The Costs of Power and Corruption

Joseph F.X Zahra's article on Newsbook

There is a heavy cost that is being paid by society for abuse of power, corruption and hatred. Power and money are neutral as long as these are not abused or misused by the persons that carry them. This theme has been one of theleitmotifs of Pope Francis since his election. During a particular week, between the 12th and 17th of June, it took an even more central place in his early morning sermons at Domus Santa Martha.

Abuse or misuse of power, corruption and hatred (as expressed in gossip and rumours) are strongly denounced as “sins” by the Pope. These are not only in the realm of the political class or the “barons of commerce”, but are also constantly practiced in the lesser forms of petty theft in offices, gossip, the creation of conspiracy theories, in shops and markets where VAT is not paid, or services are provided in homes without proper payment of taxation. They are also found in the misuse of funds by Government and local councils including extravagancies in the purchase of goods and services that is wasteful or inefficient. It is found when rumours are taken as fact by the media and when the media is manipulated to do harm against a person or a cause. There is no limit to abuse of power and money and the devastation that it leaves on human lives and society. The poor and the marginalised are the biggest losers.

The Pope admonishes the abuse of material, political or spiritual power. He says that someone who has authority feels that he is powerful, he “feels like God”. Corruption is therefore a daily temptation into which a politician, businessman, a prelate can fall. “It corrupts on the very road to security. First, wellbeing, money, then power, vanity, pride, and from there everything: even murder”. Murder does not need to be physical – badmouthing, false information about someone, gossip, slander, defamation… are all forms of killing a person. (Sermon of the 16thJune). The media is probably the most efficient weapon to murder a person’s reputation in today’s world.

In the Pope’s sermon on the 12 June, on the subject of how hate kills, he gives his usual three tips on how arguments and division can be resolved. First, he says, is that of realism – the acceptance of different views, but also the motivation and urge to find a solution; second, is the search of truth – an open heart and a sincere way of seeking a solution, and third, is “kinship”, respect – the acceptance that we are all human and as such all brothers and sisters. If these are taken into consideration, we will not steal from each other respect, dignity, power, money and reputation.

On the 17th June, Pope Francis is more hopeful and optimistic – there is an “exit door” for the corrupt. This is in “asking forgiveness, and doing penance”. The underlying characteristic here is humility – “I’ve sinned” – to ask forgiveness is “the exit door for the corrupt, for corrupt politicians, for corrupt businessmen and for corrupt clergy”.  These are the words of Pope Francis.

Will ethics courses for politicians, businessmen, educators and journalists contribute to improved decision-making leading to a better society?

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