Friday, June 05, 2009

Berlusconi and Clinton and Catholic Teaching

Many people have heard about Berlusconi lately. He's the Prime Minister of Italy, and he's accused of being caught with a naked 18-year-old girl at his mansion. He's being accused of doing
inappropriate things, but he says that is not true and that he'll quit if they are found to be true. Many years ago, President Bill Clinton was accused of having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. It was a huge deal and still precedes Clinton in his reputation. But how do these two events square with Catholic thinking? My answer may surprise you.

Obviously, in Catholic moral theology, committing adultery is a serious offense. It violates the 6th commandment against adultery, as well as the 9th commandment against coveting your neighbor's wife. I am not writing this article, however, to discuss the morality of adultery, which everyone knows is wrong (it is one of the few things people agree on morally these days). What I am going to discuss is my personal opinion on the matter and relating to a well-known Catholic doctrine.

I believe that although these actions by leaders are immoral, they do not automatically disqualify a leader from remaining in his post. I believe there is a separate of public office and personal affairs. A leader should not be elected because he is a nice person, looks attractive, or is good at juggling. He should be elected because he will lead the country in the best way possible, and lead it with morality. We cannot say that because a man commits a personal crime, he cannot act as an officer of the state. A very similar concept to this is found in the Catholic Church with the priesthood. Priests are called to be holy men, as indeed all people are. But if a priest commits a sin, even a mortal one, the sacraments he performs are not invalidated. In other words, his private actions do not invalidate his public actions.

I believe a similar concept should be used for politicians. If a politician promotes good values and is beneficial to a country, we should not attempt to oust him simply because he cheated on his wife. I say simply not to imply that adultery is a minor issue, but rather I say simply in the sense of only, as in he did nothing contrary to the public office.

Many will argue that a person's private behavior can be an indicator for his public behavior, and to some extent I agree. However, a personal mistake will not automatically render a person incapable of looking out for the public interest.

I am open to disagreement on this point. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks.

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