Moral Compass

Who has made the news for you this week – Boris, Donald, Diego, Francis, our bishops? Which part of our world has drawn your sympathy and prayer – Ethiopia, California, Yemen, Australia, Nigeria? Which issues have pre-occupied you – Brexit, Covid-19, collapse of big businesses and loss of employment, hunger, refugees?

Suppose you were asked to write a page for world news to be filed away until the 25th century – what would you write? Would you make space for personal sadnesses alongside the world events – sickness, heartbreak, loneliness? And would you be vividly aware that so much is being done quietly by good people, that great issues are challenging people in positions of power, authority, influence, and how much we rely upon them?

Boris won the General Election on a powerful slogan “Get Brexit Done”. The man who gave it to him has gone now. If Boris seemed to be his puppet, who is now pulling the strings? The Tablet writes: “At the start of the pandemic there was a wide-spread understanding that the government had no easy policy options and that there would inevitably be changes of course. But the government has brought a calamitous loss of public trust on itself by arrogance, poor communication, incompetence and sometimes downright deceit.”

Donald has almost gone. We have seen an amazing division in American politics during his four years: not Republican or Democrat, but pro-Trump or anti-Trump. The political landscape changed in those years – how good for the United States and the world? The influence of populism politics with the threat of civil unrest and divisions spread through Europe, perhaps encouraged by what could be seen across the Atlantic. People became interested in dominant politics – but not for the common good.

The common good has Pope Francis, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation as its spokespeople: “I started to see news stories: for example the Government of a well- known island in the South Pacific bought lands in Samoa to transfer its population there, because in twenty years the island will be under water . . . Ecology is much more than caring for nature; it’s about caring for each other as fellow creatures of a loving God and all that implies.” (Pope Francis)

I marvel how millions of refugees around the world (for example, Lebanon and Sudan) are fed and sheltered. Such skills of organisation, of readiness for action, such ability to cope in the people working for these various agencies and our British foodbanks are a small but good reflection of similar abilities.

Seventeen of our English bishops have written individually in response to the victims of sexual abuse (whose letter we printed in the parish newsletter on 15th November). Their letters refer to the shame they felt at reading the report of the Independent Inquiry and Bishop O’Toole of Plymouth adds that listening to survivors’ stories broke his heart. “Such pain, however, is nothing compared to the agony and torment that you and other victims and survivors of abuse have suffered.”

Diego Maradona? Oh him, some will sneer, “the hand of God.” So read this: “Maradona grew up never forgetting the humiliation of being born into the shanty town of Villa Fiorito where the streets were unpaved, there was smell of open sewers and rotting garbage. It coloured his world view and influenced his hunger to prove himself in a world in which the odds were stacked against people of his background. It secured for him a passionate following among the world’s poor for whom football is an escape and a connection. ‘It doesn’t matter what you did with your life, but what you did for ours,’ read a placard as people filed past his coffin. Maradona met Pope Francis (a fellow Argentinian) and said ‘He has helped restore the Catholic faith I had when I was a kid, after we’ve had so many popes that only cared about politics but not about the kids who go hungry.’ (Jimmy Burns, The Tablet)

Do you remember when we thought the white races of Europe were supreme and the British (and their empire) the best? Who agreed then, who would agree now? Can you blame the EU for not trusting the UK government? Do you?

Self-image rarely tells the truth. As we have watched Brexit negotiations and seen our government make unilateral changes we felt shame at our failing international word. You sign a treaty, you give your word. Valueless, unless you stay with the treaty and keep your word. We need moral compass in every part of life.

God bless us to see the right directions,

F John

(6th December 2020)

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