Leading the time for reflection in the Scottish Parliament today, Fr. Thomas Boyle, Parish Priest of St. Joseph and St. Patrick's, Wemyss Bay urged Scotland's parliamentarians to follow the example of Saint Thomas More.
The full text of his reflection is shown below.
Mister Presiding Officer,
I wonder if were to ask you or any of the members here present: 'Who is the Patron Saint of Politicians and Statesmen?', would you know the answer.
He is someone whom the present Pope describes as a 'source of inspiration for a political system which has as its goal the service of the human person', someone whose 'life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue'.
In case you don't know the answer is Saint Thomas More, Member of Parliament, Speaker of the House of Commons, Lord Chancellor to King Henry VIII of England.
Unfortunately your Patron was beheaded.
Thomas could not accept what the King asked of him. He withdrew from his Offices and eventually paid for his refusal to submit with his life. Thomas could not offend his conscience, what the King asked of him was too much. He couldn't repudiate all that he had believed in and all that he had stood for, his whole life. Robert Bolt, in his play "A man for all seasons" puts in Thomas's mouth the words: 'The King's loyal servant, but God's first'.
Integrity was More's great quality. All the pieces of his life fitted together, nothing jarred, nothing stuck out, there were no contradictions. All of us, whether public figures or private individuals, think of ourselves as people of integrity, that we always choose to do what we know to be right, that there are no contradictions in us. It is others - and this is perhaps more intense for those in the public eye it is others who see the contradictions in us which diminish our integrity.
Politics is about ideals, but, we also know that politics sometimes imposes compromise on us. When we cannot achieve our ideals, we settle for what we can achieve. But, if our conscience does not allow us to compromise on a particular issue then we may pay a price for that. If we have to tell our leader and colleagues, our party, or even or constituents, that we do not agree with them, sticking to that position in public as well as in private then we follow More's example. As the pope says, serving 'not power but the supreme ideal of justice'.
I pray that your integrity may be safeguarded. Through the payers of Saint Andrew, Saint Margaret and Saint Thomas More, your Patron, may the Blessings of Christ be on all your deliberations and all your decisions.
26th November, 2003.
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