SOCIAL media has recently viralled locally the #205 Decree of the First Diocesan Synod of Borongan issued in 1997. The decree states: “Lay leaders who wish to run for elective government offices shall be deemed resigned from their positions upon filing of candidacy and can re-assume such offices only upon approval by the parish priest or in the case of the diocesan workers, by the Bishop.”
It gathered opposing reactions, and not a few negatively. Presumably, because the preceding decrees of the Synod were not posted. It appeared, therefore, very stifling for church workers who wanted to venture into public service. Obviously, the wisdom of this decree is about preserving the impartiality of the Church and cautioning the Church worker from using possible influence of his or her church office in the political campaign. This is very commendable.
In recent history, however, the incidence of a lay worker using his or her church position in political campaigns is almost nil. Not so with clerics in many dioceses venturing into politics, obviously using his stature to win votes or to influence voters to tilt to his favored candidate.
The larger perspective should be understood. The Church does not only “pass moral judgment even in matters related to politics whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it,” which may be read in Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes (#76, 5). The bigger order is to proclaim the Gospel to all creation, which necessarily include evangelizing the political world. So says CBCP’s Catechism on Church and Politics, “The Church has the duty of proclaiming the Gospel “to all creation” (Mk. 16:15) and “to restore all things under Christ” (Eph. 1:10). This means that the Gospel must “influence every phase of life, every stratum of society” (PEPP, p. 26), including the political sphere. In fact it is the duty of every Christian—to transform politics by the Gospel.” Moreover, politics is a human activity. It may hurt or benefit people. It can lead to grace or to sin.
Better than stifling Christian lay workers from getting involved in the political order but bereft or catechesis or just denouncing vote buying and other political ills—which may just be symptoms of a bigger malaise—is educating people in politics and sending them to world as “missionaries.”
This quote from CBCP’s Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics is very enlightening: “Possible political leaders should be schooled in the principles and practice of doing politics in a Christian way, in accord with the Gospels, the values of the Kingdom of God, the moral teachings of the Church, especially its social teachings. An implication of PCP-II’s stand urging persons in responsible positions to promote actively the election of worthy candidates is the necessity of preparing these candidates for public office. If economic managers are schooled in their field, political leaders should also be formed so that they may discharge the burdens of public office with competence and integrity.”