Unfinished tasks of All India Catholic Union

By M L Satyan

Bengaluru, August 29, 2019: The centenary celebrations of All India Catholic Union (AICU) were held on August 24 in New Delhi.While reading reports about the event, certain questions flashed in my mind.

Arvind Kejriwal, the head of Aam Aadmi Party and the chief Minister of Delhi, seems to have been the chief guest. Kejriwal is a simple, sincere, dedicated, brave and a dynamic political leader. Involving such person in this celebration is a welcome step.

 Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi seems to have appreciated the immense contributions of AICU to the Church and the nation building. What are the concrete contributions of AICU to the Church and the nation?

 Justice Kurian Joseph seems to have reminded the participants that India is a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and a Republic country. These are the fundamental aspects of the Indian Constitution. What has AICU done to protect and promote these fundamental aspects?

 A former Delhi University Professor seems to have stressed on: Sarva Dharm Sambhavam, meaning that all paths lead to the same destination and the equality of all religions. What has been the contribution of AICU towards inter-religious dialogues and inter-faith ventures?

 Kejriwal seems to have stressed on people’s love for one another that has helped the country to withstand all the onslaughts of hatred with great resilience. What steps did AICU take to maintain communal harmony, promote love and respect among the common people?

AICU might have made some contributions to the Church and the nation. However, according to me, there are certain unfinished tasks that need to be taken up and completed by AICU.

Voice for the Voiceless: Raise the voice against the undemocratic style of the ruling party. It will be like the fight of David (AICU) with Goliath (Modi-Amit Shah duo and the Hindu Fundamentalist groups). Jargons like Achhe din aayenge; Sabka Saath–Sabka Vikas; Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao; Swachh Bharat; Make in India, Ayushman and Jan Dhan etc. were repeatedly mentioned by Modi 1.0 between 2014 and 2018.

The whole country witnessed that most of those schemes were failures. The jargons remained empty words and schemes empty promises.

During the last Parliamentary Election, BJP used all government machineries, adopted various undemocratic methods, including tampering of EVMs, to favor their predetermined victory. BJP successfully made a “back-door entry” and captured the power. Now Modi 2.0 has promised a New India!

Has AICU ever raised its voice against the “fake victory” of the BJP?

Look at the student-leader Kanhaiya Kumar who goes around India addressing student and youth groups. He has the real guts to challenge Modi and his government. He has become voice for the voiceless students. Has the AICU done 10 percent of what Kanhaiya Kumar has done so far? If not, AICU must reflect on how to become voice for the voiceless.

Entry into Politics: Christians always feel proud of their services like education, health and social service. The Christian educational institutions boast of their academic standard, performance and results. Have they produced a few enlightened leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Swami Vivekananda? It is a million-dollar question.

What has been the role of the AICU in this sector?

Every Catholic diocese has many potential lay leaders. The clerical groups have always brainwashed them to be “pious and submissive.” A lay Catholic who attends all liturgical celebrations and donates generously is certified as a “good Catholic.”

What are the initiatives the AICU has taken to prepare the lay Catholics to enter into active politics and help them become sincere and dynamic political leaders?

Clerical Sex Abuse: Of late, thanks to media, we have come to know about the clerical sex abuse widespread in India. What stand has AICU taken in the case of the accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, the former bishop of Cuddapah, and priests who were caught in Kerala and Mumbai?

AICU has to ensure that the erring clerics – cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and religious brothers – are legally punished and defrocked. AICU needs to work closely with dioceses and introduce strict preventive measures.

Corruption: As far as my knowledge goes, no Catholic diocese in India shares its Annual Audit Report with the lay Catholics/Parish people. There is NO TRANSPARENCY at all when it comes to money matters. Lay Catholics or their representatives are never included in the Diocesan Finance Committee.

Of course, there are lay Catholics working as Accountants in the Parish/Diocesan offices. They do not get the real picture of the financial position of the diocese. Even many priests who are working in the diocese are not aware of it.

Only a few “privileged people” have the full knowledge of it. This encourages the concerned clergies to become corrupt – examples: Jalandhar diocese involving Bishop Mulakkal and his colleagues, Cuddapah diocese involving the former bishop, Ernakulam Archdiocese involving Cardinal George Alencherry and his colleagues. The list can go on.

What has been the role of AICU in introducing and ensuring a system of financial transparency in the Catholic dioceses? If AICU has not done much in this line, then, it is high time to do something about it.

Revival: Catholics are proud to be called “Roman Catholics.” The clerical groups feel “elevated” to wear the liturgical vestments decided by Rome. They strictly adhere to the paraphernalia of the western culture. Of course, there are few exceptions like NBCLC (in its initial stage), a few Catholic ashrams and priests in saffron robes.

The second Vatican Council gave full freedom to celebrate culture/language specific liturgies. In India it was ONLY Bishop George Saupin, the former bishop of Daltonganj diocese, who pioneered in this line. He permitted his priests to celebrate the liturgies according to each tribal culture prevalent in the diocese. Sadly NO other bishop dared to do what he had done. AICU has a greater role to play in this sector.

(M L Satyan is a freelance journalist based in Bengaluru)

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