QUESTIONNAIRE ON EMPOWERMENT OF THE INDIAN LAITY
Isaac Harold Gomes
I. State 5 concrete ways by which the Indian Laity should be empowered in the Church.
Removal of the notion that Parish Priest is King of his parish. He should be constantly reminded that he is not the owner but Caretaker or Administrator. His mandate is to serve parishioners 24 x 7 and not to be served by them. Most parish priests do not return calls and do not acknowledge/reply to letters / emails from the Laity who according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI are not “collaborators” but “CO-PARTNERS”. This means they have an equal stake in the Church including the ownership and management of Church Institutions. Implementation of Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) and Parish Finance Committee in each Parish of India. Vatican II declared fifty years ago on this implementation but most parish priests are merrily sleeping on the matter knowing that the Vatican is too far away from India (Distance 7883 Km from Vatican City to Indira Gandhi International Airport) to follow up on its implementation. Respective Bishops / Archbishops do not see to implementation.
CBCI too is sleeping under heaps of paper work and pious resolutions!
Without ensuring transparency, accountability, checks and balances (as is being done by the Pope to clean up the mess in the Vatican Bank including removal of the once-impregnable Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone), Laity empowerment will be merely cosmetic and detrimental to the sustainability of the church, especially in view of rapidly declining flow of
overseas donation. In view of this, the Indian Church has to increasingly depend on domestic donation, especially corporate donation (2% of net profit) which can be given under the head CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) which has come into effect from 1st April 2014 (the "New Act") . The Church may sidetrack the Laity in matters of transparency and accountability, but to get CSR donations, it has to bare its books of account and make statutory declarations to get funds for its welfare projects.
Women should be given due respect, representation in important committees and recognition in the decision-making process. The ratio should be at least one third if not more. In our religious festivals Mother Mary is praised sky-high for her myriad virtues, one of them conveniently suiting all being her humility and submissiveness. We want our women to be submissive – to the Church and to the society and do not desist from quoting from Scriptures. This notion has to go. Just as Laity we want “Co-partnership” or Equal Rights, our womenfolk too has to be given equal rights which she can handle with aplomb whether it is giving birth to a child, nurturing & nourishing it from infancy to youth and also taking up the cudgels of the family by joining the mainstream workforce. Empowerment of our Women is a must for Laity Empowerment particularly in the areas of health, family and conservation of our environment.
Youth Development: This is a hugely neglected area. Our youth are used only for photographs and power point presentations to the higher authority. In reality, most parishes do not have a Youth Development Cell. If any parish has it, it is mostly on paper. Youth do not have any decision-making role. Decisions are made by Parish Priest, elders or PPC. There is no clear-cut roadmap for youth development in phases e.g. Infancy, childhood, youth, education, vocation and employment. There is no authentic church data on Youth Development in India. Every time a new parish priest comes, he either makes a new group or breaks the old group. There is no continuity of policy or respect for protocol.
This is the reason Youth are slowly but surely fading away from the Church with the authorities shedding crocodile tears.
II. State 3 reasons why the Indian clergy seem reluctant or slow to empower laity in India.
i. It is by nature averse to transparency and accountability though from the pulpit it preaches honesty and integrity!
ii. It is reluctant to accept the Laity as “Co-Partners”. It was quite happy with the Laity’s role as “Collaborators” (read benevolent and blind donors) who would just “Pay, Pray and Obey”. But Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s pronouncement has put paid to their dreams by declaring the Laity “COPARTNERS”.
iii. It fears losing out on (divine) power and perquisites! Power has simply gone into the Indian Clergy’s head.
III. State 3 reasons why the Indian laity are capable/incapable of handling power & positions.
i. The Laity (both men and women) is very capable for it has been handling power and position all over the world. In fact each diocese would benefit a lot if it maintains a parishwise database of Christian Professionals in various fields. In this way, we can use and encourage our own expertise and the money rotates within the community (e.g. Marwaris, Gujratis).
ii. The world is run by the Laity and not by the Clergy, whether it is business, finance, governance, politics, science & technology and the nation’s defence. Compared to the world, the clergy is a miniscule, an Emperor in its own Well (Swami Vivekananda). The Clergy has to accept that it has a lot to learn from the Laity starting with the art of communication, public speaking and a short powerful homily (not long drawn drawls which make people yawn or go to sleep!)
iii. With so many trained and gifted professionals in various fields, the Laity can bring in transparency, accountability and efficiency in church activities including joint ownership and management of Church Institutions. What the Clergy should understand (without behaving like Ostriches) that its population is fast dwindling thanks to financial and all kinds of abuse, gay culture all around even in the Vatican which made Pope Benedict see the signs of time and call it Quits.
IV. State 3 serious issues the Indian Church must address itself to without delay, today. i. Introspection, Transparency and Accountability to the Laity for whose welfare all the donations come ii. Address basis issues all over India viz. Health, Education (our institutes are filled with 90%+ students from other communities; we are a minority in our own institutes and treated with scant respect) and basic eco-friendly Housing & Sanitation through Clergy: Laity Partnership. Experts like Sulabh International and others can be roped in for consultation.
iii. Women and Youth Empowerment in real concrete terms.
V. How would you describe in one sentence the Indian Catholic Youth?
The Indian Catholic Youth is full of immense potential but utterly neglected by the Church (most parishes do not have a Youth Cell or only on paper) without any clear road map for Step-by-Step Development in:
Health: Building blocks – Pre-natal, Post-natal, infancy, childhood;
Education: Only admission is guaranteed without any regular community follow-up for academic, personality development and extra-curricular excellence;
Action Group: Only for namesake to fill the slot for Youth Commission, without any decision-making authority (decisions are made by elders).
Isaac Harold Gomes
Kolkata 9th September 2014