Like many people around the world I have followed the events in Ferguson, praying for reconciliation and healing, reflecting as well upon the corrosion of democracy the more we chose to abandon authentic faith and praxis, that is the daily living of the Gospel, the preaching of the Gospel with our lives without compromise.
My purpose here is not to analyze the tragedy of the shooting of the young man in Ferguson Missouri some months ago, nor to comment on the reaction/actions of those citizens who have taken to the streets protesting the Grand Jury’s decision – rather it is to reflect upon the over arching reality of the constant weakening of societal stability, impact of loss of authentic moral principles, rooted in a loss/weakening of faith in Judeo-Christian based cultures.
In a recent address to the European Parliament, Pope Francis posed the following questions to the continent, questions which can also be asked of all ‘new world’ countries since our religious and cultural roots, [ after those of the First Peoples who where here when the Europeans arrived ], originate in Christian Europe:
“…. we can put the question: “Where is your vigour? Where is that idealism which inspired and ennobled your history? Where is your spirit of curiosity and enterprise? Where is your thirst for truth, a thirst which hitherto you have passionately shared with the world? The future of the continent will depend on the answer to these questions.”
If there remains in the United States, but not only there, after the bloodletting of the last century, such deep racial and religious divides and hostilities; if extremist fundamentalism exists not only outside of the Americas and Europe but within, even if not as violent as Islamist forms are; if anti-Christian bias in media, film, other forms of ‘art’ has become the acceptable form of intolerance, then the above questions need be posed to each of our hearts, but especially to our politicians at every level, for they are supposed to be leader-servants of ours and not followers of their own whims, agendas, ambitions.
In his stage play and film, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, author Robert Bolt has his hero St. Thomas More state:
“When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”
How often do we hear political leaders claiming to be Christian, frequently to be Catholic, state in various ways how while they do not ‘personally’ adhere to whatever the immoral proposal may be, nonetheless not wanting to ‘impose’ their personal belief on others they will vote in favour of abortion, euthanasia, removal of visible Christian signs from the public square at Christmas, making right ‘in law’ various disorders which assault marriage and family.
If leaders wonder why, in a situation such as the Ferguson tragedy, their moralizing at such junctions is received with either disdain or people simply not trusting, it is because lack of authentic moral leadership day in and day out means in a crisis people find it difficult, if not impossible, to trust such leaders when leadership is most needed – for like the solitary child who alone spoke the truth “The Emperor has no clothes!” leaders who fail to lead but merely follow special interest groups or their own lust for re-election are devoid, naked of true strength, the strength of calibre which comes from knowing the true origin of their authority: “…all government comes from God…The state is there to serve God…” [Romans 13: 1ff]
St. Paul outlines as well our obligations as citizens however and if we wish to have leaders whom we can follow then we needs be very careful whom we elect, which means we must have solid moral roots ourselves.
Here too the example of St. Thomas More is critical, as noted St. John Paul in 2000 when he named More as patron of politicians: “….it is helpful to turn to the example of Saint Thomas More, who distinguished himself by his constant fidelity to legitimate authority and institutions precisely in his intention to serve not power but the supreme ideal of justice. His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue. Unwavering in this rigorous moral stance, this English statesman placed his own public activity at the service of the person, especially if that person was weak or poor; he dealt with social controversies with a superb sense of fairness; he was vigorously committed to favouring and defending the family; he supported the all-round education of the young. His profound detachment from honours and wealth, his serene and joyful humility, his balanced knowledge of human nature and of the vanity of success, his certainty of judgement rooted in faith: these all gave him that confident inner strength that sustained him in adversity and in the face of death. His sanctity shone forth in his martyrdom, but it had been prepared by an entire life of work devoted to God and neighbour.”
“Unwavering in…rigorous moral stance”!
A question we and our leaders need to pose of our hearts.