By Matters India Reporter
Kochi, March 25, 2019: Catholic major superiors in Kerala have condemned increasing attempts by media and other groups to denigrate religious life as the lot of the uneducated and dissatisfied.
“To disparage religious life and present it in society as meaningless is highly condemnable,” the Kerala Conference of Major Superiors (KCMS) said in a statement issued after 274 leaders representing more than 34,000 nuns, brothers and priests working in the southern India state met recently.
The superiors found the media “over-enthusiastic” to interview discontented members, “who are unable to live their committed life in loyalty to their congregations and vows.”
They regretted that some religious who fail to live up to commitment impersonate themselves as reformers and attack the Church and Religious life. “This can be a dangerous trend. Society needs to realize that the spirit of India is closely linked to the values of sannyāsa,” they added.
The March 12 meeting at the Pastoral Orientation Centre in Kochi took place in the backdrop of some nuns and priests coming to the streets to demand justice and their religious congregations’ alleged attempts to suppress them.
The major superiors condemned media’s tendency to “borrow from a few events” and statements of certain disgruntled religious to show them as the common situation of the Religious life.
“Silence, which is part of our spiritual life, should not be considered as our weakness and try to attack us and the Catholic Church,” the superiors said. If the attacks continue, “we will have no other option left but to come out in open protest, and seek legal remedial measures,” they warned.
The major superiors also denounced the Save Our Sisters (SOS) Action Council, a movement started by laypeople last year to support women religious fighting for justice.
The movement organized a sit-in near the Kerala High Court last September to demand justice for a nun, who had accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar of raping her repeatedly. The protest attracted mass support and led to the arrest of the bishop.
However, the major superiors distanced from the movement saying it was not part of the Church and society.
“We totally denounce this organization, which is functioning based on the selfish interests of certain people, and the support of certain external powers. We don’t need the help and assistance of this organization,” the statement asserted.
The superiors suspect “a hidden agenda” is at work to project the religious of Kerala, especially the women religious, are helpless and forsaken, and the movement is to help them out, “but in fact they are ridiculing and insulting the Religious and their life of commitment.”
“We believe in the protection of God who called us to this life, and also are aware of the support and security of the laity and the Religious community of which we form a part. The Religious are the people who have made the “foolishness of the Cross” (I Cor. 1: 8) as their mode of life,” the statement explains.
The modern world, the major superiors noted, has problem to understand the Religious life “rooted in poverty and detachment and hard work like the early Christian community” but uses this inability to blame the Church and the Catholic religious people.
The religious are those who have decided to live together to lead a life of prayer so that they can serve others. For this, they voluntarily take vows to lead a life of poverty, obedience and chastity.
The major superiors said the church’s educational institutions and healthcare centers in Kerala have become remarkable centers of concern and care because of the availability and dedication of the priests, nuns and brothers working in them.
While “gratefully” acknowledging “the love and appreciation” society “bestows on us for these services,” the major superiors expressed their “anxiety and protest” over the tendency in the Kerala society and media “to portray religious and committed life in a poor light and downgrade its real meaning.”
The superiors claimed that the religious movements in the Catholic Church have played “a great role” in making aware of good and evil and in the reformation of society.
“The aim to transform us according to the worldly vision and values is not proper,” the statement says and adds, “Those who project themselves as the protectors of the human rights of the Religious and as their liberators, and especially the powerful media, should not fail to perceive this reality.”
The superiors also condemned as “despicable” and “degrading our personalities” the attempts by certain groups to consider them as stooges of bishops and priests.
“It is we, the major superiors of the congregations, who are elected in accordance with our Constitutions, who are responsible for the administrative and financial matters of our communities,” they asserted.