By Matters India Reporter
Kolkata, Feb. 14, 2019: A national consultation “We Too Are Church” has appealed for the convening of Vatican III.
In an era of breaking news, and shifting goal posts, it is not enough to hark back to Vatican II that concluded 54 years ago. It is now time for Vatican III to address the rapidly mutating issues faced by the church in the modern world, says a press release from the consultation.
As many as 60 delegates from 15 Indian states attended the Feb 9-11 consultation held at Proggaloy Pastoral Centre, Kolkata. The gathering of lay leaders, clergy and religious was a collective response to the various political and moral crises that the church finds itself embroiled in, without an adequate or credible response, the press release explains.
It also says “Pastoral Letters” on elections issued by three archbishops and the alleged rape of a nun by a bishop have attracted a hostile press. The bishops of Kerala in a recent statement have labelled those raising their voices as “enemies of the church,” it adds.
The consultation asserted that such a situation cannot be perpetuated, nor can such a grievous accusation be left unchallenged.
The participants decided to form the “Indian Catholic Forum” (ICF), a platform to reform the Church and speak up for it on critical issues in the media.
It elected a Core Team with chhotebhai as the convener, Swami Sachidananda as the co-convenor, and Isaac Gomes as the secretary general, together with 8 others from across the country
The forum would formulate a Citizens’ Charter for the Lok Sabha elections 2019 and send it to all major political parties.
Its goal is to bring about renewal of the Catholic Church in India according to the teachings of Vatican II. It calls for collaborative decision making in the church, transparency and accountability in public dealing, special protection for vulnerable women and children, and avoiding all forms of ostentatious celebrations by both the institutional church and the laity.
The consultation called for convening Vatican III, with adequate numbers of the laity, clergy, religious and youth, so as to be fully representative of the universal (catholic) church, the press release says.
The forum called for setting up arbitration and conciliation boards in all dioceses and church related institutions for conflict resolution and grievance redressal.
The forum will strive to use the media; print, electronic and social, to disseminate its views. It hopes to collaborate with Catholic Church Reform International, an international body that has already been engaged in dialogue with the Vatican. In India it will seek support from change.org, a social site that organizes public interest petitions worldwide.
The consultation had chosen the title “We Too Are Church” to gel with the “Me Too Movement,” the voice of the voiceless. However, the participants chose to affirm that “We Are the Church,” an integral part of it, not just an appendix.
Maria Fernandes, former chairperson, West Bengal Minorities Commission, and now a member of its Women’s Commission, who opened the consultation, said the time had come for Catholics to assert and insert in mainstream politics. She said the community cannot remain a silent spectator as the country heads for a dictatorship.
One of the organizers, chhotebhai in his keynote address on “Vatican II – Renewal or Betrayal?” observed that except for cosmetic changes in the liturgy and clerical dress, the deeper attitudinal changes envisaged by the council had not really happened. “We cannot allow this drift; else we may end up with empty churches as in Europe. It is already happening in the metros, and our adult offspring no longer feel drawn to the church,” warned the former national president of the All India Catholic Union.
Swami Sachidananda, another organizer, noted that men had made a mess of the world and it was now the hour of women to sort things out. He urged Catholics to follow Mahatma Gandhi, who used the principles of the Sermon on the Mount to defeat the greatest “Christian” empire, and win freedom for India.
Salam Irene, former Head of the Department of History, Manipur University, speaking women’s status in the Church, noted a crying need for competent women counsellors to help women in distress, crisis or abuse situations.
Kirit Macwan, an advocate of the Ahmedabad High Court, regretted that the hierarchical church has almost completely stonewalled the provisions of Canon Law.
Percival Holt from Faridabad, the National President of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement and a delegate to the recent World Youth Synod in Rome, spoke on “Youth Aspirations and Expectations.”
He said that youth are not lost, they want to belong, and a greater effort must be made to win them over. They want to be heard and not marginalized. They also seek a coherent church that has cogent answers, and a credible church devoid of hypocrisy. He rued the decreasing educational goals of Catholic youth. This is ironical, given the church’s huge investment of money, personnel and infrastructure in education. A survey conducted by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India noted that 44.5 percent of the youth are unemployed.
Father Subhash Anand, professor emeritus of the Papal Seminary, Pune, spoke on the burning issue of “conversions” the perennial bugbear of our fellow Indians.
Referring to his 35 years of experience in seminary formation he rued the decline in the level of spiritual, emotional and intellectual maturity of those aspiring for the priesthood. “Priesthood is now seen as a job, that too a very secure one, with all its attendant perks and status,” he said.
David Lobo, agro-industrialist, philanthropist and management guru from Bangalore, who spoke on “Crisis Management and Damage Control” in the church, said most crises facing the church today were rooted in excessive clericalism.
Father Devraj Fernandes, editor of the Herald weekly of Kolkata, spoke on the media as an agent for transformation of the church. He gave a detailed analysis of how the church has interacted with or kept the media at bay over the centuries.