After the clouds have returned up to the heavens and the dust have settled down on the soil, there are certain objective policy concerns begging for attention and resolution. They are basically about the significance and implications brought about by the recent fact of a priest-governor or a governor-priest-elect—or whatever.
There is the question of the separation of Church and State in the country. Both the State and the Church have their respective version of the mandatory provision. For the State, the Constitution forbids its adoption of an official religion for the Republic. For the Church on the other hand, no less than the universal Canon Law prohibits any cleric—deacon, priest and bishop—from assuming any public office that partakes of the exercise of civil power.
In the case of a priest taking over the exercise of the gubernatorial office or a province—or any higher or lower public office for that matter—there is evidently no violation of the pertinent constitutional provision. But in the same case, there is clearly an infraction of the Universal Church Law.
That is why a priest guilty of the offense is sanctioned with the penalty of suspension. This is the sad reality of a priest divested precisely of all his priestly ministry. At the same time, however, a suspended priest retains all major priestly obligations—such as complying with his commitment to continence, praying the breviary several times a day, and keeping his oath of obedience to his bishop who is however not his political superior.
Then there is the question of precedence. In the event that the priest and governor at the same time, decide to resign for whatever reason, or to quit politics at the end of his term, there would be no issue if the during his incumbency or at the end thereof, the priest eventually decides to ask for a dispensation from his obligations arising from the reception of sacred order. But there is a big problem if he not only wants to resume his priestly ministry and if his bishop actually accepts him back as once again a priest in full standing before the Church.
This is definitely setting not only a local but even a national precedence—to say the least. The big query is if the readmission of former priest-politician is acceptable to the bishop concerned—such that a priest may just leave the priestly ministry at will and at will also be simply admitted once more to the full exercise of his priesthood. If so: What would other priests think and do? How would other bishops decide and act? What would seminarians in the country feel and envision? And what would catholic say and do about the often repeated official pronouncements of the Church that politics is the arena proper of lay persons?
These questions are begging for answers and these better be right.
23 May 2007