Change in Society will not happen … until, and unless, I am willing to change
We live in a country where the most common topics on the news are politics, corruption and road accidents. The resulting conversations around coffee tables are criticism of the politicians & other leaders; except the poor people who have little time to talk as they look for work and a piece of bread.
“Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered…” This is a true wakeup call for the priests, Bishops and Religious: they should not be silent about evil. We can also point the finger at Civil Servants and Politicians. However, if we spend the homily time making a lot of noise about “others”, we will achieve nothing.
If we focus on ourselves as Leaders, then our Society has a chance to improve. Each of us as individuals has a leadership responsibility. We all know the duties of mums, dads, priests and Bishops, emergency service personnel, etc. But are there personal leadership responsibilities I need to face up to?
- I’m 18/20 with younger brothers and sisters: do I have a duty to act responsibly to set an example for them? Or at least be very discrete in my behaviour to avoid bad examples?
- I’m a mother observing my husband being very harsh on our children: should I keep quiet? Should I ask the Chief or priest to visit if my husband will not listen to me?
- We know that priests serve the community. I’m a Christian in my parish, and I see the priest doing things which are not good, or are a burden on the parish, should I say something?
It’s said that: “All human institutions are fallible, and hence need to be accountable.” S Sumner. Then, “When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behaviour or a choice.” ― Brené Brown,
Recent years have exposed many terrible abuses by some priests. It was also revealed some people just kept quiet because they didn’t want to cause scandal or embarrass the Church.
The intentions are good. But, it’s also disrespectful and harmful to allow someone to continue doing bad things, which eventually destroy themselves and other people.
What issues face some Parish communities in Kenya? Here are some that people have shared:
1) priests using parish property to do business for themselves;
2) sexual misconduct;
3) misuse of funds – and excessive demands for funds from low income people;
4) being mercenaries: just doing ministry if there is money involved; and
5) lack of availability of the priest and rudeness/arrogance of the priests.
What is the outcome of this? People are leaving the Church. Contributions are reducing, which compromises the charitable works of the Church: meaning, the poor suffer more.
Ultimately, the whole of society suffers when leaders do not do what they should do. When leaders are incompetent, we can forgive them: we can usually recover. But when they are corrupt & protect themselves with power, our whole society can suffer for a long, long time.
We can blame our Leaders, but it changes nothing. We must act personally. When we’re asked: Who wants change? (everyone says “yes”), but, Who is willing to change? (everyone is silent).
In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that God is full of compassion. And this is an important encouragement for us: no matter how long we have been silent, God is still ready to help us. However, God usually waits for us to start an action before helping us.
So, how might we be Leaders: to speak up for the truth and expose evil, while maintaining our own safety? Perhaps we can simply modernise existing Biblical instructions:
- 1 Tim 5:19 – Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. Don’t speak unless we know something is true: take notes; wait for more info.
- Mat 18:15 – If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, … alone…
If possible, meet with the person alone, and speak with them. Or write a letter.
- Matthew 18:16 – if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, …
To help protect the people exposing an evil, gather a small group to prepare the evidence, and distribute that evidence to multiple safe places.
If we criticise politicians, we must first of all make our Church a shining model for politicians to look at, and learn from: so that we challenge with credibility and reveal a better way. Let us pray to become part of the solution by taking personal responsibility for evil around us.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI