By James Kottoor
What is domino effect? It is some shocking or surprise happening, which induces or facilitates similar good or bad things to happen. The Latin phrase for it is: “Post hoc, propter hoc” (This has happened and because of it similar things happen).
What is literally implied is, the first event causes similar things to happen, which need not be true at all, unless the first event is that much eye opening or out of this world. Such a case indeed was the ‘mass resignation of all Chile bishops’ a total of 34, which the wide-spread clerical sex abuse precipitated. It never happened in the history of the Catholic Church, so Chile is making history.
From the time of Pope Benedict XVI bishops around the world were regularly exhorted to report Pedophilia and similar clerical sex abuse both to the Vatican and Civil law enforcement authorities. It fell mostly on deaf ears of bishops around the world, either because many of the bishops, themselves being reluctant celibates and sympathetic to defaulters, did not want to shake the boat or hated to be seen as the main cause of throwing out many in their fraternity from the shaking boat into deep cold waters to drown themselves.
But this time Pope Francis himself made the unexpected and unsuspected blunder defending vociferously and to the hilt Bishop Barros, his blue-eyed boy, twice in public, as a very clean person and had to regret horribly and apologize to the whole world for being in the wrong.
Once bitten twice shy! Francis went all out to unearth the whole truth about sex abuse and Chile episcopate (34 of them) and probably found that the whole lot of them were fully aware of the cover-up. In that case how could anyone say he was not aware of it? So they did the wise thing of resigning en masse to save the ugly face of the whole episcopate and preventing the chance of anyone saying he was above board. In a small group of 34 bishops that (not knowing) can hardly happen. So the domino effect made all to resign after the main accused, Bishop Barros offered to resign.
Other eye-popping acts of Francis
Pope Francis did many other things which were global shock treatments to bishops’ conferences around the world although they did not precipitate the intended changes for the better, in the Church. To cite a few: He is the first Pope to describe himself: “I am a sinner” (Holy Father, a sinner?) and make public confessions which produced a partial ‘Domino effect’ in the ‘Family Synod’ where the assembled bishops described themselves as “Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Sinners.”
The truth is, it is easy and even entertaining to call oneself a sinner when one is in good company! But no single bishop around the world came forward to call himself a sinner. Secondly, Francis gave up the Papal apartment and still stays in the Casa Santa Marta doing buffet service also for himself during meals. It had its Domino effect at least on the new bishop of Chicago.
Thirdly, when youngsters called him over the phone from Milan he told them to address him as “Tu” in the singular, not “your holiness” etc. because the apostles never addressed Jesus with honorific titles but using ‘tu, you’. Why even the most elevated person like the President of US is called: “Mr. President” and not with any honorific adjective demeaning the equality of the person speaking to him. This must become a contagious habit with all lay people even when our bishops object to be addressed on an equal footing.
How many times even this scribe and many others entreated Indian bishops, directly and indirectly, to give up willingly all honorific appellations like, “Eminence, Excellency, Your Grace” etc but not a single Indian bishop has ever reacted approvingly or positively, with the sole exception of Bishop Alex Dias of Port Blair.
What is more he did it on his own while writing an article for the Holy week in the Indian Currents. In it he strongly forbad anyone to call him with any Constantinian royal titles since such stupid titles like “Rabbi, Father, Teacher” were forbidden by Jesus himself saying “You are all brothers only.” He insisted others to call him just “Alex” his pet name not even with a prefix “Bishop Alex.”
At that time, a few years ago, this scribe took up the challenge to respond to him in another article, addressing him: “Dear Alex!” That article drew a lot of reader reaction praising Bishop Alex, but not a single reaction came from his Episcopal fraternity in India or abroad. That gave credibility to the Malayalam saying: “Oru pana chorine oru choru patham.”(It is enough to test one single grain of rice to see if the whole pot of rice is cooked well. The silence of the over 200 Indian bishops is howling proof, that the whole lot of Indian bishops, was hell bend on not giving up their Episcopal Constantinian honorific titles.
Nay, some bishops even stick on to or flaunt titles they don’t deserve, calling themselves “Arch”bishops. Archbishop is one who has safragan dioceses strictly, but permitted also to those who have been in diplomatic service. Some got ‘Arch’ title through sheer pressure tactics. We don’t name their names here.
Ordinaries with capital ‘O’
As for Bishop Dias, I have never met him, but received longest letters ever from a bishop. He claimed, he knew me from the time I was editor of The New Leader from Chennai. He has also invited me more than once to visit him at Port Blair but could not oblige. So all bishops in India want to be Ordinaries with capital ‘O’ (meaning extra-ordinary, not ordinary in the ordinary sense, as applied to the Cattle Class. So no ‘Domino effect’ of the ‘high thinking and simple living’ of Francis may befall on Indian bishops in the nearest future.
Here change can come only when the sleeping giant “Laity” wakes up en mass, to call bishops and cardinals, following the principle “Call a spade a spade!”: that is, “Dear younger or older brother.” Proof? When this scribe addressed, Alencherry: “My dear younger brother” he replied promptly and in a most exemplary manner to everyone’s edification.
Proliferating Me-too groups
‘Domino Effect’ is changing the cultural patterns of human behavior very fast or very slow in different areas. Other great examples are the public upsurge of “Me-too” groups of exploited women in politics and in the fields of entertainment like ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Bollywood’ where “Casting couches” were and still are price women folk has to pay to get a foothold and rise as stars in those respective fields.
What is radical solution?
To the exploited sections of Laity and women in particular, denied equality and trampled underfoot by incorrigible over-lording men and clerical class, we have only one remedy to suggest: the war cry of the communist proletariat: “Workers of the world unite, for you have nothing to lose except your chains!” Only change the word ‘workers’ with appropriate names of the exploited, “Laity” for example in the case of churches to teach a lesson to the comfortable clerical class and “women” in the case of fair ladies, young and old!
As for the reports about a Chile bishop making a bunch of 15 priests resign, we have only one radical solution to suggest: Make all bishops and clerics around the world to resign to make the present hierarchical church a “classless, casteless, raceless society” and make them all belong to the “Cattle Class” of Jesus born in a cattleshed.
Another option is to make all give up organized religions. One wise crack has suggested and we put it on the face book: “Religion, it stops people from thinking, because they think all answers are in that one book, it impedes progress; it justifies crazy people. Flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative.”
If these two are unpalatable to some, please suggest a better name that reflects the lifestyle of Jesus and his self-emptying to serve the last, least and lost! After all, is it not that counts most to anyone who wants to follow the example of that human being par excellence immortalized by descriptions like: “Everlasting Man! Eternal Galilean, Behold the Man, Hound of heaven, Sweet Jesus meek and mind, Bitter Jesus rough and wild, the incomprehensible Nazareen etc.
Change from bottom
Since such a change will not come from the top to bottom, the only alternative is forcing change on the hierarchy by an outspoken laity who comes forward to courageously to call a spade a spade, to call our bishops as one’s “Younger or Elder brother” following the instruction of Jesus: “You shall not call anyone ‘Rabbi’, Father, or teacher’ since “you are all brothers only”
So let the ‘Domino Effect’ be allowed to play out, where the laity is encouraged to play the leadership role to build a humanity of brotherhood and collaboration, combining the plus points of both global and local = Glocal – to make this world a close-knit world of peace, prosperity and joy unalloyed.