Kerala church on Affluence!

Don’t  Flaunt  Wealth  at  Weddings!

By Liz Mathew, in Indian Express, August 30, 2016

Quoting reports, the Church body said more than 800 tonnes of gold are bought for weddings in Kerala, while poor girls are finding it difficult to get married.

(Note: Heartening indeed is the Instruction from the Syromalabar church the exhortation to cut down all extravaganza in marriage celebrations. Till now the clamour was from church reform groups, mostly lay people, addressed to Church leadership to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, asking them to preach by example as Jesus did, not by words but by one’s life  style. “Like the pastor, so the people.” (Qualis pastor, talix grex), is what happens always. 

This exhortation started happening from the time of St.Bernard telling point blank  his contemporary Pope, that when he rides in all splendor a war horse he represents, not Peter but Constantine. Coming to our present reigning Pope Francis, he rides the streets of Rome in ordinary car, put on ordinary dress, carries his own bag to mount his plane, pays his bills at the hotels, serves his own meals at buffet meals at St. Marthas etc. 

Coming to the practice of churchmen in Kerala, how many were and still are, who plead with them to put a full stop to 50 crore churches like the one in Edappally. Which of the prelates in Kerala pay heed to such pleas from their own faithful who are scandalized by the exstravaza in Church bujildiings, colourful festival processions with fireworks and costly, sparkling vestments in gold and silver worn by celebrants. Jesus never built any church nor put on any shining armor.  Great French theologian Congar has compared a dressed up bishop to a “bride on her wedding day”.  

Until and unless these scandalous practices by highly placed prelates in the Church stop, there is no use sending exhortations for simplicity to the ordinary faithful. They will simply “flee from prelates, as from Mortal sin!”  Fully convinced of this principle late archbishop Louis  Mathias, who planned out my carrier as a journalist for me used to say half in joke and half seriously, also to test the proficiency of his seminarians in Lartin, the following: “Fuge prelatum than quam peccatum” and ask to give its English rendering. Many of us used to fail, but once explained none of us could ever forget the pun in it, the double meaning, the sarcasm and the message conveyed. The English rending is: “Flee from Prelates (bishops dressed up like a peacock) as from mortal sin.” 

James KottorLet bishops and priests lead the way living the simplicity of Jesus in word and life style (Jesus didn’t have a Rectory or even a postal address) and everything else will fall in position in the Church. james kottoor, editor)

A PROMINENT Catholic Church in Kerala is in correction mode. The Major Archiepiscopal Assembly of the Syro Malabar Church has warned against extravaganza in celebrations, especially weddings, saying these should not be an “occasion to display wealth and power”. It is also learnt to have discussed adopting a dress code for weddings and attending church.

A meeting of Bishops, which will take up the suggestions made by the body, is expected to issue directions on the number of guests that can be invited for weddings or other functions, the dress code for the bride and bridegroom, limits on expenses on beautifying exteriors of churches and its institutions, banning fireworks at church feasts, and restrictions on clothes, meals and gadgets used by pastors.

“Marriage celebrations have become opportunities to publicise status and wealth of families and their relatives. The number of people attending the wedding celebrations and the beauty of invitation cards have become the standards of measuring success of a wedding. Very lavish wedding dresses, elaborate and expensive jewellery and event management have made weddings a spectacle of waste and extravagance,” said the 84-page document on “Response of the Church to the Challenges of Today”, adopted at the assembly on August 25-28.

Quoting reports, the Church body said more than 800 tonnes of gold are bought for weddings in Kerala, while poor girls are finding it difficult to get married. “The Commission for the Welfare of Women has recently asked why weddings cannot be conducted with 10 sovereigns (80 grams) of gold. We also have to limit the number of invitees for weddings. Won’t it be more attractive if we have only 200 invitees instead of 1,000 or 1,500,” it asked.

There are instructions on church construction too. “The huge amount of money spent for enhancing the external beauty of churches is not helpful in preserving the spiritual atmosphere,” it said, adding that the institutions should not “promote glory and prestige” in such a way that it leads to “unhealthy competition.”

Asking bishops and priests to adopt a simple lifestyle, it said: “Pastors have to exemplify in their lives the lifestyle of simplicity. They have to follow simplicity in dress, meals, travels and the gadgets they use. It would be good for pastors to use public transportation at least occasionally.”

Father Jimmy Poochakkatt, spokesperson of Syro Malabar Church, said the Bishops Synod, which is currently meeting, could come out with instructions. He said the assembly, which included bishops, priests and eminent personalities, also discussed the need for a dress code for weddings and for attending church. “There is a dress code for baptism and first holy communion. We are thinking we can adopt one for the bride and bridegroom so that expenses can be restricted,” he said.

Supreme Court Judge Kurian Joseph, who addressed the assembly, said a “uniform dress” for wedding would bring in simplicity. “There is a dress for baptism, there is one when you become a nun or a priest. So why can’t there be a uniform dress for marriage? It will avoid extravaganza and bring in simplicity. Everyone, rich, poor and middle class should be using the uniform for the wedding function,” Justice Joseph said.

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2 Responses

  1. almayasabdam says:

    Isaac Gomes from Kolkata writes:

    The above article rightly asks bishops and priests to lead by example by adopting a simple lifestyle.  It says: Pastors have to exemplify in their lives the lifestyle of simplicity. They have to follow simplicity in dress, meals, travels and the gadgets they use… It would be good for pastors to use public transportation at least occasionally.”

    There are many priests who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to leading a life of simplicity. They just go crazy over the latest gadgets. In fact for most priests, priesthood is a stepping stone to power and money. So many priests come from remote villages and after becoming priests and getting a few degrees (mostly open university), they bloat up and behave like Corporate Czars, the frequent-flier principal of an elite missionary college in Kolkata (which will be a University next year) being one such shining example.  The Head of the Department of Multi Media (earlier Dept. of BMM) of the same college, is a priest just for namesake. His top to bottom (blue tooth, wristwatch, cell phone, desktop, laptop, I-tab) is all APPLE, he travels in an air-conditioned SKODA car, and goes on frequent trips. Who will say he is a priest?  These priests are parasites living on the laity.  He should be made to commute every day in public transport (following the Pope and above Kerala resolution).  I have known priests in the Jesuit Order who were not allowed motor cycles and were asked to carry on with bicycles. St Xavier's is a Jesuit Institute whose priests are supposed to follow the vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience. In this case, all vows are  thrown into the nearby Ganges and we have public flaunting of the latest gizmos with the Provincial looking the other way.

    This reminds me of a very well-written article SHAME & SCANDAL (May 2016) by our erudite Chhotebhai.  He wrote referring to the report of Benwen Lopez in Indian Currents:

    The second disease referred to by Lopez is financial corruption; which is becoming more and more visible. Earlier the clergy dealt more with spiritual things, but now they deal with big institutions, big ideas and big money, and the temptation is too strong to resist. From breviaries they have switched to briefcases. Simplicity and renunciation, especially among the diocesan clergy, is becoming a thing of the past. The clergy are accountable to none. There is no provision for RTI in the church. From pastors of souls they have become masters of doles (funds). There is a palpable fall in moral standards and an increase in living standards. Bishops seem unable to rein in their priests, perhaps because they too have their Achilles heel, which can be used to blackmail or silence them.

    Before that, there are some very human factors that warrant attention. Firstly, since priests are celibate they have no spouses to prick their egos! This may sound stupid, but it isn’t. Hence they live in splendid isolation, as the Lord of the Manor, rather than as the Babe of the Manger. Secondly, all men have a creative urge – to produce a Baby, a Book or a Building. The first B is foreclosed, the second is not easily attainable, so the majority opts for B3 – Buildings! They can go on endlessly building institutions, but not communities.

    The Syro Malabar Church, itself is guilty of being enamoured with things BIG and Pompous – especially big constructions. There is a saying "Better late than never".  So it is good that it has realised this, including ostentatious spending in its marriages. The Indian Church instead of harping on construction of big buildings, should concentrate on development of HUMAN RESOURCES on the line of the Pentecost Church. It should use its funds on providing quality education and health to members of its community. After all Christians constitute only 2.3% of India's total population. The Indian Church being very rich can easily do Diocese-wise mapping and take care of Education and Health of this small population. Low-cost housing is another area which must be considered.  There should be no homeless Christian family.

    For all the preaching from the rooftop, the Indian Church authorities do not ever talk of TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY in Church Finance.  They are absolutely tight-lipped on installing Parish Finance Committees (PFCs) in every parish although mandated by the Vatican II more than 50 years ago. The reason why this is happening is that the Indian Church is scared of looking at its reflection through the mirrors of TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY, checks and balances in matters of finance. Honesty and integrity are virtues which are extolled from the pulpit on Sunday Masses. And they are applicable only to the Faithful (read the Sheep for slaughter!). For most priests of the Clergy (except a few like Fr Joseph C'Desouza who lives by only a pair of dress and Fr Elias D'Melo, Parish Priest of St Teresa's Church Kolkata who issues a money receipt for every pie received instead of putting fat envelopes into his deep pocket) honesty and integrity are to be preached but not practised. Backed by sycophants including spineless Lay Leaders (one of them in private circles is boasting that all the candidates recommended by him has got  admissions in St Xavier's College and Loreto House and that if anyone needs admission he or she can approach him!) It considers itself above law!


  2. almayasabdam says:

    A C George/USA wrote: Thank you James Sir for the article. Good thoughts. I agree with you.



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