While we in the Fraternity have been celebrating our Foundation Day, our country has been falling apart (so I was glad of the distraction to be honest). Yesterday was probably the most chaotic day in the history of modern Irish politics: six ministers resigned from the cabinet and when our prime minister (Taoiseach) tried to appoint new ministers his coalition partner, head of the Green party, refused to allow him, no doubt threatening to pull the plug on the government which is its dying days anyway.
I think it was Enoch Powell who said that every political career ends in failure, well looking at yesterday's events he has been proven right. As an Irishman it was awful to see the just how farcical the whole political process can be and I am not just talking about the state of the government - the opposition parties are just as bad. Anyway, we have been told there is a General Election on Friday 11th March, so all the posturing begins.
That should also get us Christians ready to do a little interrogating. Seeing as our public representatives have shunned the Christian faith and Christian morality for the past few years, now as they get set to make their house to house calls looking for votes it is time for us to make our voices heard and make them squirm (even if only just a little) for their deafness.
With abortion on the agenda again time for us to sift the real pro-life politicians from the pro-abortion ones and ambiguous ones. As a Christian, in principle, I cannot vote for a politician who favours the legalisation of abortion or who does not have the courage to oppose his/her party if it favours abortion, so they are out if there is a pro-life alternative. Now I know what politicians will say: single issue - there are other things which also must be considered like the economy, so it would not be wise to judge a candidate on one issue. True it is a single issue, but it is the most important issue: if a politician thinks it is OK to kill an unborn baby for the sake of choice or because some citizens want it, then that person cannot be trusted with anything else: their moral compass is distorted and unnatural - not a good situation for any human being never mind a public representative. As for keeping conscience and faith out of politics: I would rather have an unbeliever who sincerely follows his/her conscience and seeks to serve the common good than a weekly Mass-going Catholic who refuses to allow conscience through the door of their office - again, they cannot be trusted.
The passing of the Civil Partnership Bill in the most undemocratic means possible is another issue. Apart from undermining marriage in the State, the sheer nerve of public representatives to shirk the democratic process and skip over moral issues and arguments reveals not only an ungodly arrogance, but also a streak of tyranny which seems to be growing in modern political life. Time for Christians to deal with our TDs and senators on that one. Most of them will claim they could do nothing about it "I'm only a back bencher", well back bench revolts have changed party policy on numerous occasions. As orthodox Christians we may be becoming a minority in Ireland, but we can at least give our candidates a grilling on the doorstep and remind them we are citizens and taxpayers too.
As citizens we have the right and duty to vote. As Christians we have the duty to use that vote wisely and in a manner that does not contradict our faith. With life issues at stake, we have a duty to do all we can to keep out those who want to destroy human life and to support those who want to protect it. We must also look to those who sincerely want to promote the common good and the well being of all our citizens, particularly the most vulnerable. We must also seek to promote those who act in accordance with their conscience, sincerely seeking to do what is right rather than what is easy or popular. We must try to avoid promoting those who only want to further their career at the expense of our country. All of this means there is a serious responsibility on our shoulders to vote for the right person. That means we cannot fall victim to the old party system. Many in Ireland vote for a particular party regardless of who the candidate is. That was fine when most if not all, candidates had sound moral beliefs - that is no longer true - there are anti-Christian and anti-life candidates in every party now (many of them even call themselves Christian), now we must be careful - party loyalty must now give way to higher principles.
Now, rant over. Time to pray and discern who gets the vote. And lest anyone complain about my interference in politics I remind them as a pastor I have a duty to inform my flock of the issues which affect Christians in the political climate in which we live and to remind them of Catholic social principles and their responsibilities as good citizens.
And as one party used to say: Vote early and vote often!