Misleading Christmas Sermon in Kolkotta…!

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Isaac Harold Gomes (Kolkotta) wrote to the Priest:


Dear Fr Robin,


During your sermon at the 8.30 am English Mass (on 21st Dec 2014) you said in the context of Albert Kujur who is going to be ordained a Priest at Auxilium Parish on 27th December 2014, that if one joins priesthood, he does so of his own accord, for his whole life and cannot leave it.  So it is for the sacrament of marriage too – there is no divorce in the eyes of the church.  According to you, for both, which is called the Sacrament of Service, one has to decide with great introspection and cannot come out of his / her commitment.


Your observation is absolutely wrong and dangerous coming as it does from a position of authority. 


For if a priest wants, he can definitely give up his priesthood.   Please read the attached article of Chhotebhai, where he wrote "an ordained priest may be freed from his sacramental bond and obligation, if he so chooses.  The Catholic Church invariably grants dispensation/ laicisation to priests seeking it."

 

I am sure you would admit that Chhotebhai speaks on authority (much more than you do) as he knows priesthood inside out.


If one were to go by your observation and belief, then  one can continue to be a priest in spite of a licentious life, child abuse and other forms of corruption which the Catholic Church is infested with.  This means you are justifying gross misuse the Sacrament of Service –  have affairs, lead the life of a debauch and at the same time offer mass every morning without batting an eyelid!

Your observation is also wrong on account of one of the interview of Pope Francis reproduced below:


Francis I pledges to drive out the 'leprosy' of child abuse from the Church


Pope Francis has revealed that “reliable data” collected by the Vatican suggests that one in every 50 members of the Catholic clergy is a paedophile.


Speaking in an interview with La Repubblica, the Pope said his advisers had tried to “reassure” him that paedophilia within the Church was “at the level of two per cent”.


He pledged that he would drive away the “leprosy” of child abuse that was infecting the “house” of Catholicism.


“I find this state of affairs intolerable,” he said.


Pope Francis said his advisers at the Vatican had given him the 2 per cent estimate, which included “priests, bishops and cardinals”.


According to the headline on the La Repubblica article, the Pope declared that "Like Jesus, I shall use a stick against pedophile priests."


So if as per the Pope "one in every 50 members of the Catholic clergy is a paedophile", do you think these  vermin have any place in priesthood?  n just two years, Benedict defrocked nearly 400 priests, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press, which first reported the story on Friday. The number of priests defrocked by Benedict in 2011 and 2012 reflected a dramatic spike over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, according to the AP.  Pope Francis DEFROCKED (something which we had demanded for Fr K.K. Sebastian) at least fifty priests last year.  If Priesthood was irrevocable, do you think both the Popes could have done this?


You would also recall your remarks in the recent parish meetings that you yourself were at the crossroads of doubt and conflict of conviction in priesthood and were seriously considering Hamlet's To be, or not to be (in Priesthood)…" in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet.   So again your sermon today contradicts your own convictions.  

 

Therefore, please do not use the pulpit to propagate misinformation.   The other day you did so at the Carol Evening when you said that Mohit Pradhan who played for Christ the King Parish Alter Servers Group, was a parishioner of Auxilium Parish and that you had trained him up.  There cannot be a bigger lie than this.


You are also playing havoc with church announcements, particularly marriage banns and mass intentions.  Either they are not announced at all or announced at one's whims and fancies (as it happened today).  Correct announcement is a parish priest's responsibility and on this count you have floundered several times. 


You are promoting only one Action Group i.e. SVP and openly asking parishioners to donate funds to them.  Why?  Is it not your duty as parish priest to be equitable, announce the names of all Actions Groups in the Parish and encourage parishioners to join them as per their judgement instead of promoting only only SVP?


You have also stopped announcing Sunday Mass Collections since you took over. They may be peanuts according to you but they are laity's money and you are accountable for this as well as the Christmas Collection.


You also do not have the minimum courtesy to respond to e-mails, sms and phone calls.  Within six months of assuming office, you have started cold-shouldering parishioners who are upright and speak straight.  For you are two-faced and not straight.

The sad thing is you know that in the Church communication is one way – the priest talks and others listen.  You, are unfair advantage of it knowing fully well there is no provision for feedback.  Next time you do this and flaunt your Sabjanta (I-know-everything) air, we will respond immediately.


With Season's Greetings,


Harold Gomes


For your enlightenment and correcting yourself, the full text of Chhotebhai's article is given below (relevant points have been  highlighted):


COMMUNION FOR THE DIVORCED

Chhotebhai


An article, “Holy Communion for Divorced  & Remarried “ by Cardinal Jorge Estevez of the Vatican in July 2006 was thought provoking – for the wrong reasons.  Much of what I then read provoked my dormant feelings of anger and disgust at the hypocrisy and insensitivity prevalent in the Catholic Church, towards Divorced and Re-married Catholics (DARCs).

In particular I found that the Cardinal’s remarks that DARCs should live as “brother and sister” under the same roof was a cruel joke.  It is obvious that the Cardinal’s knowledge of human psychology and physiology was abysmal.  How can Catholic couples expect any empathy from such an ostrich like approach?


Besides being married for 30 years, I have for the last 45 years been working among youth and laity in faith formation, evangelization, lay leadership etc.  I have been very specifically involved in marriage preparation for youth, and marriage guidance for couples.  I make these averments because what follows may draw howls of protest from “comfort zone” Catholics.  My observations are based on both first hand experiences, and several years of study of scripture and church teachings.


I subscribe fully to the Catholic Church’s objective teachings on the sanctity   and sacramentality of marriage.  In fact, I believe that in a tempestuous sea of sexual licentiousness, the barque of Peter is indeed a sobering influence and a beacon of light.  The problem is not with the objective teaching, but with the subjective application of Church regulations.


A comparison will best illustrate my point.  A Catholic priest goes through 12-14 years of indoctrination before ordination.  He has various “aptitude“ tests.  Several lakh rupees of public money is spent on his training.  He is then presumed to have “rightness of intention and freedom of choice” (Vatican II “Decree on Priestly Formation” OT No.2). He then receives the sacrament of ordination.  His sacrament is a bond, with the ecclesial community, that he is expected to guide and serve.  It is not a unilateral commitment, because he is welcomed and accepted by the ecclesial community in the ordination ritual.


Subsequently, despite all this preparation, enlightenment and investment, an ordained priest may be freed from his sacramental bond and obligation, if he so chooses.  The Catholic Church invariably grants dispensation/ laicisation to priests seeking it.


Why then double standards for the matrimonial bond?  Is it because the clergy/ hierarchy make the rules, keeping their own vested (vestmented) interests in mind?  Let us now examine the criteria for marriage, as enlisted in the Code of Canon Law.  In the matter of “matrimonial consent”, which is a pre-requisite for a valid marriage, it states as follows:

“The following are incapable of contracting marriage:


Those who lack sufficient use of reason


Those who suffer from a grave lack of discretionary judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and obligations to be mutually given and accepted.


Those who, because of causes of a psychological nature, are unable to assume the essential obligations of marriage” (Canon 1095:1-3).


Regarding ignorance about matrimonial consent and knowledge, the law further states: “This ignorance is not presumed after puberty“(Canon 1096:2)! Wow! In modern society girls are attaining puberty, as early as in their 10th year of age, and boys at 12! What can the Church “presume” about them?  What about the three criteria for “matrimonial consent“? They cannot be taken in absolute and objective terms.  This is a “grey” area, where no outsider, not even an ecclesiastical authority, can pass judgment.  In India 95%, if not more, are ”arranged marriages”.  There is little or no marriage preparation.  A short course, conducted by a dogmatic and doctrinally oriented parish priest, after the wedding cards have been printed, is grossly insufficient, to prepare a couple for marriage, or to fulfill the canonical requirement of “matrimonial consent”.


In the given circumstances, it is humanly impossible to categorically state that the basic criteria for a valid marriage are fulfilled.  We cannot go by presumptions or assumptions.  The demands on an individual in a marital bond are far more vigorous than for the clerical bond.  If two priests in a parish house don’t talk to each other; if one is an alcoholic or a debauch; it does not directly affect the other. If there are serious differences of opinion, one can easily get a transfer, and begin life afresh.  Such options are foreclosed for married couples.  My contention therefore is that there is nothing absolute in human relationships.  Even Peter could not muster the courage to reply categorically to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me more than these?” (Jn 21:15).  Paul, the prolific writer, could not define love.  He came off second best by telling us what was not love (cf 1 Cor 13:4-7).  If humans are incapable of the absolute, can any man made law hold them to absoluteness?  If priests can get their clerical bond dissolved, why shouldn’t a similar approach be adopted for the matrimonial bond?


I must reiterate that the permanent matrimonial bond is the ideal for individual happiness, for the good of children, and for the benefit of society.  However, a philosophical thumb rule is that an affirmation of one thing is not the negation of another.  Therefore our affirmation of the matrimonial bond should not negate our empathy and concern for those whose bonds have broken.  Who are we to judge (a key sentence used by Pope Francis)?  How can we presume that a couple had full knowledge and consent at the time of marriage, or even after?  Women and children are the usual victims.  They have no voice in the dogmatic and doctrinal corridors of power, authority and decision-making.


This brings me to the last point regarding the denial of communion to the DARCs.  Should they be left out in the dark? If there is no absolute means of determining knowledge and consent in a marriage, can we be so resolute and rigid in denying communion to them?  Are the millions of other Catholics, who voluntarily receive communion, holier than them? Is an alcoholic husband who bashes his wife every other day holier than a DARC, just because he hasn’t “divorced” his wife?  Are his recurring actions not more scandalous than divorce?  I know several priests who are confirmed alcoholics, and some who are sexually active, who nevertheless get up the next morning to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  Are they not a greater source of scandal to the ecclesial community, than the DARCs? Pope Francis is now on record that one in fifty priests are pedophiles! On the other hand I have also met a few DARCs and would hesitate to call them “public sinners”.


If I recall correctly, Bishop Cornelius Jansen of Ypres, in the Seventeenth century, was the author of the Jansenist heresies.  One of the ideas propounded by him was that Holy Communion was a reward for being good.  The Church condemned this approach, stating rather that, Communion was a source of sustenance and nourishment for the weak.  This magnanimous attitude is reflected in the most important document of Vatican II – the “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church”. It states, “The Church,embracing sinners in her bosom, is at the same time holy” (LG 8). If the sacraments are a means of sanctification for those in need, rather than a reward for being good, then do not the DARCs stand in need of such spiritual sustenance? Where there is a will there is a way; so the Church can evolve pastoral guidelines for the same, without necessarily compromising on the sanctity of the matrimonial bond.


In Mathew Chapter 19, Our Lord Jesus upholds the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. However, when he was queried about why Moses permitted divorce he replied that it was because of the “hardness of their hearts” (cf Mat 19:8), though this was an exception, and not as originally intended. Is this a case of “situational ethics” as moral theologians would define it? If there is a precedent, then there could be an antecedent too. From “hardness of heart” we could today talk of the “harshness of life”, where it is far more challenging to live a perpetual covenant than it was in Moses’ time. There can always be exceptional circumstances; which only reinforce the point that “exceptions prove the rule”.


We have no right to condemn DARCs, and call them public sinners, living in mortal sin.  They may in fact be having a far more loving relationship between them than many “married” couples. While on the one hand upholding and respecting the Catholic Church’s teachings on the sacredness and sacramentality of the marital bond, I feel it is time that the Catholic Church took a more empathetic view of the DARCs, and not give absurd advice to them to live as “brother and sister under one roof”. Let us learn from the compassionate Jesus, who did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, nor the Samaritan woman who had multiple partners. Here again we find that Pope Francis often uses the words “compassion” and “mercy”, rather than ”judgment”.


As National President of the All India Catholic Union in the 1990’s I was pushing hard for the Government to enact new personal laws for Christians; for marriage, divorce etc.  I met with stiff resistance from some sections in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.  In that context I had then stated, “Celibate old males sitting in boardrooms, should not decide the fate of young couples in bedrooms.”  It created an uproar.  I still hold that view.  Married couples, lay leaders and women should be actively involved in moral theologizing, ecclesial legislative processes and issues that directly affect their lives. Let us hope and pray that these voices are heard in the forthcoming Family Synod in Rome.


* The writer is the co-ordinator of the forthcoming “National Consultation on Catholic Families”

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