The former Archbishop of the West Indies Drexel Gomez has come under attack from the Prime Minister of the Bahamas and the government’s supporters in the press for attending an opposition campaign rally.
On 5 March 2012 Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham told a rally of his Free National Movement (FNM) on Long Island that it was inappropriate for a clergyman to attend a political meeting while wearing his clerical collar as it implied church support for a political party.
“I saw the former archbishop of The Bahamas, Bishop Gomez, who was down there in his bishop's collar,” Mr. Ingraham said, calling opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader Perry Christie “to apologize for that. He knows better.”
“Many of you Anglicans who celebrate Lent time do not do such things,” the prime minister said, adding that he had read that one Anglican clergyman had written a letter to a newspaper complaining about political rallies during Lent. “Well what do you think about a bishop on the political podium during Lent,” the prime minister asked according to a report in the Nassau Guardian.
On 2 March 2012 Archbishop Gomez, the former Bishop of the Bahamas, attended a campaign rally on Andros Island that launched the campaign of his brother, Dr. Perry Gomez, as the PLP’s candidate for the assembly seat of North Andros and the Berry Islands.
“I was there simply because I was invited by my brother, who was having the formal opening of his headquarters in Nicholl’s Town,” Archbishop Gomez told the Guardian, and had not made any political statements.
However, Guardian newspaper stated that it did not question the archbishop’s right of freedom of speech but the “poor exercise of his judgement in speaking at a partisan political event.”
“In moral theology, as in normative ethics, one is judged by one’s intentions and actions either of which or both of which may be flawed depending on the case at hand. The four cardinal virtues in the Christian tradition are prudence, justice, temperance and courage; Prudence is the virtue which helps to guide or balance the other virtues.
“Restraint or temperance refers to “practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation”. For many, Bishop Gomez exercised neither prudence nor restraint by speaking at a partisan political rally. Before acting, a cleric must ask whether his or her actions will be an occasion of confusion for the faithful.”
Archbishop Gomez defended his actions stating, “I felt I was the most appropriate person to make the presentation, as the older member of the family and the person who has been in the public domain.”
He added that he had chosen his comments “very carefully. I only spoke about my brother and our family. I made no reference whatsoever to political issues or to political parties. My intention was simply to introduce him to the people at the formal opening of his headquarters.”
The criticism prompted PLP leaders to come to the defense of Archbishop Gomez. MP Philip Davis told a 7 March 2012 PLP rally the prime minister was “so desperate that he launched an unholy war on one of the most respected religious leaders in this country and around the world.”
“And he chose to unleash his verbal assault on His Grace Bishop Drexel Wellington Gomez here in Long Island, where the Anglican community is deeply rooted.”
I cry shame on him. Shame, Shame, Shame,” Mr. Davis said, according to the Bahamas Weekly.