Christian Values and Politicians

This article was written for the Sunday Times by Alfred J. Micallef, SJ

Fr. Alfred Micallef SJ was a lecturer at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Malta.  He is now retired although he continues as a visiting lecturer. At present he lives at Mount St. Joseph Retreat House, Mosta.

Christian Values and Politicians

A few weeks ago, Journalist Kurt Sansone reported that the Hon. Edwin Vassallo was lamenting that Christian politicians are being ostracised in the two major political parties.  He also quoted him as writing that, “if Christians try to find a home in the Labour Party or the Nationalist Party, they could easily be left without a house.” (ToM 27.12.16)

Sansone remarks that during the past thirteen years censorship relaxation and the introduction of many laws have totally changed Malta’s values, commenting that today’s Malta is unrecognizable from the country called “Cattolicissima” by Pope Wojtyla.

There is no doubt that the values of the Maltese have changed dramatically during the past decade or two.  Like Vassallo, I too have the impression that both the Nationalist and Labour Parties have departed somewhat from their original credos and become closer to two liberal parties vying for power rather than two parties seeking to bring about holistic growth to the country.

The sole mention of “Christian values” frightens some as they see in it the end of the separation between Church and state.  Rightly, they do not want the Church to dictate religious obligations on civil society, a sort of Sharia law.

However, we need to distinguish between “religion” and “Christian values.”  Religion deals with our relationship with God according to the way in which we believe in Him.  Religion demands faith and implies adoration and ritual.  

Values are what we believe we need to live in order to respect our humanity.  At least intellectually, we all cherish human values even if we may differ in whether a particular behaviour is a human value or not.  Theologian Karl Rahner talks about “anonymous Christians” referring to those who for some reason do not have explicit faith in Christ but who live Christ’s values.  

Sansone’s list of new laws, which he feels have distanced Malta from Catholicism, are all concerned with sexuality: lap-dancing, civil unions of gay couples, divorce.  However, the list of Christian values is much longer.  

Henry Pace, in reaction to the article quoted, blogged: “Labour never had Christian moral values.”  Joe Owens Hunter, replied, “…who introduced childrens’ allowances, social housing, rights and obligations, free schools, sick leave, Pensions?”

There are different sets of Christian values.  Unfortunately, there also exists the tendency to emphasize one set of values and ignore other sets.  The Republicans in the US are against abortion but do not seem to care much for the poor while the Democrats have no qualms with abortion but do care about the more helpless citizens.  If I were an American citizen I would have some difficulty in choosing a party to vote for or, to put it in Hon. Vassallo’s words, “I would find it difficult to find a home in any of the two parties.”

I also understand the dilemma of the Hon. Vassallos and Farrugias when they find the party’s demands in conflict with their conscience.  They could leave the party but would that not make it easier for the party to carry on with its non-human agenda?

Neither do I believe that a Party of Christians is the solution.  After all, Christians, being human, sometimes fail to live their Christian values and then, theirs would be a counter-witness.  More importantly, I believe that many of our politicians of both parties – especially if they domesticate their greed for power – still cherish, at least, “anonymous Christian values.”

Moreover, I believe that the Vassallos and Farrugias can be helped both by the Church and by the people.  If the people really cherish their Christian or truly human values – I do not distinguish between the two because I continue to believe that only Christ can tell us what is truly human – they should make themselves heard.  If politicians do not care it is because the people do not care.

Finally, the Church should proclaim Christian values as human values not as religious values.  This is the way Christ did it.  The Hon. Farrugia was right when he said that the embryo should be saved because his own life started as an embryo and not simply because the Church says so.

Alfred J Micallef sj 

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