Problem not sexual abuse, but clericalism: Salesian chief

Siliguri, 26 October, 2019 — The Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco addressing a group of Salesians gathered at Siliguri in North Bengal said, “the greatest problem the Church faces today is not the scandal of sexual abuse of minors by its clergy, but the scourge of clericalism and power seeking by clerics.”

Rector Major, visitor from Rome, on his second visit to Kolkata province addressed the gathering in Italian. while Kolkata Provincial Father Nirmol Gomes translated into English.

The Salesian gathering consisted of Salesian Novices and professed confreres who numbered some 100 people.

“Clericalism is a disordered attitude of the clergy (priests and religious included),” the Rector Major explained saying, “it is an attitude of an excessive assumption of their moral superiority.”

When “Clerics feel they are superior, [and when] they are far from the people, clericalism shows up,” he warned.

Clericalism can be “fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons”— laypeople can fall into clericalism, by thinking that their contributions to the life of the Church are only second-rate, or that in all things, surely “Father knows best,” or that priestly virtue exhausts Christian virtue.”

Salesians of Don Bosco congregation consists of both priests (over 90 plus per cent) and lay brothers.

Rector Major explained further stating how clericalism is played out, “I am priest, have all the power, authority, the parish/institution is mine, lay people and women religious must obey me.”

“Sometimes some priests also take advantage of their position,” the superior general lamented.

The second major problem in the church, the visitor said, was “those who seek to accumulate power and do not make use of their position to serve, but to aggrandize their ambition (position).”

The 10th successor of Don Bosco and superior general of the second largest religious order in the Church Fr Angel Fernandez Artime was on a 5-day visit to Nepal and North Bengal from 22nd to 26th October before he left for Guwahati and Northeast India.

It was the first time that a Rector Major visited the Himalayan country of Nepal. On arrival in Kathmandu he was accorded a state welcome with Police escort fitting the Chief of Operations of an organisation working in 134 countries.

After meeting with Salesians in Kathmandu, he met with local authorities connected with Salesian Missions in the country and members of the Salesian Family namely Salesian Sisters, Salesian Cooperators as well as present and past pupils.

On third day in Nepal (October 24) at Biratnagar, Fr Artime met with Salesian Family members and faithful and crossed Indo-Nepal border at Kakravitta about an hour’s drive from Don Bosco School Siliguri.

The history of the Salesians in Nepal began in 1992 with the house of Dharan, in eastern Nepal, followed by Sirsia (1996), Kathmandu, with two centers – in Lubhu (1996) and Thecho (2001), Baroul and Chakkarghatty (2014) and Biratnagar (2017) with a total of seven houses, animated by 21 Salesians.

Arriving in the evening at Don Bosco School Siliguri he was welcomed by Salesian Family members and students of both Don Bosco School and Salesian College. On October 25 he had two moments of interaction with over 2,500 Don Bosco School students and over 1,400 Salesian College students, meeting with Provincial Council members, followed by celebration of the Holy Eucharist at Don Bosco Shrine with Salesian Family members followed by meeting with Salesian Novices and confreres.

On October 26, Rector Major blessed the new college complex and celebrated Holy Eucharist with some 200 plus youth from North Bengal including Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and neighboring states of Sikkim and Bihar.

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