No Indian Bishop Responds to Papal Call?
Will the Church in India fail a second time to come up with a Family Survey ordered by Francis Pappa? It missed the boat at the 2014 Extraordinary Synod. How can it cobble up one now in just three months for the final Synod? Without any data why any Bishop should be allowed to go?
Pope Francis has been shining through glittering headlines in secular and religious media all over the world ever since his election, because of his irresistible, all embracing, palpable care and concern for the entire global family. It transcends all religious, political barriers and boundaries to merge into that ancient spiritual vision Vasudaiva Kudumbakam, of Indian Yogies and Gurus, who saw humanity as one great extended family.
It is enough to recall his one statement, “My God is not Catholic” which crushed to smithereens the hitherto inward and awkward looking “Ghetto-Catholicism” ruling the roost, trotting around the world with an air of self-righteous superiority like the Pharisee praying in the temple with all sorts of self adulation, besides, what is worse, looking down with an air of contempt on other churches and other religions as inferior, erroneous and pitiable in God’s sight like the chest beating publican. The second is his unparalleled and admirable option for the poorest in the Family of Man, his concern to start with the last, least and lost, to build anew “a poor church for the poor.”
For him, the health and wellbeing of the Micro family of Daddy, Mammy and Baby, is the corner stone on which the great macro human family can stand to prosper or fall from to perish. “A family that prays together stays together” of Fr. Payton, is rooted in the prayer “Our Father” Jesus taught: “Thy Kingdome come thy will be done here on earth as in heaven, forgive and you will be forgiven, judge not and you will not be judged”.
Fatherhood of God (no matter by what name you call Him) and brotherhood of all humans irrespective of all divisions of class, caste, creed, community and country have to be adhered to and enforced by all reasonable means, if the rule of the jungle “might is right” that prevails even today is to be replaced with that peace and prosperity promised to all men of good will by angels at Jesus’ birth. Believers in creation story identify it with the perfect peace that reigned supreme in the Paradise lost and strive to bring it back.
Participation in Synodal Study
That explains why Francis launched his two-year-long mammoth study, not undertaken by any other pope before, on all Challenges facing and dangers destroying families around the globe. For this purpose, at the behest of the Pope the Synod organizers headed by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri had started work already from October 2013, and sent a questionnaire with 39 detailed queries for the people on the pews to register their family experiences – good, bad and ugly – and send to Synod organizers for the bishops to study at the October 2014 Extraordinary Synod.
At its conclusion the Pope again had asked bishops to return to their dioceses to do another year of in-depth reflection, open and transparent like the one held in Rome, with ordinary parish and diocesan people and seek out “practical solutions” to the “innumerable challenges” identified at the Extraordinary synod sessions. The Indian bishops are not known to have done any such national or regional study or survey at parish or diocesan levels to collect data for last year’s Synod. Nor is it reported to have done anything this year either. The last date to submit reports to Rome was April 15, 2015, two months ago.
Many Countries Which Did
But very many countries in Europe, Americas and Afro-Asian countries sent their survey reports both last year and this year. For this year’s study the Synod organizers had sent a set of 46 questions to find answers to what they could not crack at the last Synod, to all bishops around the world. To this the bishops were to respond with the data they collected and sent to Rome by April 15, 2015, the latest. This data was to be the resource material and working paper for further thorough study and discussion during the coming concluding session called the Ordinary Synod, to be held from coming Oct.4 to 25 in Rome
Did the Indian Bishops belonging to three Rites – Latin, Syromalabar and Syromalankara – respond to this second survey call from Pope Francis? So far we have not heard of any survey done by any Indian Bishop. This is in spite of initiatives taken by lay groups – laity moving the hierarcy -- and articles by many including this scribe sent to all Indian bishops to get started, already from last November. The Global website of Catholic Citizens’ Voice (CCV) had even offered to provide the forum to Bishops for a national or regional level public discussion, study or consultation with people. But none of these promptings seem to have made any impact on bishops belonging to three Rites in India.
Accusing Finger at Indian Bishops
It is in this context that the examples of many countries in Europe and Americas point an accusing figure at the three-Rite-coalition of Catholic Church in India. For example the Churches in Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany, UK, US and Catholic Church Reform International (CCRInt’l) have not only sent their finding but also published them in their websites for the benefit of faithful world wide to read, reflect and react constructively.
The CCV published two weeks ago a report titled: Europe's fractious Catholics set out their Views on Synod Questionnaire. It published another, one week ago headlined: US Bishops hear summary of synod consultation, held on June 10th 2015 at their annual spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in St. Louis.
At St.Louis the US conference, the report said, it has 33 Latin-rite archdioceses and 145 Latin-rite dioceses. All of them had already put the results in their websites by Feb.23/15. Thirty-one dioceses offered the questionnaire both in English and Spanish; while San Jose, Calif., diocese provided even a Vietnamese version. US plans to send at least six bishops and two more designated as alternates, to October Synod to represent U.S. Catholics.
More than half of the US respondents were 55 years or older, nearly two-thirds were female and about 70 percent were married. A similar review of the two Eastern Rite Archeparchies and 15 Eastern Rite Eparchies that are members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found no information about how to contribute to the October 2015 synod. One of them could have been the Chicago based Syromalabar Eparchy started as an extension or out post of Kerala’s SMC noted for its inaction in consulting faithful.
Europe’s Response to Oct.Synod
When it comes to Europe, we see Spanish bishops keeping the questionnaire strictly within the church. Those of England and Wales released it on the Internet and invited everyone to respond. Switzerland received completed questionnaires from 6,000 Catholics and published a digest in early May. In France, where some 10,000 responses were received, each bishop decided to promote debate in his own diocese. Besides French Bishops organized special debates on family pastoral issues at the shrine of Lisieux, as well as at Lourdes during the bishops' March plenary, before the questionnaire results were forwarded to Rome in May. In Belgium, the questionnaire was published last February in the Catholic weekly Journal Dimanche,
The most comprehensive response seems to have come from Germany. In a 17-page March report, the German bishops' conference said it had received only 1,000 responses from the country's 27 dioceses and assorted Catholic associations and religious orders. According to a March survey by Poland’s Public Opinion Research Centre, up to three-quarters of Polish Catholics disagreed with their church's stance on homosexuality, contraception and extramarital relationships, and favoured a change in Catholic teaching on issues from divorce to clerical celibacy.
To get an insight into the findings of surveys done in various countries more articles have to be written by this or other expert journalists. Only many may not come forward to write since they are sure of receiving no response at all from their Bishops. Who wants an exercise in futility?
Why Indian silence & Inaction?
Now compare the various initiatives taken by Bishops in Europe and US with Indian Bishops. On studying CBCI website I fond India also, like US, has over 200 bishops including 5 Cardinals, 29 Archbishops, 9 Auxiliaries, and 2 Curia bishops for their 170 Indian Dioceses. But none of them seem to have done anything for the coming Synod. They did nothing also last year for the Extraordinary October Synod of 2014. Likewise the SMS’ out post in Chicago also did nothing as pointed by US report above.
With so many dioceses and bishops in India what could have been the reason for the inaction on their part for the last two years at a stretch? What leaps to my mind is the “compulsions of coalition politics” as suggested by Manmohan Singh for his failure to take right decisions. He had to placate skeleton parties to stay in power.
Just take a look at the coalition of three churches in India against a global perspective. Of the 2.2 billion Christians in the world a little more than half, 1.2 billion are Catholics. This catholic world is made up of a community of 22 sui juris Churches. The lion's share of this 1.2 billion (140 crores), that is,138 crores out of 140, go to make up of the Latin Church alone. The remaining 2 crores are distributed among 21 sui juris Churches, with the Ukrainian Catholic church coming second in strength with a population of 45 Lakhs.
Only in the third place comes our Syromalabar Church with a membership of around 25 lakhs, Then comes in the fourth place the Syro-malankara Church of Mar Baselios Cleemis, with just around 2 lakhs. That makes the third and fourth partners in the Indian coalition, skeleton parties or partners surviving at the mercy of the Latin Church which leads the Indian Catholic coalition. The numerical strength of the two skeleton churches is seldom or never uttered or admitted in public. Recently Malankara Church also wrenched from Rome the New Syro-Malankara Gurgaon diocese. It is said to be world’s largest diocese spread over 22 states. It got inaugurated last May 1st. to make the number of Catholic dioceses in India 170.
Darkest Spot in Indian Coalition
But the bête Noire, darkest spot in this fragile Latin-Malabar- Malankara coalition of Indian Catholic Church is the presence of one single diocese, Kottayam, as part of Syromalabar Church. It alone promotes Endogamy or Pure blood marriages publicly, brazenly. This being totally against Jesus’ teaching and blatant violation of human rights, no Bishop in the coalition partners can publicly say a word for or against; neither swallows nor vomits it without hurting coalition dharma of politics.
Hence the ominous, treacherous silence on the part of all three churches and also the tacit nod to Catholic media not to discuss it publicly, precisely to present a façade of unity and comraidere in public and to show sportsmanship of playing musical chairs before the Vatican to wrench more Episcopal thrones. This reminds one of the Vistar Vad of China and Vikas Vad of India Modiji spoke of at his Japan Visit. The bitter truth is our ecclesiastical structures often happen to be carbon copies of political structures and their crooked workings.
None of the bishops in all three churches therefore, dared to mention Pure Blood promotion as the deadly cancer destroying Catholic families in India last year or this year, although marathon discussions, furious and venomous at times, are going on among the faithful at various levels. Can the Bishops succeed to keep all these under the carpet, under the tomb stone of their silence during the remaining three months to the Synod and fool the impatient Church citizens in India sending memorandums and petitions one after another to Pope and Synod organisers? That is the unsettling question staring in the face of those who want to see the Aegean stables of Church in India cleaned by admitting mistakes openly – all make mistakes – and correcting them once and for all. Read also article: “Evaluating Your Bishop’s Performance, on 7 counts, published in CCV, www.almayasabdam.com, June 22nd to help bishops to shape up or ship out imitating Pope Benedict.
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