Lately at a Christmas do together with some close friends of mine while eating pizza, before we started playing Monopoly, a heated (literally) discussion broke out about Bishop Scicluna’s comments on citizenship. The issue that rose was whether he should have spoken at all. Some claimed to agree with the scheme others didn’t. Almost all disagreed about the fact that he commented. I lost my battle trying to convince them on the contrary and then we started playing Monopoly. However that discussion prompted me to write this up.
One of the argument against was that “Basically, he is a person of the Church and that is his area of expertise, not citizenship.” I see this point about professionalism and I agree with it on the whole – opinions should not be valued equally. What I mean by this is very simply: if I want an opinion about the safety of a building I go to an architect not to a doctor. Both are professionals and both may be considered as having the ‘right’ to an opinion but the value of their opinions on this specific topic is not the same.
Many claim, when expressing their dissent towards the Church’s involvement into any discussion, that the Church should strictly speak in the remit of what she claims to be an expert in – God, prayers, piety etc etc. It is not her role to be involved in our decision making.
This is however a very narrow vision of what the Church is and what religion should be all about. I think that such argument is influenced by a strict individualistic mentality where we see ourselves as our own master where no one is to tell us what to think or do; and yet at the same time we let ourselves be influenced by adverts, magazines, TV programmes etc. But are we truly isolated from each other? Surely not as much as we wish to think. This however would open another discussion and I would digress.
Back to the Church’s role. I see it as being that of a ladder between God and man and thus an intermediary between the two (a vertical role). At the same time it is also her role to speak up in order to guide society towards what she feels is the best route in order to live together – a search for what is good (a horizontal role) i.e. striving for a peaceful and loving co-existence.
To live peacefully and lovingly does not ‘simply’ mean living without wars and poverty. We must constantly seek, not what everyone wants or wishes, but what is the Common Good. To sum up Jacques Maritain‘s thought on the topic, this is not the sum and/or average of the good of all members in society but rather what is good for society as a totality (made up of persons) which at the same time should be the good of each and every person, who is a totality in himself so that he or she may prosper and develop fully. Indeed this is a very delicate and difficult balance to strike.
What Scicluna questioned in his tweet (rather than simply saying ‘don’t sell’) is whether we can consider everything as a commodity which can be sold. Can we for a short-term interest sell anything that is available to us? One girl put up her virginity for sale! Why don’t we sell organs as well? That would be a profitable market that will generate thousands which can be invested in healthcare for example. Why not?
In all three (citizenship, virginity and organs) the question is an ethical one and the answer can bring us nearer to or distance us from attaining the common good. I don’t see it so scandalous for the Church to speak up or rather question this issue or any other issue.
Happy New Year to all!