When we think of criminal activity and in particular theft, we tend at times to wrongly associate the perpetrators with the indigent in society. Whilst this is true in some instances due to circumstance, it is wrong to generalise in such fashion. However, in a more covert way, greed can be seen as the motivator behind theft and importantly behind the more surreptitious instances of depravity!
Greed is defined as an ‘…excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth’
Greed though, is just the catalyst in this equation; three other elements are involved, making possible the worst type of theft, corruption! The first element is power, as power to act facilitates the means to corrupt, the second is discretion, being oversight of assets, the purpose behind the corruption and the ultimate objective of greed; the third is a lack of accountability, belief that one can act with impunity.
This is the view expressed in the facing article of a recent Catholic pew leaflet:
One way to explain corruption is a formula: C=P+D-A. Corruption occurs where authority figures enjoy Power and Discretion without Accountability.
This formula might explain and possibly identify the ‘King Pins’ of corruption however all involved in the overarching venal action, whether in facilitating that action or in benefiting from the ill-gotten gains, are also to be considered corrupt.
So when I look at South African society today using the above narrative, it becomes as if a shroud were lifted and the rancid corpse of corruption were laid bare!
In South Africa, just reading or listening to the daily news indicates that corruption has become endemic, almost a way of life – so much so that I do not think it far-fetched to say that to most perpetrators, the immoral nature of their action cannot or will not be seen!
Of greater concern though, are the instances of corruption within the leadership elements of our society. Catholic Social Doctrine is very clear on this aspect, article 411 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states:
Among the deformities of the democratic system, political corruption is one of the most serious because it betrays at one and the same time both moral principles and the norms of social justice.
Why is this so serious, because in a way it legitimises corruption to those in the lower echelons of society, blunting the gravity of moral turpitude and making corruption a normative behaviour. It just drags society down into a mire of moral depravity from which it becomes difficult to get out.
It has reached such a low point now that society in general are saying ‘No More’!; to paraphrase SACBC in their leaflet endorsing the Exposed campaign – Corruption is theft from the poor, hurting the most vulnerable in society, destroying trust, hurting us all. We, as society, must show moral fibre and reject corruption in all its forms.
For this reason, the Catholic Church here in South Africa has come out in active support of a worldwide anti-corruption campaign. If we do nothing then we are guilty of omission – we aid and abet those who, by their actions, take from the very least of God’s children. It behooves us to remember “…Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me”
- Ntabeni, M. (2013, October 16). SA’s corruption: What is to be done? (G. Simmermacher, Ed.) Retrieved October 20, 2013, from Southern Cross Catholic Online Newspaper: http://www.digital.scross.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/131016.pdf
- Redemptorist Pastoral Publications. (2013, October 20). Corruption. Catholic Link, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Merrivale, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications. Retrieved October 20, 2013
- The Catholic Church. (2005). Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Ed.) Retrieved Oct. 20, 2013, from The Holy See – Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html
- The Free Dictionary. (2013). Greed. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from The Free Dictionary: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/greed