By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WITH THE brewing and bruising political “telenovela” we are having at the moment—hopefully it will last only for a season—it might be good to know the distinction between a witness and a whistleblower.
The comparison, for sure, is not idle. Nor is it merely theoretical and abstract. With passions raging, having clear ideas about critical elements involved is truly helpful. It’s a must. It facilitates prudence.
Otherwise, we will be teetering on the edge of stupidity. Never discount that possibility. We have seen it before: massive euphoria over People Power only to fall flat on our faces later precisely because essential duties were ignored.
We have had a number of shameful flashes in the pan. And this is because we tend to leave reason, restraint, prudence and charity behind. We simply burn in our righteousness, not realizing we have already lapsed into lack of charity, justice and even common sense.
The current communal search for truth now being called by some bishops has to take the necessary precautionary measures. But one element that should be borne in mind is the distinction between true witnessing and mere whistleblowing.
Both have to do with truth handling. But a true witness is much more than just a whistleblower.
The whistleblower simply tells on an anomaly or a crime. The witness goes way much further, confessing and testifying not only on an event, but rather on his whole life, his global vision of things and outlook.
The testimony of a whistleblower is limited to a specific time, place and act. That of a witness covers everything. The whistleblower usually creates a stir from time to time. The witness simply lives as witness all the time, in big and small things, in times ordinary and extraordinary.
Only a few can be a whistleblower. But everyone is expected to be a witness. More, the whistleblower should try to be a witness always. This requires effort. In fact, it demands nothing less than continuing conversion.
That is the problem. We often fail to be a true witness. This is simply because we don’t get in vital contact with God who is the truth. We live sincerity in a selective way, only getting those truths that benefit us, while shunning those that require sacrifice. We sometimes invent our own “truth”!
Thus, when we happen to be a whistleblower without being a witness, then all sorts of crazy things happen as we let ourselves play into the hands of the devil. We play the devil’s game. We don’t behave as instruments of God’s providence. And mind you, the devil can be very creative.
Whistleblowing and witnessing have to come from God and end in God. They’re never just one’s strictly personal affair, developed according to one’s personal strategy only, and readily exploited by others, usually politicians with selfish personal agendas.
Our Church leaders should be the first to know this distinction and to realize the enormous challenge of helping the flock live as genuine witnesses of the truth, that is, of God, no less. We should not just stop in encouraging people to be mere whistleblowers.
This requires a tremendous amount of prayers, of sacrifices, and of catechizing, giving good example and constant pastoral care. This also requires a deep grounding in the Church’s social doctrine, so as to come up with clear, not confusing practical indications.
I think the devil is happiest when we, the Church leaders and officials, start going to the streets, shouting and demonstrating, and recklessly spewing statements and judgments everywhere, while neglecting our nontransferrable priestly duties.
An indispensable element for any search for truth, for any effort at being sincere is charity, which includes a lot of understanding for everyone including the culprits, and not taking sides.
Christ forgave all and was even willing to offer his life for that. We can do no less. He taught us this in the Our Father—“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
This is the most challenging part. While we have to be most rigid and strict in looking for the truth, we should also be most kind and lenient in dispensing understanding and mercy. We respect the laws. We don’t take them into our own hands.