India

WAS MOTHER MARY A PRIEST?

# chhotebhai

 

The answer apparently is “No”, because the Catholic Church doesn’t accept women to the ordained priesthood. Does this merit re-consideration? Though not a theologian or church historian I would address the question from three angles: (i) The objections to women’s ordination (ii) The nature of the priesthood (iii) The life of Mother Mary.

THE OBJECTIONS: I had to search my records to find the “Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood”, published in L`Osservatore Romano on 3/2/1977. There may have been other official pronouncements thereafter, of which I am not aware, hence I wish to be excused.

Normally, when studying an issue, the pros and cons are debated before arriving at a conclusion. Unfortunately, this Declaration begins with the premise that it is not possible and then proceeds to fit its arguments into the same. This is a flawed process. I quote, in the sequence in which these statements are made.

First there is a frank admission. “In the life of the Church herself … women have played a decisive role and accomplished tasks of outstanding value”. Despite that it continues, “The question has been asked whether the Catholic Church too could not modify her discipline and admit women to priestly ordination”?

After raising the question it gives a categorical answer that “The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination”. If so, then what need of a Declaration? Despite a categorical statement it argues that “The Catholic Church has never felt that priestly or episcopal ordination can be validly conferred on women”. Who are they speaking for? Back then, and even more so today, there is a strong thrust for women’s ordination. (I have earlier written how married clergy are also acceptable to the church).

The Declaration claims that its stand is willed by the Lord. “By calling only men to the priestly order the Church intends to remain faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed by the Lord Jesus Christ”. It continues, “The practice has enjoyed peaceful and universal acceptance”. Not true. Does the Church want a storming of the Bastille agitation before ceding ground? There is a limit to human patience, as recent developments in Pakistan and Sri Lanka have demonstrated.

While it admits that in his itinerant ministry Jesus was accompanied by a group of women it still insists that he “did not call any women to become part of the Twelve”. It continues, “Although the Blessed Virgin Mary surpassed in dignity and in excellence all the Apostles, nevertheless it was not to her but to them (Apostles) that the Lord entrusted the keys to the kingdom of heaven”. This is an admission of the incompetence of the Twelve!

Could this also mean that these doormen have “shut the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, neither going in yourselves, nor allowing others to go in, who want to” (Mat 23:13). Is apostleship and priesthood meant for keeping people out, or inviting them in? Empty churches in Europe and America are a warning that these doormen seem to have jammed the key in the lock!

The declaration admits that post-Resurrection Mary was in the Upper Room with the Apostles (cf Acts 1:14), that several women did apostolic work with Paul (Rom 16:3-12, Phil 4:3), yet “at no time was there a question of conferring ordination on these women”. It then reverts to its earlier position that “Could the Church today depart from the attitude of Jesus and the Apostles?” One could counter, “What proof is there of such an attitude, or even of the so-called ordination of men other than the Apostles themselves?”

The Declaration’s closing argument is the most specious. It quotes medieval theologian St Thomas Aquinas to say, “Sacramental signs represent what they signify by natural resemblance”. Hence “The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things … there could not be this natural resemblance … if the role of Christ was not taken by a man”.

Is gender the only hallmark of Jesus? How do pink sashed bishops living in palaces and travelling in luxury sedans have a “natural resemblance” to the one who said “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mat 8:20)? For natural resemblance they should also have been circumcised, do carpentry, walk on water, multiply loaves and heal the sick. Would those with Caucasian, Negroid and Mongoloid features resemble the Semitic Jesus?

WHO IS A PRIEST? The answer is in the Vatican II “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests”. It describes priestly qualities as “goodness of heart, sincerity, strength and constancy of character, zealous pursuit of justice and civility” (PO 3). Are such qualities limited to men? Many would argue that they are more feminine.

The Decree identifies three priestly functions:

  1. The “primary duty is the proclamation of the Gospel of God to all” (PO 4).
  2. They perform sacred functions so that “they make Jesus present in every gathering of the faithful” (PO 5).
  3. The “office of pastor … is formation of a genuine Christian community” (PO 6).

The question now is, are these functions the preserve of men? Even “sacred functions” are not an end in themselves, but directed towards making Jesus present. To what extent is our male clergy fulfilling these functions? The Decree warns that “They cannot be of service to men if they remain strangers in the life and conditions of men” (PO 3).

The Church in India Seminar was held in Bangalore from 15th-25th May 1969. It was the Indian equivalent of Vatican II. Its observations on priestly images are telling. I quote: “The priest appears as an organizer, an effective worker, but is not taken as a man of God who is concerned with spiritual things … A certain attitude of dominance prevails … Missionary work gets only second place in comparison with the importance given to the field of education … Some impressions of the priest are – a big man, an official to be saluted, one from whom we get money, one staying in a big house, often the best in the neighbourhood. The idea of a priest being a minister of God is not conveyed by such living”.

This is a scathing indictment. There are several wonderful and dedicated priests, especially those working for tribals and dalits in remote areas (Stan Swamy was not the only one). Sadly, exceptions prove the rule.

THE LIFE OF MOTHER MARY: The main references to her are at the Annunciation, the Visitation, Nativity, Presentation, Cana and the Crucifixion. Let us meditate on them.

At the Annunciation she is told, “Nothing is impossible to God” (Lk 1:38) to which her classical response was “You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said” (Ibid). Is not this act of faith a priestly quality? At her greeting at the Visitation “the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:42). Mary was the first evangelist, incarnating the Word in another. She is called Queen of the Apostles, so how could she not be an apostle herself?

At the Nativity she “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). So she was a contemplative. At the Presentation the Prophet Simeon said to her “A sword will pierce your soul too” (Lk 2:35). Hence she is called the Mater Dolorosa and co-mediatrix, because she shared in the redemptive suffering and mission of Jesus. It is at her instance that Jesus performs his first miracle, at Cana. Mother and son were responding to a felt need, for which she authoritatively says, “Do whatever he tells you to” (Jn 2:5). She had the mind of Christ.

At the Crucifixion where were the male apostles? Judas who was “ordained” at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus. Peter the successor succeeded in denying Jesus. All the other “brave men”, barring the young John, abandoned their master in his time of greatest need. Thereafter, at the Resurrection, Mary did not run to the Sepulchre. She had no need to. She had already experienced the death and resurrection in the sword that had pierced her soul.

So did Mary need to be ordained, just as she did not need to run to the Sepulchre or be present at the Last Supper? Could any human confer on her what she had already received from the Lord?

This is why I draw inspiration from what Jesus said. When a woman in the crowd said “Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you” (Lk 11:5) his sagacious reply was, “More blessed still are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Ibid). As the receptacle and doer of the Word, Mother Mary was blessed. She was a priest who did not need to offer any other sacrifices, either for herself or for others (cf Heb 7:27). In like manner those of her gender and genre should be considered for the ministerial priesthood.

If some still feel that the Gospels are silent on Mary’s priesthood let us remember how they end. “There was much else that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).

 

  • The writer’s devotion to Mother Mary is rational, not cultic.

 

JULY 2022

HAT – TRICK

# chhotebhai

The just concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) would be fresh in people’s minds. Hence one cannot be faulted for presuming that this piece is about cricket! It isn’t. It’s not about red balls but about red hats, the red Berettas given to Cardinals.

They are the flavour of the season thanks to the announcement of 21 new Cardinals last week by Pope Francis, including two from India. The appointments have caused a flurry of opinions. Let us study some of them.

Noted Indian theologian Felix Wilfred, writing for UCAN (31st May), cautioned that the Asian Cardinals should become the genuine voice of Asia, and not an echo chamber for the Roman Curia. Breaking from tradition Pope Francis has not given red hats to prominent Sees like Milan, Venice, Krakow, Paris, Los Angeles and San Francisco. For the first time Paraguay, Timor-Leste, Singapore and even remote Mongolia (that has hardly 1400 Catholics) have made the list.

Wilfred further observers that Asia already had 15 Cardinal Electors (CEs); those eligible to elect or be elected as the next pope. With six more added now Asia has 21 CEs, a significant “bloc” that could sway the next papal election. Wilfred is all praise for brave Asian Cardinals like Charles Bo of Myanmar and Joseph Zen of Hong Kong. He could also have added Cardinal Ranjeet of Sri Lanka. But he is ominously silent on the existing four Indian Cardinals!

La Croix International, based in Rome, states that the forthcoming August consistory will be the 8th by Pope Francis. After that there will be 132 CEs, of whom 2/3rds would be Francis’ appointees. Of the 21 new faces 8 are from Europe, 6 from Asia, 2 from Africa, 1 from the USA and 4 from Latin America. The CEs will now be from Europe – 54, the Americas – 38, Asia – 20, Africa – 17 and Oceania – 3.

La Croix draws special attention to three appointments – Abp Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseilles (France), Abp Arthur Roche of England and Bp Robert McElroy from the USA; all of whom share Francis’ ecclesiastical vision.

A contrarian opinion is espoused by Raymond J de Souza, probably an Indian priest, writing in the National Catholic Register, USA (30th May). His article is titled “What’s Unsaid Speaks Volumes”. He singles out what he feels are Francis’ hits and misses. He questions why Major Abp Sviatoslav Shevchuk, patriarch of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, didn’t get the red hat. He alleges that this was done to placate Patriarch Krill of the Russian Orthodox Church, even though Francis had recently referred to him as Putin’s altar boy. If smaller Oriental Rite Churches like the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Maronite, Chaldean, Romanian and Ethiopian ones could get Cardinals, then why not Ukraine, asks de Souza.

He further laments that Abp Jose Gomez of Los Angeles missed the boat, even though he is the President of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference. What de Souza left “unsaid” is that Gomez is a staunch Trump supporter who was denying Holy Communion to pro-choice Catholic leaders like Joe Biden, the President of the USA. Instead his junior, Bp McElroy of San Diego, got the red hat. The latter is described as “one of the staunchest liberals in the US Bishops’ Conference”.

Similarly, Abp Leonardo Steiner of Manaus, Brazil was chosen because he is a proponent of married priesthood and woman’s diaconate! So Francis’ unsaid message is clear.

Next de Souza disparagingly says that Bp Peter Eberre Okpaleke of the newly erected diocese of Ekwulobia, Nigeria, was given a consolation prize as he was earlier rejected by the people of Ahiara diocese as he was not of the same ethnicity.

Writing in the same issue of the conservative American magazine Andrea Gagliarducci claims that Bp Oscar Cantoni of Como, Italy, got the red hat because he had granted Holy Communion to Divorced and Remarried Catholics (DARCs) in special circumstances.

So, as in cricket, we must await the verdict of the Third Umpire, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The conservative lobby, led by the bishops of the USA, are disappointed with Francis’ “liberal” choices. The rest of us players on the field may feel that Francis is playing to win the match.

Gagliarducci makes another startling claim, that after the consistory and meeting of the Cardinals in August, Pope Francis will resign! This is indeed wishful thinking on the part of the conservative lobby. There are several reasons why this will not happen, despite Francis’ knee problem.

Firstly, he has just initiated the Curial reforms and will probably affect a major change in the Curia (church governance or administration) after meeting with all the Cardinals. He may even announce the convening of Vatican III, 57 years after Vatican II ended. He is in the midst of the largest exercise ever conducted by the Catholic Church, the Synod on Synodality, that culminates (not ends) in October 2023. I don’t see him leaving a job half done.

Besides, Pope Benedict XVI is still alive. If Francis were to also resign and another pope were elected there would technically be three popes at one time. That could lead to a piquant situation. Francis will be aware of the events of 1046 CE. Benedict IX, the 145th pope was a notorious person who had three breaks in his papacy. As a result there were four popes at one time – that included Sylvester III, Gregory VI and Clement II. Surely Pope Francis would not want a repeat of 1046.

What is the “match” that Francis is playing? Vatican observers say that his choice of Cardinals is to ensure that his successor continues his reform and renewal agenda. That is a perfectly legitimate aspiration. Did not Jesus himself choose his apostles with the future in mind, to continue his mission?

Those who have not studied church history are accustomed to TV images of throngs waiting in St Peter’s Square to see white smoke emerging from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, followed by the dramatic appearance of the Chamberlain on the balcony to announce “Habemus Papam”, we have a pope.

It was not always this way. Papal history is replete with instances of subterfuge, simony, murder, nepotism and external influence by kings and emperors. Interestingly, there was no pope for 4 years from 304-308, when Marcellus I became the 30th pope. St Gregory the Great, the 64th pope, evaded his own consecration for 7 months as he considered himself unworthy.

Because of the chaos in papal elections it was only in 1059 that Nicholas II, the 150th pope, framed rules for them. This was at the Lateran Synod where 113 bishops were present. Even then the choice was limited to the Roman clergy, subject to approval by the German emperor. Later the General Council of Lyon (1274) decreed that the pope should be elected in three days, or else the CEs would not be given food or water!

Rules apart, Julius II, the 212nd pope, known as the terrible pope because of his worldly lifestyle, several mistresses and three children, purchased the papacy. He bribed 37 of the 38 CEs to get elected in the shortest ever conclave.

It was left to Pope Paul VI to frame strict rules through his order “Romano Pontifici eligendo”. This was superseded by Pope John Paul II’s “Universi Dominici Gregis” in 1996, again amended by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

So we see that papal elections have come a long way from the time Jesus simply said “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community” (Mat 16:18).Note that the Hebrew word used was qahal, translated in Greek to ekklesia, that literally means “an assembly called together”, and not “church” as commonly understood.

So instead of casting aspersions or conspirational stones on Pope Francis’ choice of red hats, let us work and pray for the qahal of Jesus. That would be a match winning Hatrick.

The writer has expounded these ideas in his latest book “The Jerusalem Code”.

JUNE 2022

JOURNEYING TOGETHER SURVEY

Organized by the INDIAN CATHOLIC FORUM (ICF) over a period of three months

SALIENT FINDINGS:

  1. Communion – Yes; Confession – Not so
  2. Scepticism over Synod outcome
  3. Vatican II teachings not implemented
  4. Adult catechesis and youth preparation below par
  5. Make Parish Councils/ Finance Committees mandatory
  6. Community should be involved in the selection/ election of bishops who should be transferred every ten years
  7. Right to Information (RTI), Grievance Redressal System/ Arbitration Boards and automated recording/ acknowledgement of correspondence should be implemented
  8. Dalit Christians should get SC facilities
  9. Women who procure an abortion should not be automatically ex-communicated
  10. Divorced and remarried Catholics (DARCs) should be permitted to receive Communion
  11. Clericalism is a scourge in the Church
  12. Synod findings should be translated into law
  13. Personal example of Pope Francis has had little impact on the clergy/ hierarchy

 INTRODUCTION: The ICF is an informal collective of Indian Catholics who are concerned about the renewal and reform of the Catholic Church, as envisioned by Vatican II. In preparation for the Synod on Synodality a Questionnaire was prepared after due consultation with, and feedback from, its Core Committee Members.

 QUESTIONNAIRE: It was an online one using Google Forms. Responses were automatically collated thereby maintaining total confidentiality, so necessary for freedom of expression, as stipulated in the Synod’s Preparatory Document issued by its Secretariat in the Vatican.

 The Questionnaire was divided into three major parts – Respondent’s Profile, Respondent’s Value System and then the actual Questionnaire. These questions had to be answered on a scale of 0 - 5, with the option of also being “unable to answer”. This ensured a scientific and objective approach, devoid of any pressure, partiality or binary responses. The questions and answers follow, together with our preliminary observations (in red). There were 145 respondents. Some persons found the Questionnaire too complex to answer even though every attempt was made to make it user friendly.

SURVEY FORM
PART I

A. Respondent’s Profile

  1. Gender: * Female - 38% * Male - 62% * Third - Nil
  2. Age: * 18-21 – 1.4% * 22-35 – 10.3% * 36-50 – 22.8% * 51+ 65.5%
  3. Education: * Undergraduate – 11.7% * Graduate – 23.4% * Post Graduate or equivalent – 64.8%
  4. Family’s Monthly Income (for laypersons only): * Below Rs 10,000/- 8% * 10,001/- - 25,000/- 16% * 25001/- - 50,000/- 25% * 50,001/- - 1,00,000/- 21% * 1,00,000/- + 31%
  5. Ecclesiastical Status: * Layperson – 74% * Clergy – 12% * Religious – 18% * Bishop - One * Married Deacon - Nil * Seminarian - Two
  6. Marital Status (for laypersons only): * Single - 18% * Married – 73% * Divorced - Nil * Separated - Negligible * Annulled - Nil * Remarried - Negligible * Spouse deceased – 7%
  7. Spouse (for married persons only): * Catholic – 94% * Non-Catholic Christian 3% * Non-Christian – 3 %
  8. Rite: * Latin – 79% * Syro-Malabar – 11% * Syro-Malankara - Nil * Don’t know – 10%

 From the above one would have to admit that the respondents are not fully reflective of the Catholic community in India. Firstly, the Questionnaire was online and in English, limiting its reach. Secondly, it is obvious that the respondents are a somewhat elite section of the community, going by their educational qualifications and financial status. Thirdly, though the laity constitutes more than 99% of the community they are only 74% of the respondents. With this caveat let us examine the findings.

 B. Value/ Belief System

  1. Do you attend the Sunday liturgy (Eucharistic celebration): * Regularly – 83% * Sometimes – 12% * Rarely – 3% *Stopped attending – 2%
  2. At Mass do you receive the Holy Eucharist (Communion): *Always – 94% * Sometimes – 5% * Rarely – 1%* Never - Nil
  3. Do you approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession): * Regularly – 29% * Sometimes – 38% * Annually – 13% * No longer – 20%
  4. Do you believe in the Sacrament of Matrimony as an eternal and exclusive bond: * Yes - 87% * No – 4% * Not sure – 9%
  5. Do you believe that the non-baptised will go to hell: * Yes – 7% * No – 72% * Hope not – 21%
  6. Why do you attend Sunday Mass: * Love of God and Neighbour – 89% * Force of habit – 7% * For social interaction – 10% * Fear of going to Hell – 2% (some may have exercised multiple options)
  7. How often do you pray: * Daily - 92% * Sometimes – 8% * In time of need or crisis – 5% * Never - Nil
  8. How often do you read/ meditate on the Holy Bible: * Daily – 54% * Occasionally – 33% * Rarely – 13% * Never – 2%
  9. Do you exercise your franchise in various elections: * Always – 72% * Sometimes – 18% * Disgusted with politicians 4% * Never 6%
  10. Did you play the Good Samaritan during the recent Covid crisis: * Yes – 75% * No – 16% * Was incapacitated – 3% * Was afraid – 6%
  11. When going shopping do you take along a carry bag to curtail the use of plastic and protect the environment?* Yes 85% * No 15%

 A major takeaway is that while 83% attend the Sunday liturgy regularly, and 94% always receive Communion, only 29% regularly go for Confession and a significant 20% have stopped the practice. The Value System indicates that the respondents are responsible citizens.

 PART II – QUESTIONNAIRE

(These questions were answered on a scale of 0 to 5 depending on the level of agreement. Respondents could also exercise the “Unable to answer” option. We are giving the MEAN of all the answers excluding the “Unable to answer”. The Questionnaire was divided into 8 sections with a total of 65 questions having 6 options each, totalling 390. It is therefore understandable that some chose not to answer. We are grateful to those that did, thereby showing their commitment to the Church. On a scale of 0 – 5 the Mean is 2.5, but the collation shows that the responses are often at variance from the Mean)

 C. SYNODAL

  1. What is your awareness level of the Synod on Synodality 2021-23? Mean – 2.9, Unable 8%
  2. Are you satisfied with the preparations for the Synod in your parish/ diocese? – Mean - 1.9, Unable 24%
  3. Do you think that your voice will be heard and concerns expressed in the Synod? Mean – 2.0 Unable 15%

 Despite the awareness level the preparations for the Synod are below par, with a degree of scepticism about its eventual outcome.

 D. SPIRITUAL/ CATECHETICAL

  1. To what extent are you satisfied with the renewal/ reform of the Catholic Church as envisioned by Vatican II? Mean – 2.3 Unable 8%
  2. What is your awareness level of Vatican II Documents (1962-65), Code of Canon Law (1983/1990) and Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992)? Mean – 2.5 Unable 7%
  3. In the 56 years that have elapsed since Vatican II you may have heard 56x52=2912 Sunday sermons. How often have you heard Vatican II teachings referred to in these sermons? Mean – 1.3 Unable 10%
  4. To what extent are you satisfied with faith formation/ adult catechesis after Confirmation classes ended? Mean – 1.8 Unable 9%
  5. To what extent are you satisfied with remote or immediate preparation for marriage? Mean 2.4 Unable 11%
  6. Vatican II talks of a fraternal (equal) relationship between clergy and laity who are inter-dependent on each other. To what extent has this been achieved? Mean- 1.6 Unable 8%
  7. Does the church have an empathetic/ compassionate approach to inter-faith (mixed) marriages so common in a multi-religious country like ours? Mean – 2.2 Unable 8%

 The Church has failed to implement the teachings of Vatican II and adult catechesis is below par

 E. PARISH LEVEL ISSUES

  1. Are you satisfied with the functioning of parish councils/ finance committees, if at all they exist in your parish? Mean - 2.0 Unable 7%
  2. As per Canon Law such bodies are optional and only advisory in nature. Should they be made mandatory with decision making powers? Mean – 3.6 Unable 10%
  3. To what extent do parish priests respond to concerns/ grievances expressed by the parishioners (Laity)? Mean 2.3 Unable 6%
  4. Do Catholic children easily get admission to educational institutions run by the parish/ diocese? Mean – 2.9 Unable 5%
  5. Do they easily get admission to educational institutions run by religious congregations? Mean – 2.6 Unable 5%
  6. Is it easy for economically weak students to get fees or other concessions in such institutions? Mean - 2.4 Unable 6%
  7. Do qualified Catholics get preferential opportunities for jobs in such institutions? Mean - 2.4 Unable 11%
  8. Are Catholic hospitals/ health services easily accessible to economically weak Catholics? Mean – 2.2 Unable 16%
  9. Do such Catholics get the benefit of social welfare schemes run by Catholic institutions/ NGOs? Mean – 2.2 Unable 16%
  10. To what extent do affluent Catholics help their disadvantaged brethren with jobs, scholarships, material relief etc? Mean – 2.3 Unable 11%
  11. To what extent do women find a place of dignity and authority in the church? Mean - 2.5% Unable 8%
  12. To what extent are the youth prepared for the challenges of living their faith in the modern world? Mean - 1.9 Unable 6%
  13. How acute is the problem of finding suitable matrimonial alliances within the community? Mean – 2.8 Unable 11%

 The functioning of Parish Councils/ Finance Committees is below par. They should be made mandatory. Despite a huge investment of the institutional church in education the experience of the community is just about par. Health and welfare services are below par. The affluent among the community also need to become more responsive to their less fortunate brethren

 F. DIOCESAN LEVEL

  1. To what extent is a bishop seen as a loving and caring elder? Mean - 2.4 Unable 6%
  2. What is the extent of lay involvement in the Diocesan Pastoral Council/ Finance Committee? Mean – 1.8 Unable 12%
  3. To what extent are the people consulted in pastoral/ financial/ institutional planning in the diocese? Mean – 1.3 Unable 15%
  4. Do bishops respond to correspondence addressed to them? Mean – 2.1 Unable 26%
  5. Is the bishop seen more as a ceremonial head at Confirmation, Feast Days, school concerts etc? Mean – 3.7 Unable 9%
  6. Should the people be directly involved in the selection/ election process of bishops? Mean – 3.7 Unable 11%
  7. Should bishops be transferred every ten years? Mean – 3.9 Unable 13%
  8. Considering the complexities of modern life should there be a minimum age (say 21) for aspirants to the priesthood/ religious life, as against the current easy practice of “catch them young and innocent”? Mean – 3.7 Unable 5%
  9. Should the canonical norm of seeking dispensation from the bishop for an inter-church/ inter-faith marriage be abolished? Mean 3.1 Unable 13%

 As we go up the ladder the satisfaction levels go down. A bishop is seen as a ceremonial head, not a pastor. People should be involved in the selection/ election of bishops and they should be transferable. “Dispensation” for mixed marriages needs to be reconsidered.

 G. NATIONAL LEVEL

  1. Is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) seen as truly representative of the concerns of Catholics in India? Mean – 2.1 Unable 18%
  2. Is the Apostolic Nunciature seen as the voice and presence of the Pope in India? Mean – 2.0 Unable 19%
  3. Does the Nunciature respond to correspondence addressed to it? Mean – 1.4 Unable 46%
  4. Should the church have a Right to Information (RTI) system to improve accountability and transparency? Mean 4.1 Unable 2%
  5. Should there be a Grievance Redressal system / Arbitration Boards at all levels of the church? Mean - 4.4 Unable 2%
  6. Should there be an automated computerised system of recording correspondence/ grievance redressal, with a reference number, as in Customer Care/ Govt portals? Mean - 4.3 Unable 7%
  7. How effective is the church in the print/ electronic media when it comes to sensitive issues like conversions and legislation to curb the same? Mean – 1.9 Unable 10%

 The CBCI and Nunciature fair poorly. There is a greater need for accountability and transparency through the RTI, grievance cells etc. The Media Cells don’t seem to be effective. In this section respondents have expressed themselves very clearly.

 H. SOCIAL ISSUES

  1. To what degree do Dalit Christians (of SC origin) find acceptance in the church? Mean – 2.8 Unable 19%
  2. To what degree do tribal (ST) Christians find acceptance in the church? Mean – 3.1 Unable 15%
  3. Do Dalit Christians experience discrimination, like other Dalits, in society in general? Mean 3.1 Unable 21%
  4. Should Dalit Christians and Muslims get SC facilities on par with Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits? Mean – 4.4 Unable 11%
  5. As a community do we have a healthy relationship with members of other religions? Mean – 3.4 Unable 1%
  6. Do we have a healthy relationship with members of other Sister Churches (denominations)? Mean – 2.9 Unable 9%
  7. Do we use plastic/ thermocole disposables at our events? Mean – 3.4 Unable 8%
  8. Do we make collective efforts to grow more trees or to protect the environment? Mean 2.6 Unable 9%
  9. Have we as a community adapted to the local culture/ language in our liturgy and way of life? Mean 3.3 Unable 2%
  10. Are we, as a community, active in politics, trade unions, civic and consumer affairs and human rights? Mean – 1.9 Unable 6%

 No major surprises in this section. They follow a predictable pattern that nevertheless merit attention

 I. MORAL/ETHICAL ISSUES

  1. Is the laity consulted on moral issues that affect it: like marriage, divorce, annulment, family planning, sexual ethics etc? Mean – 1.3 Unable 10%
  2. Do you agree with the official teaching of the church that all forms of artificial contraception are wrong and couples should only follow Natural Family Planning (NFP)? Mean – 2.5 Unable 9%
  3. Does the church provide facilities and scientific guidance for NFP? Mean 1.6 Unable 17%
  4. As per Canon Law, a woman who procures an abortion, regardless of the circumstances, incurs an automatic ex-communication. Do you agree with this? Mean – 1.4 Unable 8%
  5. Should Divorced and Remarried Catholics (DARCs) be treated as outcastes, or be admitted to Holy Communion after due catechesis? Mean - 4.4 Unable 8%

 The laity definitely feels let down that it is not consulted in this crucial area that directly affects it. There is strong disagreement with the automatic ex-communication of women who procure an abortion, and clear support for DARCs to be admitted to Communion. The hierarchical church needs to sit up and take note of these divergent opinions.

 J. UNIVERSAL ISSUES

  1. The word Catholic means “universal”. Has the church become more “Roman” (Europeanised) than catholic (universal in culture and governance)? Mean – 3.4 Unable 9%
  2. Should there be adequate lay representation at all levels of the synodal process – parish, diocese, national, continental and universal? Mean – 4.5 Unable 3%
  3. Has people’s faith in the Church been adversely affected by clerical sexual abuse and paedophilia (over 216,000 cases reported in France alone between 1950 and the present time; over 4000 in the USA in 2019-20)? Mean – 4.0 Unable 8%
  4. Do you agree with Pope Francis’ oft repeated statement that “clericalism” (complete domination by the clergy) is the biggest scourge in the church? Mean – 4.5 Unable 7%
  5. Pope Francis lives in a two room apartment in St Martha’s Hostel, not in the Vatican He uses a Fiat 500 hatchback (Regn No SCV 1) and has said that it was a crime for priests and nuns to be moving around in the latest cars. He advocated cycling. To what extent has the hierarchy/ clergy/ religious followed his example and directions? Mean – 1.4 Unable 8%
  6. Pope Francis also asked religious leaders to have the smell of the sheep (obviously not an expensive perfume)! To what extent has this happened on the ground? Mean 1.4 Unable 13%
  7. Is it adequate redressal to “transfer” bishops and priests involved in major financial misappropriation, sexual abuse or moral turpitude? Mean – 1.8 Unable 8%
  8. Should the findings of this Synod be translated into law? Mean – 4.1 Unable 17%
  9. Should this Synod lead to the convening of Vatican III (for Vatican II 2500 bishops plus experts deliberated for three years; now there are close to 5500 bishops)? Mean – 3.1 Unable 16%
  10. Should women be ordained to the priesthood? Mean – 3.1 Unable 11%
  11. Should the church revert to the early Christian practice of having married clergy, beginning with St Peter himself, the first pope? Mean – 2.8 Unable 6%
  12. Should we learn universality from the United Nations? It has its headquarters in New York, but various departments like UNESCO/UNICEF are in different countries. In like manner should various Vatican Congregational offices like Social Justice, Ecumenism, and Religious Dialogue be relocated to other countries to make the church more universal? Mean 4.1 Unable 8%

 Here again opinions are firmer. The laity should have a strong presence in the Synod; clerical sexual abuse and clericalism have had a severe negative impact on the church; on the other hand the charismatic Pope Francis has had little or no impact on those who should have been the first to emulate his exemplary lifestyle; the natural consequence of the Synod on Synodality is that its findings be translated into law and Vatican III should be convened just as Vatican II was a watershed moment in the 2000 year history of the church.

 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Our sincere gratitude to all the respondents, particularly the lone bishop. Special thanks to Nelvin Johnny of Baroda who formatted the Questionnaire and prepared the findings in Pie Chart form. The same is available on request from chhotebhai, ICF Convenor at 9415130822 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Survey Report Charts

Transfigured, configured, disfigured?

By chhotebhai

Kanpur, March 14, 2022: On March 13 the Church celebrated the feast of the Transfiguration. While the gospel was being read my thoughts raced ahead.

The three Synoptic Gospels refer to the Transfiguration (cf Mat 17:1-8, Mk 9:2-8, Lk 9:28-36). Peter, who was present then, also alludes to it (cf 2 Pet 1:16-18).Significantly, all three synoptic writers situate this event shortly after Jesus’ first prediction of his passion. Mathew and Mark place it at 6 days later, while Luke says 8 days. This minor anomaly further convinces us that such an event did indeed take place.

How do we view the Transfiguration? That would largely depend on how we view Jesus and our personal relationship with him. Since the New Testament was written in Greek the word used is metamorphosis. In Greek mythology this was an attribute of the gods, to change their appearance. This is also to be seen in the many avatars of Hindu deities that have various aakaars (shapes).

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