A Saintly President? Part 2
February 27, 2017
One is reminded of the words of Our Lord to Pilate when Pilate made a weak attempt to exert his authority. Our Lord said, “You would have no power if it had not been given to thee from above.” It seems as though Pilate did understand Christ’s words.
It would be interesting to know how many leaders of nations over the course of time have understood their authority was given to them from God. Did they do their best to reign in His Holy Name? Did they in some way consider Christ’s Kingship and their responsibility of carrying out His Kingship in their respective countries? We know a few did, but for the rest …?
One of the clear ways to determine whether or not a person would reign justly is to consider the virtues of charity and justice. These virtues shed light on who the person is and what are their motives.
It is commonly known and understood that typical politicians speak their own duplicitous language and is, therefore, difficult at best, to know their true intent. This is why observing their actions are a better measure of the leader’s intentions.
Charity, in its simplest understanding is love of God. How much does a leader love God? You may have the rare occasion where the person publicly acknowledges his love of God, but it is more likely to be displayed in his concern for those in his charge. Is this leader one who has done all in his efforts to defend the nation against unjust foreign aggression, provide an environment where the average person is able to find employment and live a decent livelihood. Local authorities are called upon to secure the safety of the citizens in cities and states.
A quote from The Framework of a Christian State by Fr. E. Cahill, S. J. will confirm the duty to practice charity with our neighbors. “According to the natural law, the moral virtue of Charity or benevolence should result in interior acts of love when circumstances require as well as in those other dispositions of the soul that flow from the love of others-viz., Joy, Peace, and Compassion. Above all, the virtue of Charity should express itself in acts. To assist others in their spiritual and corporal needs is the practical application of the virtue of Charity. In fact, all the duties of supernatural Charity as taught, and practically enforced by, the Catholic Church, including even the love of one’s enemies, are founded upon the natural law, and are obligatory, independently of any positive precept either human or divine.”
The author provides us with an explanation of Christian Charity, thereby giving Catholics a more detailed and elevated understanding of this virtue. “It remained for the Christian religion to elevate the whole concept of Charity to a higher plane, and to cause the virtue to be practiced more widely and with greater perfection than was previously known. Further, by its counsels of perfection the Catholic Church has in every age induced immense numbers to aim at ideals of love and benevolence far beyond the limits of what is strictly obligatory according to the natural or even the Christian law itself. The realization of the Christian ideal is in fact rendered possible only by the assistance of supernatural grace, aided by the example and appeal of Him who, though the God of glory, “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant” for love of man, and even laid down His life for His enemies.
“Christianity for the first time,” writes Lecky, “made Charity a rudimentary virtue. …It effected a complete revolution in this sphere by regarding the poor as the special representatives of the Christian Founder, and thus making the love of Christ rather than the love of man the principle of Charity. … No achievements of the Christian Church are more truly great than those it has effected in the sphere of Charity. For the first time in the history of mankind, it has inspired many thousands of men and women at the sacrifice of all worldly interests, and oftentimes under circumstances of extreme discomfort and danger, to devote their entire lives to the single object of assuaging the sufferings of humanity. It has covered the globe with countless institutions of mercy absolutely unknown to the pagan world. It has indissolubly united in the minds of men the idea of supreme goodness with that of active and constant benevolence.”
One of the common problems any politician in the U.S. today faces regarding “charity” is, there are a growing number of persons who are looking for government aid of some type. In itself, this is quite a troubling sign, when, presently (2016) over half of all working-age Americans is, indeed, the recipient of some type of aid. Some of this aid is justified, i.e., the truly disabled and the unemployed (as examples). It is a badly kept secret that the “system” is riddled with fraud.
For the purposes of this article, the principles of charity for political leaders will be the guide, not current political expediency.
A leader of nations is called upon to oversee the common welfare of his citizens. This means he must examine the needs of the nation and make correct decisions centered around the virtues of charity and justice. If this is not the goal of the national leader, he has failed in his duty. In today’s world, there should be no concern for corporations and special interests of any type that detracts from the common good or common welfare.
True charity in persons of civil position will compel those concerned to consider themselves last. They will be individuals of good character and morals, i.e., honest and persons of noted integrity. Charity, or love, displays itself in such a way that people are able to see the goodness in the leader. Human nature is such that evil people cannot hide who they are for very long. Eventually, they will expose themselves.
To be Continued
Fr. Joseph Noonan, OFM