By Hannah Brockhaus
Pope Francis, in a foreword to a work by Cardinal Peter Turkson, has said corruption infects the world like a cancer, and the Church must combat it by working together with society, infusing it with mercy.
“We must all work together, Christians, non-Christians, people of all faiths and non-believers, to combat this form of blasphemy, this cancer that weighs our lives,” the Pope wrote.
“It is urgent to take notice of it, and this is why we need education and a merciful culture, we need cooperation on the part of everyone according to their own possibilities, their talents, their creativity.”
Hi words on corruption were written in a foreword for Corrosion, a book-length interview of Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, published June 15.
The interview was conducted by Vittorio V. Alberti, a member of the Cardinal Turkson’s dicastery.
The book was presented at the Vatican during an “International Debate on Corruption.” Italian daily Corriere della Sera published the Pope’s foreword June 14, just ahead of the book’s release.
Corruption, Francis wrote, in its Italian etymological root, means “a tear, break, decomposition, and disintegration.”
The life of a human being can be understood in the context of his many relationships: with God, with his neighbor, with creation, the Pope said.
“This threefold relationship – in which man’s self-reflection also falls – gives context and sense to his actions and, in general, to his life,” but these are destroyed by corruption.
When we respect these relationships we are honest, responsible, and work for the common good. But when corruption enters in, they become torn. “Thus, corruption expresses the general form of disordered life of the decayed man,” he said.
And this has an effect on all of society.
What, for example, he asked, is at the root of exploitation, degradation, human trafficking, trafficking of weapons and drugs, social injustice, lack of service for people? What is the origin of slavery, unemployment, carelessness for cities, common goods, and nature?
Corruption “is a profound cultural question that needs to be addressed.”
But in order to address it, we must understand the different forms of corruption, besides merely the political, like those that infect even the average person.
For example, Francis said, our corruption can be a “spiritual worldliness, tepidness, hypocrisy, triumphalism, to make prevail only the spirit of the world in our lives, a sense of indifference.”
In the book, Cardinal Turkson explains the ramifications of these different forms of corruption, he continued, focusing in particular on the origins of corruption: which, “in fact, sprouts in the heart of man and can sprout in the heart of all men.”
“We are, in fact, all very exposed to the temptation of corruption: even when we think it has been defeated, it can be present again,” he said.
Cardinal Turkson explores the different types of corruption, including spiritual, cultural, political, and criminal, as well as the various ways in which they come about and insinuate themselves into our lives. Putting these together, he shows what the Church must do, the Pope said.
“The Church must listen, raise herself and bend herself on the sorrows and hopes of people according to mercy, and must do so without fear of purifying herself, assiduously seeking a way to improve.”
“Henri de Lubac wrote that the greatest danger for the Church is spiritual worldliness – therefore corruption – which is more disastrous than the infamous leprosy.”
“And it is with this awareness that we, men and women of the Church, can accompany ourselves and the suffering humanity, especially those most oppressed by the criminal consequences and degradation created by corruption.”
To fight the many ways we may allow corruption into our lives, we must join together, Francis said. On our own we are like individual pieces of snow, both Christians and non-Christians. But united, we can become like an avalanche, he explained: “a strong and constructive movement.”
“Here is the new humanism, this renaissance, this re-creation against corruption that we can accomplish with prophetic audacity.”
Writing from inside the Vatican, Francis reflected on the ways beauty can transcend sin and corruption.
“This beauty is not a cosmetic accessory, but something that puts the human person in the center so that it can lift the head against all injustices,” he said.
“This beauty should marry with justice. Thus we must speak about corruption, denounce evils, understand it, and show the will to affirm mercy for grief, curiosity and creativity for resigned fatigue, beauty for nothing.”