A call to introspection
It is our observation at E-VAAC that the Church hierarchy has, over the years, been gradually turning a blind eye to Clergy deviations from canon law and church teachings. These deviations have become the "new normal" which is heading towards a catastrophe. The new normal which results from repeated deviations over time has become the norm, which reflects in the current DNA of the Church. Some examples of deviations:
1. Diocese Synods: A diocese is supposed to conduct a synod. (C: 461) This is an important instrument provided by the Church to allow the faithful to voice their thoughts on the functioning of the diocese. In other words, it facilitates listening to the voice of the people. While the synod outcome is important, much value is derived from the "Clergy-Laity" engagement process which the synod provides. Many dioceses do not have synods and the hierarchy turns a blind eye to this deviation. An indicator of the changed Church DNA.
2. Parish Visitation: Bishops are supposed to visit parishes at least once in 5 years to study the functioning in order to provide direction and guidance. (C: 396) Parishes have not been visited for decades even though there are visible signs of laity participation decline. The Church hierarchy turns a blind eye to this blatant deviation. An indicator of the changed Church DNA.
3. Pastoral Plans: All dioceses should have pastoral plans which are meant to cascade into parish plans. (Church Teachings: Pope John Paul II at Ad Limina Visit of Jan 25, 1997) These plans provide the faithful with purpose and direction to follow the mission of the Church. Most dioceses do not have pastoral plans and the Church hierarchy turns a blind eye even though this activity is instrumental for the health of the Church. An indicator of the changed Church DNA.
4. Church Justice System implementation: The clergy deviations like child abuse, (C: 695 – 696; 1395 #2) financial misappropriation, (C: 286; 1377; 1282 -1289) dubious relationships, (C: 1394 – 1395 #1) etc. are on the increase and canon law is often loosely or arbitrarily applied. When strict implementation does not take place more clergy are emboldened to deviate. This is seen from the increasing trend of scandals. The Church has now had to bring in mandates like “Zero tolerance” and resort to issue resolution through civil courts which are external to the Church. The Church hierarchy has been turning a blind eye to the weak handling of rampant clergy deviations. An indicator of the changed Church DNA.
5. Church Shepherds: The bishops and clergy who are the shepherds and supposed to carry the faithful along (Bishop as Pastor: C: 383; as Teacher 386; as Sanctifier 387) are losing the trust of their flock. Weak governance and increasing scandals together with inadequate skills and training is making it more difficult for the shepherds to build trust and take the faithful along. Faithful participation is gradually decreasing and many are leaving or becoming “Token Catholics”. The Church hierarchy turns a blind eye to these deviations. An indicator of the changed Church DNA.