Southern African Bishops Write Pastoral Letter on Corruption

Say It Is More Than a Government Problem

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The bishops of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (which is comprised of the Catholic bishops of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland), have written a pastoral leter called «A Call to Examine Ourselves in the Widespread Practice of Corruption.»

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Your Bishops, gathered in the August Plenary Session of the Conference in Mariannhill, expressed their desire that we give greater attention to the damage caused in society and in the church by rampant corruption, and encourage all to work towards its eradication.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

These words of St Paul call us anew to strive with all our power to become truly free in Christ. St. John Chrysostom reminds us that we can very easily become enslaved to money and in that way the freedom Jesus has won for us becomes meaningless.

Pope Francis has pointed out in a recent sermon that corruption is worse than other sins, because of the way in which it becomes a habit that hardens the heart; so much so that we become insensitive to the signs of the times and the invitations of God’s grace.

Referring to the works of the night, St. Paul calls us to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light so as to conduct ourselves in the daylight of Christ’s truth. (Rom 13: 12, 13).

“O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5)

Statistics high-light the very serious problem we have regarding corruption in many areas of Southern Africa. It has been reported that almost half of the citizens in our countries of Southern Africa admit to having paid a bribe, mostly to police officers and government officials. This means that the challenge to work for the eradication of this illness is addressed to all of us. Each must do something within their power to tackle corruption.

Examining our own attitudes as citizens within the family, society and the church is required. A change of heart is called for so that we walk in the light of the Lord.

Corruption is theft from the poor. Money diverted into the pockets of corrupt people could have been spent on housing for the homeless, on medicine for the sick or for other needs. Aid should reach those it is intended for.

Corruption hurts the most vulnerable. Whenever someone pays to jump the queue for housing or for a permit, everyone else is pushed back in the queue – especially those who are defenceless: the elderly, young children, refugees, single mothers.Corruption harms the whole community. When bribery becomes a way of life for civil servants, business people or church personnel, their real responsibilities are put aside in pursuit of making money for themselves.Corruption destroys our trust. The experience of corruption leads us to become cynical about each other, to distrust the very people we regard as our leaders and as honourable people.

We would like to suggest three points for your consideration:

Firstly, corruption is not the government’s problem alone, it is our problem. We need to examine our consciences, allow ourselves to be challenged by the Gospel to conversion, and to resist the temptation to participate in corrupt actions. Therefore, let us each pledge to ourselves that we will not pay a bribe or offer one, no matter how serious or important it may seem to be at the time.

Secondly, if you experience corruption, report it. Bribery, collusion and all other forms of corruption thrive in conditions of secrecy and concealment, and they persist because we allow them to continue.

Thirdly, commit yourself to greater transparency and honesty in the home, parish and the work place.

We ask that Sunday 13 October and the week that follows be dedicated to fighting corruption and joining the international programme “Exposed”. The Justice and Peace Department of the Conference will be sending out further information about how we can work together to expose corruption.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

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