+ Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, Bishop Emeritus of San Cristobal de las Casas
The electoral whirlwind has passed, which moves, touches, involves, modifies and affects everything. Now we are in the expectation of the string-pulling that these changes will bring, with the doubt if the promises of the previous campaign will be put into practice. It’s one thing to speak and promise, and another to pass to the reality. The tone of a campaign is very different from the time of finding oneself before a government responsibility, as a candidate can say, criticize and offer; instead, a ruler must take the laws, institutions, histories, environments, internal and external contexts into account and, above all, the people. He can’t see everything and everyone at will, as not everything can be done.
I know a great Religious priest who spoke, criticized, proposed and demanded many changes within and outside of his Congregation. When he was appointed Superior General, the office made him more serene, prudent <and> sensible, respecting of persons and of their processes. To be faced with a responsibility should make us more mature and realistic.
In a pastoral visit in a municipality of Chiapas, a municipal President told me that, when he was a candidate, he criticized those of the other party who was in the post, because he held that they were thieves, that they kept the people’s money, that they were incompetent, and that he would change everything. When he was elected and began to govern, he realized that the money available wasn’t enough for the many existing needs. This made him more realistic, more humble and more respectful of others.
In a video message addressed to the participants in a meeting of Catholics with political responsibilities, organized by CELAM in Bogota, Pope Francis said:
“From Pope Pius XII up to now, the successive Pontiffs have always referred to politics as a “high form of charity.” It could also be translated as an inestimable service of dedication for carrying out society’s common good. Politics is first of all service; it’s not the slave of individual ambitions, of arrogant factions or of centers of interest. As service, it isn’t either a boss who intends to govern all the dimensions of people’s lives, including falling into forms of autocracy and totalitarianism. And when I speak of autocracy and totalitarianism, I’m not speaking of the past century; I’m speaking of today, in today’s world, and perhaps, also, of some country of Latin America. It could be affirmed that Jesus’ service — who came to serve and not to be served — and the service that the Lord exacts from His apostles and disciples are analogically the type of service that is asked of politicians. It’s a service of sacrifice and dedication, to the point that sometimes politicians can be considered as “martyrs” of causes for the common good of their nations.
The fundamental reference of this service, which requires constancy, effort and intelligence, is the common good, without which the rights and the noblest aspirations of persons, of families and of intermediary groups in general, would not be able to be carried out fully, because the ordered and civil space in which to live and operate would be lacking. It’s somewhat the common good conceived as an atmosphere of growth of the person, of the family, of the intermediary groups.
Vatican Council II defined the common good, in keeping with the patrimony of the Social Doctrine of the Church, as “the set of those conditions of social life with which men, families, and associations can achieve their own perfection with greater fullness and facility” (GS 74).
Of course, service must not be opposed to power – no one wants an impotent power! –, but power must be ordered to service so as not to degenerate. That is, all power that isn’t ordered to service degenerates. I’m referring, of course, to “good politics,” in its noblest sense of meaning, and not to the degenerations of what we call “politicking.”
“The best way to reach an authentically human politics – the Council teaches once again – is to foment an interior sense of justice, of benevolence and of service to the common good and to strengthen the fundamental convictions in what touches the true nature of the political community and the end, the correct exercise and limits of the public powers” (Ibid., 73). All of you be certain that the Catholic Church praises and esteems the work of those that dedicate themselves, at the service of man, to the good of public affairs and accept the burdens of that office” (December 1, 2017).
Let us not stay at the edge of history, only contemplating and criticizing. What can we do so that the management of our present and future executive and legislative authorities serves, in fact, the common good? Your word counts. Your opinion is important, which you can ensure reaches them by some means. You are part of this homeland, of your State, of your municipality. Pray and collaborate.