Sunday, May 11, 2014

Catholic Church Needs Substantial Reforms

Indian Express Editorial, May 10


Catholic Church Needs Substantial Reforms

            Better late than never, the Catholic Church has come out with details of the number of priests against whom it has taken disciplinary action. During the last 10 years, the church has defrocked 848 priests and dealt with 2572 other erring clergy. The charges against them ranged from paedophilia to sexual harassment. They constitute a large number, particularly when they were committed to a life of abstinence. So far, the Vatican has been reluctant to disclose details of such action for fear that it would adversely affect the image of one of the most globally influential outfits. But such silence hasn’t succeeded in putting a lid on the ugly saga that has been haunting it for long.

        Until Pope Francis came on the scene a year ago, the standard practice was to pay monetary compensation to the victims of sexual perverts. Tens of millions of dollars have been paid to the victims, which also encouraged more and more people to claim that they, too, had undergone such attacks. It is heartening that 848 offenders were defrocked, which means they wouldn’t be entitled to life-long security. Given the shortage of priests, especially in the West, the church has been loath to take action against priests who are, more often than not, protected, rather than punished. This, too, encourages errant behaviour.

        Whenever charges of sexual attacks are made against priests, the authorities have been treating them as an internal affair. No, they are criminal charges and they have to be reported to the police. If this becomes the standard procedure, there will be less tendency to violate the law. The incidents are also a reminder of the need to have a rethinking on celibacy — the root cause of the problem. Since married priests are no longer anathema to the church, it should be possible to review the system. With Pope Francis at the helm, there is hope of a third Vatican Council to continue the reform process in the church.

Note: The above Editorial which appeared in the Indian Express of May 10th.  Now it is made public even in secular press that the Catholic church in India is not any better than its counter part in countries in the west. So it should be clear for all of us to stop taking a "BETTER THAN THOU" attitude to the rest of the world projecting an unreal moral and spiritual Indian superiority
       Independent Catholic websites like Almayasabdam, Soul and Vision  etc. have been trying for long to bring this ugly state of affairs in the Catholic church  to the attention of the Bishops in Kerala and start a vertical dialogue with Bishops to find a sensible, rational solution to this and many other vexing issues affecting the daily life of the Church which ought to live like one united family dialoguing vertically and horizontally. But the hierarchy has not been responding  to the repeated pleas and emails of concerned Church Citizens (Laity) in the Syromalabar Church. 
      This sex related issue, I believe is one, that blocks a transparent Survey of the Challenges families face ordered by Pope Francis already last October. No public action has been taken by Bishops and no response received so far, in spite of constant reminders from concerned faithful. It is hoped this editorial in the leading secular paper at least will jerk  the church leadership to initiate concrete steps to help the whole church come clean and transparent. May good sense prevail with the critics and the criticized. - james kottoor

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