Introspect and reinvent to be relevant

By Jacob Peenikaparambil

When BJP conquered the North Eastern states of Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya in the assembly elections, I had written an article in the Indian Currents in March this year under the title, “Reinvent or Become Irrelevant.”

After watching on TV the humiliating scenes after the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal in Kochi in a sex abuse case, I felt ashamed of the nauseating image of the Church. Is not the Church in India racing towards irrelevance because of its omissions and commissions?

When Bishop Mulakkal was brought to the government thaluka hospital, Thrippunithura in civil dress, hundreds of people gathered there shouted at him. They were venting their anger not only against the bishop, but also against the mute and insensitive Church leadership. When a bishop visits any parish in Kerala he is welcomed like a king. The contrast between the two scenarios reflects the change of perception of people about the Church.

For more than two weeks the media, especially TV channels in Kerala, aired people’s anger against the Church leadership’s lethargy and wilful silence and the Kerala government’s slowness in handling the case. One particular channel described the silence of the bishops, archbishops and cardinals as a crime. Because of their silence they were siding with the accused, it said.

Many intellectuals who spoke on the occasion pointed out the reasons for the dirt within the Church. The Church has been focusing on building opulent worship centers, palatial houses for bishops and clergy and starting commercial ventures under the guise of service institutions. In this process it forfeited its patrimony, spirituality and the legacy of Jesus Christ. One TV anchor said, “If Jesus comes today he may take something else in his hands instead of a whip to cleanse the Church.”

What was witnessed in Kerala during the last two weeks was a people’s movement against gross injustice to womanhood. People of Kerala have proved again that they can transcend the barriers of religions, caste and class and work together not only for flood relief, but also to fight against injustice.

It was really amazing to see ordinary citizens, film stars, social activists, journalists, lawyers, priests and nuns supporting the protest by the nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus Congregation for protecting the dignity of their sister who was abused, harassed and persecuted. Seven persons voluntarily took to fasting as a part of the protest to express their solidarity with the victim of sexual abuse. They fasted not for themselves but for the cause of a woman who was abused and they are genuinely spiritual persons.

Why are the members of the Church, particularly nuns, forced to approach the civil courts of the country? Why is not justice available within the Church? The Njarackal sisters failed to get justice within the Church, but the judicial system of the country delivered justice to them. The nun of MJ Congregation failed to get response from the Church authorities, although she had approached a good number of them, including the nuncio, Pope’s representative in India.

The Church has a governance system in which the legislative, executive and judicial powers are concentrated in the same person, the bishop. There is no apex body in India to which the members of the Church can appeal. One has to appeal to Rome and Rome moves very slowly when a lay person, or priest or a nun approaches it. Even getting an acknowledgement of a complaint to the Vatican is very rare. Such a system cannot deliver justice. It has to change.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India is to be reorganized with representatives from all stakeholders of the Church and strengthened in such a way that there should be an independent body under it to receive and decide on complaints against the bishops and major superiors of religious congregations in India.

The governance at the diocesan level is to be made participatory, transparent and accountable. The bishops are to be made accountable to the Pastoral Councils, consisting of the representatives of lay women and men, priests and women and men religious.

Similarly the apex bodies of the Church at the regional and national levels should have representatives of lay women and men, priests and women and men religious. There has to be a movement on the part of the laity to transform the Church into participatory Church. Lack of transparency and accountability often leads to corrupt practices in any organization. The early Christian community had participatory readership. The Church has to go back to its roots.

The most important reason for the woes of the Church and the increasing number of scandals is that bishops, priests and women and men religious have drifted away from the way of Jesus. Jesus has called them to become his disciples by following his way of an all- inclusive love and service. They are called by Jesus to become servants and stewards; but unfortunately they have become owners and masters.

Secondly, instead of following Jesus, they made him an object of worship and built around it a very complicated system that is exploitative, oppressive and commercial. Religiosity, consisting of rituals, prayers, devotions, pilgrimages has replaced spirituality that focuses on the practice of values and teachings of Jesus.

The mushrooming retreat centers are enslaving the innocent faithful with the drug of religiosity and in this process their creativity and scientific temper are destroyed. Guilt and depression, blind obedience and superstitions are promoted by the aggressive preachers of these centers. The capacity and courage to question injustice and discrimination on the part of authorities are being killed by the religiosity injected by these centers and their preachers.

The bishops and major superiors of religious congregations not only encourage priests and women religious to participate in the retreats conducted by these centers, but also often compel their subjects to frequent these centers.

What is urgently required is returning to the way of Jesus rooted in forgiveness, reconciliation, justice, equality, freedom, compassion and creativity. Let the leaders in the Church listen to Prophet Amos and follow what he says:
“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings,
I will not accept them,
and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let Justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” (Amos 2: 21-24)

As one understands from the Gospels, Jesus went to pray to the mountains and lonely places and not to the temple or any worship center. In fact, he had an appointment with God, the Father and himself. That is how Jesus discerned the will of God, got inspiration, insights and courage.

The leaders as well as the members of the Church also have to resort to contemplation instead of routine prayers and complicated rituals that do not help one to grow in spirituality.

Reinventing the Church by following the way of Jesus and bringing about a paradigm shift from religiosity to spirituality is urgently needed to restore its credibility and make it relevant.

(The writer can be contacted at

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2 thoughts on “Introspect and reinvent to be relevant

  1. What must we introspect? The fact that the entire case proceeded based on the history/facts/stories written about ONE SIDE alone? That there was another side to “allegations” that were NEVER covered? All because of the “agitations” that were made to seem louder? Must we introspect the place of The Truth in our Church?

    What were the sisters and priests who were/are protesting for their “friend” doing when she was supposedly “raped” in 2014? O wait, that was NOT supposed to be rape? That was supposed to have been “consensual”? Ha NO! She was running from pillar to post “seeking justice” and the sisters and priests who were singing their chorus for her, were standing by her side all along? NO ONE STOPPED her from “sinning” against her “vows of chastity” IF that was consensual?

    What must we introspect? The period of happy times between 2014 to 2016 OR the “Cross of Calvary” that the sister was made to carry during the period of silence (for sex) between 2016 to 2018? (OUCH!)

    Re-invent? What? Like allowing a conman with “great PR history” in engineering sham to run another PR campaign using a “harmless website flooding it with harmless comments” that are meant to “bring about renovation” OUCH! Nope! “Reformation”? Ahaa.. Is the same like our adventure with introspection, Na? O we’d LOVE to hear ONLY one side of the story here again 🙂 That which flaunts super-success, without taking into account the persecution that that same PR has fielded over The Truth?

    So dear people, what was the complainant sister and her “friends” and those “supporting her” re-inventing? Where is their truth? Why did they fall prey to evil’s games that were conning them point-blank? Did they NOT KNOW that those who were fielding them were using them AGAINST our Church? O wait! They thought they were “awakening” The Church? Did they awaken themselves at all?

    Relevance of our Church will NEVER FAIL.. regardless of whatever kind of PR is going to be applied… for her or against her… God does NOT rely on PR, but works through straightforward, heartfelt PROCLAMATION and yup, HE KNOWS The Truth… HE KNOWS all sides to it… and the greatest relevance is the relevance HE attaches to ALL sides.

    So who is going to bring up The Truth of the “motive”? What happened to the life of the family that was affected? What happened to the family of brother priests of the complainant involved in money-laundering? How was a religious sister able to field such a PR-ridden FIR? Who wrote it for her? Who mind-controlled it for her? Who is mind-controlling the trance of the “fighting sisters” like fireworks that leave behind their ashes? O NOT The Truth? Bringing them up will open another pandora’s box? So it is OK “to sacrifice” a prelate to hide the sins of a family of sinners against a people? Relevance of who? Of The Truth? Who is relevant here? The sister who wanted sex with a married man and a priest or her brothers involved in money-works or the sisters who are her friends (were they true friends?) who wish to flaunt power? Must our Church really care for such relevance?

    So a priest / prelate / bishop, may have sinned against his vows of chastity, so also the religious sr… Yup repeating this as I have shared these elsewhere also… Masturbation as in pleasure with the self FOR the self, same as consensual sex FOR self-pleasure, ALL go against vows of chastity, would that account for an arrest and the humiliation along with it? Then most of the Church must be in prison for seeking self-pleasure is it not? BUT then, this is a case that is NOT about sex or about going against vows of chastity – this is about RAPE! Raping someone is a violation… confining and raping is worst! Did those who are protesting see the trap they had fallen into? Evil wanted them to shout aloud – to PROCLAIM the wrongs of RAPE – without a determination of The Whole Truth AND ONLY The Truth, Na? Evil wanted the tamasha – because the whole nation was to know how sad and terrible our Church is inside out and SO FILLED WITH RAPING PRIESTS?! Is that The Truth? Did those who are/were protesting SPEAKING UP – FOR THE TRUTH?

    Relevance to this case came from re-inventing an evil introspection of turning an awesome prelate, who is thoroughly gifted with many graces, who wanted The Truth, who worked for causes, who collaborated among ALL faiths FOR THE PROCLAMATION of Christ’s LIVING LOVE, who decided to accept silence and the allegations for the sake of the dignity of a family – look like one of many god-men who have had harems of rape victims, is it not? What did we turn our Church into? Did we bring out The Truth? NO! We made her look like a silly mother who does not know her cubs well enough!! And we call this some great shake-up of rights, and blablabla.. because a conman decided that this PR was right to “bring about reformation”?! O my goodness – how thankful we are for our God who relies on HIS OWN wisdom in running HIS Church, Na?

    Much love and prayers continue for everyone,

  2. Well said. I have for years been saying that the Priest, who makes the rules, the King who actually rules, and the Prophet who interprets the rules in a specific circumstance, are equivalent to the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary of a modern democratic society. These offices should be distinct from each other, but in the “Holy Catholic Apostolic Church” all three offices are rolled in to one, just as during the Emergency, when democracy was suppressed. The press is considered the fourth pillar of democracy, or an extension of the prophetic office. Unfortunately, in the Catholic Church, even most of the Press is controlled by the hierarchy. There are very few fearless editors, who dare to take on the powers that be.

    If the fourth Estate also fails then the fifth sinister option emerges, also known as the Fifth Columnist during World War II. Such persons often resort to subversive activities, like the naxalites and terrorists, who perceive an injustice done to them. That is also what prompted the French Revolution, in which both the monarchy and the hierarchy were equally targeted. Is the church in India headed for such a revolution? There is still time for the hierarchy to wake from slumber, lest it be too late.

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