Politics and Religion
Completely inappropriate and utterly disgusting political remarks by a priest at a funeral, prompted me to write ''Should Priests Take Politics to the Pulpit?'' in April of this year. As my words of advice appear to have been ignored, I am forced to reiterate what Pope John Paul II said in July 1993 and I quote ''Priests do not have a political mission and must renounce involvement in political activity, especially by not taking sides''. Some of our priests act in complete contravention of the Pope's instruction, which to my mind is a very serious matter and ought to be taken up with the Vatican. I felt that my article had served the purpose which I intended; namely to discourage religious leaders from involving themselves in partisan politics. I was wrong.
As our electoral process appears to be accelerating, more political comments are coming from that priest. Any priest who gets deeply involved in partisan politics is losing his way and his mission. It is my view (and that of the Pope) that religion has no place in politics-particularly partisan politics .Religion concerns the private sphere; what pertains to us as individuals or as members of a church. Political life, by contrast, concerns the public sphere; what pertains to us as members of a wider community with diverse views on all issues including religion. This distinction seems necessary once we realize the hatred and violence associated with both religious and political disagreements. Unless we simply agree to disagree about matters of such intense division, there is little hope of sustaining civil society.
The exclusion of religion from political discussion has historically attracted people from two opposite perpectives.One perspective found the rival claims of different religions all equally absurd and so all equally to be ignored. The other perspective have taken their own religious views as true and important,but,fearing the political triumph of conflicting views, have agreed to a truce under which all religious claims are withdrawn from the public sphere but are allowed to flourish in private. Religion enters our public discourse primarily as a voice on moral issues, like corruption, homosexuality, child abuse etc. not on political matters. All comments should be general, not directed at individuals or groups. But do we hear general statements about corruption from the churches? We hear about everything else. If they do not speak out on everything that is wrong, they do not have the moral authority to speak out on anything that is wrong.There is no such thing as selective morality.
I pray that all the religious leaders who have lost their way because of politics do find it again and focus on the mission they have promised God to fulfill.