Corruption is making its way in society at an unprecedented pace as it is being accepted as a normal way of doing politics, government and business. The costs of corruption are growing not only economically, but also socially as the citizens think that it is with favours, bribery, embezzlement and nepotism that one can acquire what should be theirs by right.
Corruption is the abuse of public or private office for personal or political gain, and it is linked to fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. Corruption leads to waste and the inefficient use of resources, and it makes people dependent on favouritism and forced political allegiance to attain what is theirs. Corruption excludes the poor and perpetuates inequality.
Although there is no country in the world that can declare that it is not corrupt, the tragedy about this phenomenon is that it is implicitly accepted as a matter of fact. What used to be associated with authoritarian regimes, the mafias and organised crime, is now mainstream, with citizens closing their eyes in indifference. For the perpetrators and the spectators, this is another manifestation of evil.
Encouraged by Pope Francis, around 50 anti-corruption and anti-mafia magistrates, Church officials, government representatives and victims met as a consultation group at the Vatican this summer to discuss policies and strategies to fight against corruption. The international group has issued a document highlighting their priorities, while providing 21 goals and action points to accomplish in the coming year. The underlying principle behind their published document is that “Corruption, prior to being an act, is a condition. Hence the need for culture, education, institutional action, citizen participation.”
By being onlookers to the spread of this phenomenon we are committing another sin of omission
Pope Francis calls corruption a “form of blasphemy” and a “cancer that weighs our lives”. He referred to it in the harshest of terms while addressing the spectre of the mafias in 2014 in Calabria where he described the ’Ndragheta, as “adorers of evil”, and “not in communion with God”, and went so far as saying that excommunication will be an invitation to their conversion.
The consultative group worked on several practical initiatives to combat this crime, including its investigation of the prospect of excommunication. We need a culture change where families and educators reinvigorate the absolute values of integrity and honesty, and to create awareness that these are linked to justice and peace in society.
The document highlights the dramatic change that needs to happen in the political mindset, so that politicians are elected for their respect for justice and the rule of law, and that they enforce laws and pursue the tentacles of bribery, money laundering and fraud that go well beyond individual State borders.
The consultation group acknowledges the need of a democratic process that elects honest politicians. It points out that there is a vacuum that needs to be filled in education and the media that creates a mentality and public opinion that recognises the negative consequences of corruption and its impact on inequality in society and the acceptance of injustice as a way of life. Corruption corrodes public trust, undermines the rule of law and eventually delegitimises the State. This explains why citizens lose their trust in politics, government and the judiciary.
The consultative group said there is a need for a “movement, an awakening of consciences” with the primary aim of eradicating this evil, which has accelerated in modern times. Legislation is necessary but not sufficient. Enforcement of legislation must be taken seriously. But probably what is more important is that we realise that by being onlookers to the spread of this phenomenon we are committing another sin of omission.
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