Corruption: A Festering Wound
by Frances Correia
The Passion is a terrible story, a story of betray, of corruption, of collusion, of false witness, of torture, of pain and of death. Jesus in the most physical and tangible way gives himself over to the pain and evil of the world. He is the victim not of one person’s anger or malice, but of a series of corrupt systems.
As we listen to the passion narrative we hear how three separate and often in conflict organisations work together to bring about his death. The Sanhedrin, the Roman hierarchy and Herod’s court are all involved in the decision to crucify Jesus. Although often working in enmity these three organisations are drawn together for this moment in history.
We see in the death of Jesus a stark reminder of the personal and physical effects of the structures of power around us. It is very easy to think that the consequences of decisions made by those with power are amorphous and dilute, but that is a naive perspective on life. The reality is that structures of human organisation and power are easily open to corruption and when they become corrupt the effects of that corruption are mostly born in tangible and physical ways by ordinary people. Just as Jesus bore the pain and suffering of the crucifixion in his own body.
This week South Africa is rocked by yet another story of corruption in high places. The implication that the Gupta family has held far too much power over decisions made by government has stirred up anger and distress across the country. We know that we are plagued by corruption. We see it in the non-delivery of basic services, like school text books, or water to drought stricken rural communities.
The thought that a single (non-elected) family has power over who is chosen for key cabinet posts is one that must be cause for great alarm. It is a cause for alarm because it completely undermines the transparency of a democratic system. It essentially says that those with wealth have the ability to decide how the state should be run for their own advantage.
This year as we celebrate the Year of Mercy Pope Francis has written strongly on the sin of corruption, he says of it that, ‘this festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundations of personal and social life. Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor. It is an evil that embeds itself into the actions of everyday life and spreads, causing great public scandal. Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power. It is a work of darkness, fed by suspicion and intrigue.’ (Misericordiae Vultus 19)
This Easter season our faith challenges us to take a stand against corruption wherever we may find it.