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Political genius or political animal?

January 26, 2013

As a priest, I of course do not do politics, that is to say, I cannot run for public office, I cannot take partisan positions in public, unless the issues involved are clearly inhuman and unchristian. But I should follow it closely, because politics is part of life and needs to be guided by the proper spirit of Christ.

Thatís the reason why there is the social doctrine of the Church that also covers politics. While it is the lay faithful who can take active and direct part of it, the clergy should also see to it that the whole political life in all levels of society is done properly.

Besides, the clergy is also part of the citizenry, subject to the laws of the land. They are part of the political life, obviously in a way proper to their state. Everyone takes part of politics always in accordance to oneís state and possibilities, the clerics in their own way, the lay also in their own way.

This doctrine of the Church has to be understood properly. It is that way because the priestís mission is eminently spiritual and supernatural in nature. Itís a mission that is above but not exempt from the understandable differences and conflicts of temporal affairs such as politics.

Thus the priest has to be extremely discerning to do his part in the political life of the country. He is not supposed to take a passive stance in it. He should be disinterested, but not uninterested. At least he has to pray a lot, offer a lot of sacrifices, do a lot of catechizing, etc. He has to be keenly interested in it, but in a specific way.

Having said that preamble, I must admit that I enjoy reading political developments here and abroad. There is obviously the chance to get excited with all the twists and turns of the political maneuverings politicians do. But at the end of the day, I bring these political items to prayer, trying to discern how things ought to go.

And I learn a lot from this exercise, since it allows me to read between the lines, to somehow read the minds of people, politicians especially, and to read the signs of the times. While there is a lot of tentativeness in this exercise, it actually gives me a lot of ideas and all sorts of impulses that I need to tame and clarify.

As of now, I learn a lot from certain moves of some politicians, both local and international. There are instances when I think the move is stupid, but also many instances when I am convinced the move is brilliant, is a masterstroke.

Since politicians are at the forefront of the development of society, they cannot help but be extremely cautious and smart in their actuations Ė their planning, their speeches, their public appearances, etc.

But they cannot avoid controversies and conflicts. And I must say that I admire how some of them handle these situations well Ė how they explain their positions, or defend them when attacked, how they have a good sense of timing and of what to say to what kind of audience at a given time.

Some of them really have excellent speaking talents, with sharp minds and witty tongues, and very adept both in aggressive and defensive tactics. Obviously, there are some who truly are political geniuses. But there sadly are others who can only elicit the judgment, tentative at best, of being political animals bereft of conscience.

Political developments are actually good learning moments. They should not be wasted by tackling it superficially as in simply giving knee-jerk reactions that tend to exaggerate or oversimplify things and are prone to make negative responses more than positive.

In short, politic discussions and analyses should go beyond the level of the barbers. Letís pray that our political columnists really do their part well, giving well-thought-out opinions and commentaries that should always be characterized by charity and fairness.

Sad to say, there are instances when some of these commentators are just out and out unfair, painting their enemy-politicians as the devil incarnate while putting their friend-politicians on a pedestal as if these are incapable of sinning. Thatís really over the top or way under the bottom.

We have to learn to hold our horses when reacting to political issues. Letís study them first, weigh things disinterestedly. Better, bring them to our prayer and ask God for light. We need to learn to relate political developments and issues to God and to the common good.