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Timor Leste

Corruption in Timor-Leste a challenge to Catholicism

The Church must use its institutional power to weave a narrative that corruption is worse than sin

Corruption in Timor-Leste a challenge to Catholicism

Supporters of the Allianca Mudanca ba Progresu party attend a rally in Dili in May 2018. Timor-Leste political parties have developed strong links with street gangs passing themselves off as martial arts groups. (Photo: AFP)

There is an assumption (or more precisely an expectation), and understandably so, that countries with a strong religious presence such as Timor-Leste should be free of corruption. This assumption exists because no single religion teaches dishonesty, greed and lies.

All religions, including Catholicism — the predominant faith in Timor-Leste — value honesty and generosity among other universal human values. These values are at odds with corruption, which occurs when an entrusted power is used for private interest and gain.

Unfortunately, this assumption seems to be baseless. Corruption can happen anywhere in the world, in both religious and secular (or semi-secular) nations. It’s a complex global problem.

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Per definition, corruption is against the very principle of honesty and greed as stated in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34; Deuteronomy 10). In particular, the seventh, eight and 10th commandments highlight God’s mandate of honesty and integrity. Pope Francis himself described corruption as something that is certainly “worse than sin.” The pope is thus committed to fighting corruption from within the Church.

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