Cardinal Arizmendi: Debate or Disqualify

You have to be discerning and not be convinced by the most attractive offers and propaganda


Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi, bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and responsible for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate (CEM), offers Exaudi readers his weekly article titled “Debate or Disqualify.”



When I studied Theology at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, Spain (1959-63), every eight days, in the classroom and with all the students from various countries, we had an exercise similar to a debate to delve deeper into a thesis: someone explained and others raised objections. When it was my turn to present, the professor told me that should talk about the indwelling of God in us, according to 2 Peter 1:4 which says: “You participate in the divine nature.” They asked two colleagues to object to me on the subject and I tried to defend what doctrine says. The debate was about ideas, not about our personal lives. This is how we learned to delve deeper into the topics. Excellent pedagogical resource! Everything was in Latin. There were no distractions, like now with cell phones that distract students: they do not deepen the topics or retain them in memory.

We are in preparatory time for elections in our country, and it is customary to organize debates between contenders for various positions. They are interesting to know the proposals that each person offers and assess their personality. However, what stands out most are the disqualifications between candidates. Rather than discussing the different options to improve the country, which are not just two, data, true or misinterpreted, are aired, even about private life, to sow distrust towards others and win votes. This lowers the quality of the debates, since they seem more like a fighting ring and a battlefield, in which they try to defeat others. There is little discussion about the convenience or feasibility of a proposal.

A healthy discussion about the different options for the country is always necessary; but it is degraded when every day in the morning someone who does not agree with a way of governing is offended; when one pontificates on all issues, as if one had all the data about the reality one lives in and as if one were the best solution to real problems and needs. By abusing the power one has, those who have another way of seeing things are insulted and disqualified. This degrades politics. It is no longer a respectful dialogue to find the best option together, but rather self-defense with offenses to others. That is not intelligence, much less wisdom, but only demagogic cunning. A respectful dialogue is needed between the different visions of the country, not the visceral disputes that we sometimes also see between legislators.


In this regard, Pope Francis says in his encyclical Fratelli tutti:

“The best way to dominate and advance without limits is to sow hopelessness and arouse constant distrust, even disguised behind the defense of some values. Today in many countries the political mechanism of exasperating, exacerbating and polarizing is used. In various ways, others are denied the right to exist and have an opinion, and to do so they resort to the strategy of ridiculing them, suspecting them, and surrounding them. Their part of truth, their values, is not reflected, and in this way society is impoverished and reduced to the arrogance of the strongest. Politics is no longer a healthy discussion about long-term projects for the development of all and the common good, but only immediate marketing recipes that find the most effective resource in the destruction of others. In this petty game of disqualifications, the debate is manipulated towards a permanent state of questioning and confrontation” (15).

“In this conflict of interests that pits us all against all, where winning becomes synonymous with destroying, how is it possible to raise our heads to recognize our neighbor or to stand next to those who have fallen on the road? A project with great objectives for the development of all humanity today sounds like delirium. The distances between us increase, and the hard and slow march towards a united and more just world suffers a new and drastic setback” (16).


It is advisable to watch the debates between candidates, to be better informed and on June 2 to cast our more reasoned vote; but you have to be discerning and not be convinced by the most attractive offers and propaganda, not even by surveys, much less by the money that the government distributes, which certainly is not yours but our taxes. Social support will not be lost when each party wins, because they are rights recognized by law and no candidate is stupid enough to take them away.


You have to discern and not let yourself be convinced
for the most attractive offers and advertising