THE PASSERBY | Drain the swamp

By Fr. Roy Cimagala
Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE)
Talamban, Cebu City

THIS is not, of course, a political piece, much less, a
partisan one, though the title is a phrase that was popularized by US
President Trump during his presidential campaign way back in 2016. He
actually did not coin it, but with the way he is and how the state of
US politics can be described, this expression enjoyed tremendous

Wikipedia describes this expression as alluding “to the
physical draining of swamps to keep mosquito populations low to combat
malaria.” But it is often used by politicians to refer to their effort
to root out systemic corruption or whatever has become systemically
wrong in the government bureaucracy or in the political world.

It is an expression that definitely can also be applied to
whatever is wrong at any level of the Church structure, especially
when what is wrong there has become systemic.

We should not be surprised by this phenomenon. Given our
own weaknesses and the many temptations around, we cannot deny that in
spite of everything that Christ has given us to make us holy
individually and collectively, we always have the possibility of
lapsing into subtle compromises with error and sin until their
consequences become endemic to a particular Church structure.

Even during the time of Christ, this draining of the swamp
was already done. Christ had to contend with the warped understanding
of religion that the leading Jews of that time had.

Remember those lamentations Christ made against the
Pharisees and the scribes as recorded in Chapter 23 in the Gospel of
St. Matthew. Some words of Christ may be helpful to give us a savor of
how he felt about the swamp that was the state of religion at that

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do
and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For
they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to
bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not
willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be
seen by others, etc., etc.”

We really need to be very sharply aware of this danger and
should be prepared to take the necessary precautions and, if needed,
to do battle with it. That’s when we have to learn the art of draining
the swamp, starting with our own selves by seeing to it that we avoid
complacency, spiritual lukewarmness and any compromise with error and
sin, no matter how slight.

And when we see signs of systemic compromises in any level
of our Church structure, we should react immediately. In fact, it
would be better that we nip these compromises in the bud. But if these
compromises have already gained some ground, then we really should
react with appropriate vigor and prudence.

It is our duty to keep the Church structure fit to
sacramentalize the Body of Christ or the People of God that the Church
is. In this regard, our Catechism tells us that the Church, “clasping
sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification,
follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. All members of the
Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are
sinners. In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the
good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.” (CCC 827)

So we are all asked to continue the work of penance and
conversion, purification and renewal. This is something that we should
not forget, especially when we tend to believe that we are already
good or holy. We still have feet of clay, and the possibility of
falling is always there.

Of course, in draining the swamp in the Church structure,
we should always practice charity. Bitter zeal has no place in the
Church. Better to suffer than to lack charity!