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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.
Catholics for Renewal has drafted this letter in consultation with many Catholics strongly committed to the teachings of Jesus and their Church. People of the Church have been distressed by the increasing failings of our Church, particularly in the context of the evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Australian Catholics are invited to consider and sign below the following Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia. The Open Letter provides an opportunity, consistent with the Church’s Code of Canon Law, for the faithful - lay people, religious, priests, all members of the Church - to seek renewal of the Church.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has exposed grave governance failures in our Church, failures that undermine its very mission. We, the undersigned Catholics of Australia, write to you as Pilgrim People of God, accepting shared responsibility for our Church, expressing our sense of faith which Vatican II recognised as critical to the life of the Church, and asking you our bishops to listen and to act decisively, executing necessary reforms now.
Over several decades we have seen our Church declining steadily to its now shameful state. Countless Catholics have been alienated, particularly younger generations who are our Church’s future. The Royal Commission has now exposed dysfunctional governance, an entrenched culture of clericalism, and a leadership not listening to the people. Too many bishops have denied the extent of clerical child sexual abuse and its systemic cover-up, and even protected paedophiles ahead of children.
The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry also found that the Church’s governance contributed to coverups and further abuse. Yet the failings go beyond the scandal of child sexual abuse. Archbishops have admitted to “a catastrophic failure of leadership”, and some have spoken of ‘criminal negligence’. Church credibility has been squandered. To rebuild trust, there must be reform of governance based on Gospel values, reflecting servant leadership and engagement with the faithful. There has to be accountability, transparency, and inclusion particularly of women.
Changing processes is not enough. We ask each and every bishop to act now on these reforms:
None of the above proposals requires deferral to the Holy See or awaiting the Royal Commission’s report before acting. All these actions are within your own competence. We ask you to lead the reform of our Church now, acting promptly and decisively - anything less would be a betrayal of the Gospel.
We pray that the Spirit guide us all at this critical time.
[The Open Letter can be signed by Australian Catholics either a) ONLINE - with comment - above (or at www.catholicsforrenewal.org/open-letter) OR b) in writing via hard-copy downloaded below or from any inclusive parish]
Alternative hard-copy version of the Open Letter HERE for printing and posting
Having returned from three blissful weeks on the Wild Coast, despite having viewed the ‘real thing’ in the unpolluted night skies, I found myself playing ‘catch up’ with my Southern Crosses. In the 04-10 January issue, the headline “Church to back gender equality on slave’s feast.” caught my eye. Wonderful news indeed! As the SACBC acknowledges, “Despite men and women being equally children of God, women have been massively discriminated against ----“ and proceeds to outline the December 2016 SACBC pledge “for an end to abuse wherever it occurs, whether in the Church, in the family or elsewhere” .
Well, we don’t have to look very far for ‘the plank in our own eye’ do we, and I could not help wondering whether Jesus’ would have not perhaps have applied his well-known ‘white sepulchres’ description to that statement, when one considers that the Church persists in relegating Catholic women to second-class membership? If that is not regarded as ‘abuse’ or ‘discrimination’, what IS? Perhaps the SACBC will outline precisely how it intends tackling this long-entrenched abuse?
Maybe the 8th February feast will bring about some radical changes in the Church’s attitude towards our women-folk - but I am not holding my breath!
May 2017 bring many blessings to the Southern Cross and its readers – and especially the women of our Church, without whom the Church would never be the same. It is high time their role was fully recognised and acknowledged!
Geoff Harris (Dip-R) - South Africa
(Please use links at left hand side to find out more about emboldened and underlined text.)
It is amazing how similar the battle for national rights parallels the battle for church rights. This week I received an email from civil rights activist and Georgia house representative, John Lewis. He was a friend of Martin Luther King and was brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 while marching for civil rights. In his email, he said: "While we have made progress toward a vision of a more fair, just and open country, the majority of Americans are afraid this country is headed in the wrong direction.... Some leaders reject decades of progress and want to return to the dark past, when the power of law was used to deny the freedoms protected by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and its Amendments."
Does that sound familiar for those of us who are working steadily for the reform of our Church? Could we not utter these very same words? "While we have made progress toward a vision of a more fair, just and open [church] , the majority of [people] are afraid this [church] is still headed in the wrong direction....Some [church] leaders reject decades of progress and want to return to the dark past, when the power of law was used to deny [the message of Jesus that is recorded in the Gospels."
Lewis went on to say: "It took massive, well-organized, non-violent dissent and criticism of this great nation and its laws to move toward a greater sense of equality in America....Often, the only way we could demonstrate that a law on the books violated a higher law was by challenging that law. By putting our bodies on the line and showing the world the unholy price we had to pay for dignity and respect."
(Please use links at left hand side to find out more about emboldened text.)
To young people, their parents, grandparents, and friends:
If you have moved on from the Church believing it to be outdated and out of touch with your needs, you have an unprecedented opportunity to turn this around. We have just sent out this press release and invite you to join in the movement for all people of all ages - and especially the younger generation - to speak up for the good of our church. To remain silent is to be complicit with whatever wrongs you see in Church teachings.To ignore the positions of the church that differ from your beliefs is to be complicit. To live your lives as if the church doesn't concern you is to be complicit. Pope Francis has opened the door and sent a letter to young people inviting you to speak up so that he can "listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism." All of this will culminate at the Synod on Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment scheduled for October 2018 where young people will be invited to participate.
While some will be invited to attend, all are invited to complete a questionnaire specifically aimed at youth and "their expectations and their lives." This will be available online by March 1st and will be found at www.sinodogiovane2018.va . Please spread this to your contacts and local media. Pass the website onto all the young people in your part of the world.
In addition, we invite you to join a movement urging all people of all ages to speak up and make their voices heard: www.ThePeopleSpeakOut.org . There you can make your views made known:
In his farewell address to the nation, President Barack Obama reminded us of this important reality: "Change only happens when ordinary people get involved an they get engaged, and they come together to demand it." It is time for us, the People of God who are the Church, to make our voices heard.
Grateful for your continued and ongoing support .