The Code of Canon Law states that “Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.” But does this mean that clergy are prohibited from working in the civil service?
Not, it seems, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is not unusual to find priests or nuns working for the state in administrative roles. Consider the case of Fr Pierre Mukuna Mutanda, Professor of Church History at the University of Kinshasa, who until recently was the chief of staff of the higher education and universities minister, Steve Mbikayi.
Fr Mukuna Mutanda explained that his name had been put forward by his university and that he viewed his work at the ministry as an apolitical act of service to the whole Congolese population. He believes that he represented a moral force that Congolese society often lacks and thus played a prophetic role, contributing to state-building without being a member of the minister’s political party.
“As a priest and chief of staff, all I had to do was establish guidelines and a code of conduct for all the staff to follow, including non-acceptance of a bribe to process a particular dossier. Those who indulged in corruptive practices were sacked. [I also sought] to enforce laws and legal texts, to make sure that the evangelical values of justice and love prevailed and that I didn’t distort the image of the Church by my own actions.”
Nevertheless, there is perhaps a danger that clergy who enter the civil service might be seen as participating in party politics. This is a matter that the Church might be wise to keep an eye on.
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