On Monday last, 3rd September, Mr. Drew Harris was sworn in as the new Garda Commissioner in Kevin St., Dublin. It was interesting to watch the ceremony unfold, especially the part where he placed his hand on the Bible as he promised to uphold the Constitution of the State and to fulfil the duties of his office to the best of his ability. The use of the Bible is not uncommon in other swearing-in ceremonies. It is also used at the inauguration ceremony of the President of the United States. Two things struck me on seeing this.
The first is the connection between what Drew Harris promised to uphold and the values and virtues upheld in the Word of God on which his hand rested. He spoke of honour, honesty, transparency, justice, equality, accountability and integrity being at the heart of his office and the mission of our police force. He is of course correct but as he will be the first to admit, these values have their source elsewhere and in a higher authority, namely in the Word of God. So while his office must be religiously impartial, it is impossible to deny the obvious link between faith in those values and principles found in Scripture and the common good of society. Here is a reminder once again that faith in Christ cannot be relegated to the private sphere alone but lived out in public where it makes its presence felt. Yes, our faith is private but it is also social, by its very nature. The second undeniable conclusion from the ceremony and from all this ceremonies where the Bible is used, is that all holders of public office are accountable ultimately to God and his Word. Absolute moral authority does not rest with governments, states, presidents or heads of police forces. It rests in God to whom we are all accountable. If someone swears by something else or someone else, he or she is stating that that person or body has a higher authority than they do. Therefore, by swearing on the Bible to uphold a public office, the ultimate authority of God is being recognized by those who minister in his name. This is why public figures do not swear on a copy of the Constitution but on the Bible. To conclude, it is worth noting that the Constitution itself, Bunreacht na hÉireann, begins with the following words: ‘In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred’. Points to ponder.