Concerned Roman Catholic members in Blantyre have written a hard-hitting letter criticising some bishops and priests for their active and partisan involvement in politics contrary to the teachings of their church.
In a letter dated February 1, 2003 addressed to Archbishop Tarsizus Ziyaye, bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters with a copy to the Chairman of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), the concerned Christians refer to Canon Law and Resolutions of Vatican Council II to level their accusations against the political behaviour of the Catholic leadership in the country.
"However, we the faithful are surprised to see priests taking the leading role in politics without reference to the Bible, let alone the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God," says the concerned Christians.
Quoting Canon 287, 2 the concerned Christians charge, "The clerics are not to play an active role on political parties or in directing trade unions, unless in the judgment of the competent ecclesiastical authority that is required for the defense of the rights of the Church."
The letter says the church, by reason of her role and competency, is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system.
"We wish to remind you our leaders that your partisan stand in politics is against the teaching of the Catholic Doctrine. Consider your attitude to political issues. We wish to remind you that Malawi is a sovereign state, just as the Vatican is. While Malawi is a pluralistic society - having many religions, the Vatican is not. It looks at the interest of Catholics only. If you wish Malawi to be Vatican, then you are bringing civil war... Malawians live in Malawi and they have their own political leaders," write the Blantyre based concerned Catholics.
They say that Canon Law 278, 3 clearly states that: "Clerics are to refrain from establishing or joining associations whose purpose or activity cannot be reconciled with the obligations proper to the clerical state or which can hinder the diligent fulfilment of the office entrusted to them by competent ecclesiastical authority."
The same Catholic Law in its conclusion stipulates: "Clerics are forbidden to assume public office whenever it means sharing in the exercise of civil power." On this law, the concerned Catholics lament that it is sad to see the clergy promoting PAC and insulting State Authority.
"We note that PAC is violating the principles of democracy by writing press releases that are also read in our churches. We note that St Pius and Lunzu Parishes read such documents against the Parliamentary bill of the third term at the expense of homilies. It is sad to note that PAC, which should be an organisation promoting truth, justice and peace claims falsely through the altars that it put State President on this seat. What a blatant lie! Everyone knows too well that the incumbent President was unanimously voted by Malawians through the ballot box and not PAC," argue the laity.
They further charge that a church cannot be democratic and cannot preach a system of a government that is most suitable.
The Vatican Council II resolved, "the appointment of rulers must be left to the free will of the citizens." The church should give moral direction to the society and each Christian ought to be left to have the freedom and free conscience to choose the country's political leadership.