‘Holy Father Church’, aging, dying?
by Dr. James Kottoor
From the time of Constantine, we always had only the “Holy Father Church”, patriarchy, male dominated. Vatican II brought in Collegiality with bishops. Pope Paul VI asked “Where is half of humanity’’ looking at the Council Fathers, with no mothers in Sight. It was the first vocal public expression of a papal concern for women folks in the Church. Pope Francis speaks a lot about women’s participation even in decision making. He appointed an Irish Lady in the commission monitoring pedaphols. She quit the post recently out of frustration.
It only shows Patriarchcal mindset is so deep rooted to get changed in one generation, two or three. Persons like Kochurani has only one generation to live and so must act at least in her fifties. She did. We need many more ‘Kochuranies’ and ‘Rajas’ to open the blind eyes, deaf ears of Popes and Cardinals in their ‘Sanyasa’ years.
Leadership, in Church or Society, is for the young and energetic, who are in their ‘risk-taking’ years, when they have all their ‘get-up-and-go’ not for those whose ‘get-up-and-go’ got up and went decades ago. In this we have first the example of Jesus himself, in his 30s. Whom are we suppose to imitate and follow? ‘Sweet Jesus meek and mind only?’ He was also ‘Bitter Jesus rough and wild”, nay the most morally violent historic figure who showered a long list of ‘woes’ against the “hypocrites, white-washed sepulchres and brood of vipers?”. Read the whole of Mathew 23. If anyone uttered such words today against the High priests and Pilots (political leaders) of any religion,‘calling a spade’ today he is sure to be locked up in prison. Yet the tragic comedy is, Jesus is presented as the paragon of Non-violence, not Gandiji who was much more pacific both in words and deeds.
As Sr. Chittister titled her speech at the first world conference of Women’s Ordination in the Catholic Church, Dublin 2001, “Preaching equality and practising inequality” none can expect from a hierarchical leadership bend with age to take any earth-shaking revolutionary steps like the ones Jesus took. Hence all the talk – and talk only bereft of action --- like “Vox populi vox Dei”(Voice of the people voice of God”, “Ecclesia simper reformanda est” (Church should change constantly), ‘Church is the people of God’, not the self-supporting and self-promoting hierarchy. They adamantly continue to proclaim, that the Church is not and can’t be a democracy. ‘Aggiornamento’ (up dating) must have been meaningful for Good Pope, John XXIII, not for anyone after him.
So all the Churches, especially the Catholic Church, with its hierarchical structure is incapable of acting like Jesus. It is a counter witness to Jesus who knelt down to wash the feet of his disciples, including betrayers, doubters, deniers. In his famous speech Pope Francis said that his church is to be an ‘inverted pyramid’ where his place was one step below the laity, to rightly deserve the title, “Servant of Servants”, that in his Church all are equal, that now is the time of the laity, when the Clergy are required to look up to the laity to learn and get inspired.
Pope Pius XII had said it long ago: “Laity are on the front lines of the Churc.” But has anything changed? Will anything change in the foreseeable future? Honestly CCV cannot say “YES” to any of these questions for the sake of being realistic. No use trying to appear optimistic or pessimistic, better be realistic. We wish the better enlightened prove us wrong.
By way of conclusion, we also understand, it is of no use blaming the leadership alone in the Church for acting like the ‘Pharisee and publican’ in the temple, saying ‘we are better than all other churches’. These leaders are chosen from among us. “We get the Government we deserve”, it is said of political systems. Think of Donald Government in US. It was voted in by 52 % of Catholics including bishops and priests. These very same people make up the bulk of Catholic Church both in US, India and in every other country.
So to change the church for the better we, the laity, have to become the change we advocate, imitating Kochurani, as an inspiring example of leadership in the Church. james kottoor, editor.