Debate: Priests holding a political office


#1

I would very much like to debate with this lively community about priests running for or even holding a political office.

Should a priest get involved into politics? If so, only in local politics or even in national politics? Should he run for an office independant or join a political party? What political party? A Christian democratic one, a socialist one? Do you know members of the clergy holding a political office?

There are many questions we can pose, which will have even more answers since there isn't one clear answer.

I can recall that a few years ago a priest got elected in the Swedish parliament, or perhaps that of another Scandinavian country. And in the early 20th century a Belgian priest, Adolf Daens, got elected in the Belgian parliament, but later got his priestly ordination declared null.

So, what are your thoughts on the matter?

Here is some background information about what the Canon law says (source: WikiAnswers):

According to the Code of Canon Law (#285), clerics are to refrain from "all those things which are unbecoming to their state, according to the prescripts of particular law." This includes, in section 3, "Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power." I suppose that a cleric could run and win an election for public office, but his duties as a member of the clergy would prevent him from taking up that office, unless "particular law" (usually the law of the diocese of incardination) granted a particular exception. Even if allowed by local Church authorities, there are a number of modern examples where Pope John Paul II has called upon priests who hold public office to step down or resign from the clerical state.

There are several ignominious modern examples of clerics who have been elected to public office and who have assumed civil authority. Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti comes to mind. Also... US senator Robert F. Drinan, a Jesuit priest (recently deceased) comes to mind.

It seems that there have been a number of priests in Eastern bloc countries and in Central/South America who have held public office in times of persecution as an exception to the rule of universal law, in the interest of the public good.

I would consider it most unlikely that an active Catholic priest in good standing would ever be allowed to run for or hold a major elected office in the United States. Maybe there are highly exceptional cases where the public good would be served by priests holding office on a local level... on a road or drainage commission, or a school board, perhaps... but I would consider even this very doubtful considering the desperate need of priests in most places to be focused on their formal ministries and to be approachable as ministers instead of being co-opted as political partisans.

Canon 285 does not normally apply to 'permanent' deacons (who are also counted as members of the clergy) unless particular law specifies otherwise.


#2

I vote no, simple because he should be too busy shepherding his flock than playing politics.

But this is my opinion and I am sure the Church has Her opinion and that is really the only opinion that counts.


#3

[quote="st_lucy, post:2, topic:197901"]
I vote no, simple because he should be too busy shepherding his flock than playing politics.

But this is my opinion and I am sure the Church has Her opinion and that is really the only opinion that counts.

[/quote]

The Church has an opinion which is no, but it still has a clause: the permission of Rome.

And priests with an active role in politics can "shepherd" a flock too by giving their ethical opinion in politics. E.g. the abortion matter.


#4

[quote="Guillaumus, post:3, topic:197901"]
The Church has an opinion which is no, but it still has a clause: the permission of Rome.

And priests with an active role in politics can "shepherd" a flock too by giving their ethical opinion in politics. E.g. the abortion matter.

[/quote]

I guess I personally think of politicians as being dirty and I would hate to see a priest fall into that category.


#5

Simple answer to this question: a BIG FAT NO!

Priests should not get involved in politics-they have enough to do as shepherds to their people. This world is TEMPORAL, and its affairs will pass away. Priests should focus on saving souls and directing them to heaven. That’s what’s most important, not politics. Politics corrupt-and there’s been enough corruption in the Church with clerical abuse scandals.

Off topic [this is for Guillemus-sp?]-Wishing you a happy St. Damien’s feastday, seeing that you are from Belgium! This is the first one since his canonization last October! :thumbsup:


#6

You could also see it as priests could make politics more honest. A lot of politicians are guided by their religion, why can’t priests “guide” politics.

I understand that a priest has a ‘special’ status in society and that he should be quite “neutral”, but I see no problem with a priest defending his ideals on some matters.


#7

Priests could give politics a soul. They could actually change things, let people start to think about ethical problems. Some priests have side jobs a teachers, why not as a member of local town council?


#8

[quote="Guillaumus, post:7, topic:197901"]
Priests could give politics a soul. They could actually change things, let people start to think about ethical problems. Some priests have side jobs a teachers, why not as a member of local town council?

[/quote]

I still would not want priests getting involved in politics, even on a 'local' level. As I said in my first post, this world is temporal. Our Lord did not get involved in the politics of His time, with Judea being under Roman control and all. I know that He said, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's', but beside that, He was not 'political'.


#9

[quote="Guillaumus, post:7, topic:197901"]
Priests could give politics a soul. They could actually change things, let people start to think about ethical problems. Some priests have side jobs a teachers, why not as a member of local town council?

[/quote]

Priest can change hearts through the pulpit. How many politicians can we really trust? Politicians are always looking to the next election and how to get through it. They tend lie and cheat these are not traits a priest should ever be associated with.


#10

[quote="barb_finnegan, post:8, topic:197901"]
I still would not want priests getting involved in politics, even on a 'local' level. As I said in my first post, this world is temporal. Our Lord did not get involved in the politics of His time, with Judea being under Roman control and all. I know that He said, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's', but beside that, He was not 'political'.

[/quote]

Yet, He and His teachings greatly influenced politics even until today. ;-)


#11

You are putting all politicians in the same box now. I’m sure there still are idealist politicians with a pure heart, maybe not too many, but they exist.


#12

My initial reaction is ‘No’, as well. Although, I admit I haven’t given it much thought. It just seems to me a better thing for them to “tend their flock” so that those in the pews may make better choices at the ballot box. :shrug:


#13

This is a toughy. My heart says that they (priests) should be able to do what they want. If they want to go into politics, than go for it.

However, if a man feels the vocation to be a priest, he needs to know that there are things that he can’t do.

I also think it would make a priest more susceptible to criticism. People could say, “Oh, he’s just acting like a liberal/conservative” and be more able to dismiss his views on other things.

And, what if a priest had to make a choice that was contrary to the faith, but what his office holders wanted him to do? IE-A priest is the Governor of a liberal state whose legislature passes a liberal abortion law. In theory, since the people elect both the legislature and the governership, shouldn’t he follow the people?


#14

^^exactly what i was thinking


#15

One need only look at the Investiture Struggle of the Middle Ages to know that this would be a very, VERY bad idea!


#16

Well, since 1980's, priests have been forbidden to enter electoral politics by the Holy See. This is apparently because of ordained politicians like the Congressman Fr. Drinan, who was socially liberal. However, until the 18th or 19th century, priests in Catholic countries were often involved in civil affairs(e.g. Cardinal de Richelieu), and, prior to the Reformation, the Lord High Chancellor of England was almost always a prelate. Yet, such offices were generally by appointment. The circumstances seem to be rather different nowadays. Interestingly, though, there have been a few "defrocked" priests who have become politicians, like the former bishop Fernando Lugo, who is now President of Paraguay. However, that is a very dangerous idea- seeking laicization so as to pursue ambitions outside of the Church. Maybe a priest should obtain a law degree prior to ordination and practice or teach law to some extent with the hopes of a juridicial appointment(that was a joke- I doubt that the typical President, even if he happens to be a devout Catholic supporting family-values, would nominate a priest for the US. Supreme Court, let alone the chance that he would be confirmed by the Senate!).


#17

No bad idea. People don't really think they associate. If this priest is part of this party they that party is the Catholic party and represents the Church.

One problematic example is Slovakia. A country that sought its independence for many years when under Hungarian rule then under Czech rule was give its first independence by Adolf Hitler, and the President was a priest. Now no matter what the details are whether he was a good president or priest he is forever associated with Hitler.

Why even open up the possibility for such an association?

Look at Haiti they elected a priest for president he was excommunicated for it but he pretty much destroyed Haiti (how many times for this country?). If JPII didn't excommunicate him then his failed regime would be associated with the Catholic Church and making it more difficult for converts.


#18

The general opinion so far is that priests shouldn't run for a political office because it will corrupt them and that it isn't too great to combine with their "main work", namely his work a shepherd of his flock.

I think that priests are respectable men, strong in faith and their believes and therefor less easly corrupted.

It is indeed so that they will be looked at differently. They will recieve and etiquette saying "socialist", "democratic" or even the name of the party instead of the ideology. But every person has an (political) ideology, even priests. Even priests vote, they are also citizens.

As politicians they too can contribute. They can abstain from "higher offices", but I see no harm in a motivated, idealistic priest running for a local political office if he can combine it with his work in for exemple a parish. Priests are people who studied, who can explain things in a calm manner, who can listen. A parliament full of priests might as well be the best running parliament in the world if I see the "wars behind desks" in some national parliaments.

However to be laicaized with the purpose of holding a (high) political office, like Fernando Lugo, is very wrong to me. His main job was the serve the people as a priest and later bishop, not a president.


#19

Would there be a differance in a priest being elected or appointed to a political office to you?


#20

[quote="Guillaumus, post:19, topic:197901"]
Would there be a differance in a priest being elected or appointed to a political office to you?

[/quote]

Yes, since it involved an appointment, theoretically, the priest shall not have been seeking it. Also, as far as I am aware, that is allowed by the Pope. With the exception of, say, executive positions in most bishops' conferences, all offices within the Church itself are by appointment, as a source of comparison.


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