party loyalty." Many people, therefore, believe that decisions on the government yearly budget depend very much on questions of the "pork barrel" fund. The more generous the "pork barrel" the easier other items of the budget are approved. "Politics of pay-off" also includes vote-buying. (Catechism on the Church and Politics issued last May 11, 1998)
III. Lay Participation: Spirituality to transform Politics
In our Christian life there is always a danger to separate Faith from our daily task and responsibility in life. Faith therefore is not expressed in our usual daily transactions. In other words, there is the reality of a split-level Christianity.
When the human person opens himself or herself to the spirit in prayer, in discernment, he or she is doing a spiritual activity. This discernment process that we are doing right now on how to get involve in the renewal of politics of the nation is a spiritual activity. The ultimate end of every spiritual activity is that we try to bring into concrete the presence of the divine, the “spiritual” presence of the divine, to concretize the fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”(Gal. 5: 22-23)
All of us baptized Christians are given the responsibility, in the spirit of our being prophets and by the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 28: 19ff to evangelize, to preach the good news to all nations including the world of politics. However, the "Direct participation in the political order is the special responsibility of the laity in the Church…. it is their specific task to renew the temporal order according to Gospel principles and values" (CBCP, "Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics," 1997).
As lay we have the specific task to bring into the realm of Philippine politics the principles of the social teachings of the Church and values of the Kingdom then and only then we can hope for renewal in Philippine politics not only short term but long term, continuous effort until we see concrete changes now and in the future.
To conclude my reflection I would like to request the following:
1. Help the parish to evangelize the electorate
2. Evangelize your own members of the family
3. Pray. We should not be hopeless but hopeful in God. Because Christianity is hopeful religion and this is clearly manifested in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Personally I believed in my heart that God will do a great miracle in this coming election for the good of the nation and for the good of the city.
Guide questions for reflection:
1. Do I have a discerning heart?
2. Am I willing to take part in the evangelization work of the Church?
3. Am I resolved to transform politics by voting the right candidates this coming election?