On deacons and partisan political views

YES, after a long pause, I am trying to resume regular posting for this blog. I guess, I needed that long break to really reflect what I want to share — not just making this blog a repository of past homilies. Hopefully, this year I will be able to contribute something that would really reflect my ministry as a deacon.

Let me start with this:

di4o4KdMTBEING a former student activist, I have a very firm opinion on politics, political issues and politicians. However, since being ordained as a minister of the Catholic church, I feel I have to be very careful in expressing my political views and inclinations mainly because I think people who will hear or read my views on political matters will not normally make a distinction between Chris, the citizen who like any other people has the right to express his opinion, and Deacon Chris, a minister of the Church, who has access to the pulpit and exhort people to think and act in accordance with the faith and teaching of the Church.

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Photo taken by John Casamento during my ordination, 15 Nov. 2014

It is very easy for the people we are ministering to take whatever we say as something we say in our capacity as deacons or ministers.

Yes we can still express an opinion but I think not to the extent of partisan political views. I feel if deacons–and for that matter any clergy–do this it will diminish our credibility as a witness and a messenger of the Gospel. For this reason, I am very uncomfortable hearing or reading deacons who are very partisan on political issues. I mean how can we be ministers on the edges; boundary riders if the people we are supposed to be seeking and bringing closer to the church; people who will have firm political stance, will be discouraged to open up to us because we are no longer perceived as impartial, someone they can feel safe and open and welcoming.

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Photo: J. Casamento

People come to us and share their hopes and joys, their pains and sorrows do this because of the very perception of being impartial and non-judgmental. And in my one and half-year of being deacon in our parish and in other pastoral areas where I minister, I have proven this many times already. People approaching me whether in the middle of the hospital cafeteria or a shopping centre asking for a blessing or just to have a quick conversation. They say they can “feel” that they can approach me.

On this matter, I look to  and try to follow Pope Francis’ example. He still expresses a firm view on political, social and economic issues but avoids being partisan, or maybe we can say he is partisan in the sense his views always takes the side of the Gospel message.

As Saint Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings” (1Cor 9:22b-23). I think this is a good scripture passage for us deacons to remember. AMDG!

2 thoughts on “On deacons and partisan political views

  1. Hi Chris, I believe there will always be a tension here. As deacons we are called to preach the gospel (as St Francis would have said, ‘using words when necessary ‘). The gospel will have social, and therefore political implications that we shouldn’t shy away from. However in a robust democracy like Australia we need to be careful not to be perceived as backing a particular political party from the altar. In Melbourne there is a historical memory/myth of priests saying from the pulpit that to vote ALP was sinful. As you’d imagine this caused much bitterness and anger at the time, and I have memories of this in my youth. Also even in matters where I personally have strong views, such as refugees, climate change and the treatment of the first Australians, I’m aware that preaching to the converted is one thing, but preaching to those who may not agree with my personal views requires that I be measured and careful, even non-confrontational, when talking about these issues. In my experience a measured and non-confrontationsl approach is more likely to get people thinking than a passionate diatribe that might have those who already agree with me cheering, but will probably just switch off those who have other views. Happy to discuss this further if you wish.
    Jim

    • Thanks for the comment Deacon Jim. I agree that in preaching the gospel there will be times that we have to speak boldly on issues with social, political or economic implications. That is why we have to be very mindful not to create the perception that we are partisan whether in the pulpit or in other areas such as social media. Again thanks. –Chris

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