Unity & Equality in Diversity, Constitution study in Schools: Start this year says CBCI

   http://almayasabdam.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/James-Kottor.jpgdr.james kottoor(Chicago)

  In an effort to develop a generation of Indians who accept the values of equality for all beyond the differences of caste, religion and wealth, the Catholic bishops of India is planning to introduce a regular course of the study of the Indian Constitution in their schools.

"We generally teach students everything but not the values of constitution, our sacred book," said Archbishop Thomas D'Souza of Calcutta, who heads the Education and Culture office, in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), according to reports in the latest UCANindia report. The CBCI has issued a module June 11 for use in all Catholic educational institutions during the academic year June 2018 – July 2019.

"In this first stage, we have decided to focus on the preamble of the constitution," he said. In its preamble, India's constitution presents the country as "a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic" which will secure social and economic justice, liberty of thought and religion, equality and human dignity for its citizens,” explained the Archbishop. The CCV instantly congratulates him for his exemplary  and farsighted initiative.

Constitution binds all together

Indian constitution is the only binding force that keeps us all together. It was proclaimed in 1950 three years after  gaining independence in 1947. It was only a week ago that the idea of making the Constitution an essential part of the school curriculum was suggested also by Archbishop Susai Pakkiam of Trivandrum which we reported and congratulated him as well. So the idea of making the Constitution, part of school curriculm, is the idea of at least two Archbishops, from North and South.

Indians are an argumentative people. Today more than ever before they are divided  and torn apart by various forces like caste, class, creed, country, community, colour, language and what not. Most divisive among them is creed, the various religions people believe in. Especially since the advent of BJP four years ago, its central leadership has been trying to paint India with the saffron colour with the idea of achieving two clear goals.

The first is the victory for their political ideology as opposed to those of the Congress and Communists. They want a Congress-Mukt Bharat. They have achieved it to a great extent by capturing political power in 21 out of 29 states. Congress is now reduced to four states. Four other states, Odisha, West Bengal, Tamilnadu and Kerala are ruled by other parties.

Saffronizing India

Their second declared objective is to saffronize the whole of India, to make India ruled by Hindutva religious ideology since the  vast majority profess Hinduism. Nearly 80 percent of the 1.3 billion Indians is Hindu, while Muslims make up nearly 15 percent and Christians just more than two percent, according to India's 2011 census.

Religion has now become the most polarizing and vexing bone of contention during the BJP rule and has reached its fever pitch in some quarters with Pranab Mukherjee the former president addressing the RSS in Nagpur June 7th. Other happenings that added ammunition to the heated discussion on a divisive religious issue were the apparently well meaning efforts of Archbishops Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar, Gujarat, Anil Couto of Delhi and Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa who issued circulars or pastoral letters to their flock to pray for the  nation so that divisions may decrease and unity and harmony may grow and flourish.

Bishops and their pastorals

At least some of the Indian bishops are now  living up to their responsibility to live up to their duties, also as Indian Citizens, not only as spiritual leaders of their Christian community. Here they are acting in the right spirit of universality shown by Pope Francis when he said ‘our God is not a Catholic God’,  promoting morality and spirituality, only of a particular religion but of all humans. People have to be attracted and enticed by good example, and never forced in anyway to follow any religion.

Indulging in any such activities is Proselitzation which is  ‘Anathama’ or the most contemnable thing for the Pope and the  Catholic Church. When it comes to believers in various religions, it is for each religious group to see and call upon the supreme being as they have conceived Him, tasted and digested Him together with their mother’s milk. That is religious freedom.

But every rational being understands there can be only one God, if there is to be a God at all. It is the rockbottom  of our unity, in our belief in a supreme cause of all things for all believers. But we may call it by different names handed down by our forefathers. It is from this logic that the Indian Constitution speaks of “Unity in diversity”, and not “Diversity in Unity”, just the opposite,  as the RSS explains. This is discussed in more detail by Valson Thampu in an article in the New Indian Express.

Bishops as Pastors

Bishops in India individually and as a body have been sending out regularly pastoral  guidelines for right moral and ethical conduct of their flock in social and political life in the past. Thus in 2012 the CBCI wrote to the whole church in India on the theme ‘The Church’s Role for a Better India’ when  they met in Bangalore. (Please read Fr. Prakash’s inspiring article in CCV  on 12/06/2018)

In that pastoral they asked their flock to strive for the ideals enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India of a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic which will secure for its citizens Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.” Were Indian bishops dealing in politics? They surely were, as responsible and concerned citizens, but not dabbling in party politics.

Similarly again in 2014 when they met in Palai they wrote on the theme: ‘Renewed Church for a Renewed Society.  Responding to the Call of Vatican II’, they said, “When we look at our country, we see corruption plaguing every sphere of society. Corruption in the country and society should be the concern  mainly of politicians. So were the bishops wrong in speaking about them? No, they were promoting clean politics.

No politician accused them

On those occasions did any politician ever accuse the bishops of dabbling in politics? Then why do today’s  politicians allege that bishops are driven by a hidden political agenda, even when they do not deal in any party politics? May be because on those two occasions, BJP was not in power at the centre.

Today some see even the hidden hand of Vatican remote controlling things and suggest cutting off of all diplomatic relations. Is  it better than the suggestion of a quack doctor suggesting the radical remedy of chopping off the head to get rid of headache for ever? Some misguided critics could be making a mountain out of a mole hill of praying for the country.  So we labeled our last comment as a “Tempest in a tea cup.”

For a better insight, we humbly suggest to read  calmly and dispassionately the beautiful, nay the morally and spiritually elevating article: “Living the Joy of the Gospel in India Today” by Fr. Cedric Prakash in CCV  on 12/06/2018.  It is a bit long but most inspiring as well as convincing, therefore not tiring at all. It is therefore a must read for those searching for truth.

Equality & unity are Central

To come back to the Central theme: “constitution  which assures equality and unity for all”, it may be noted that Catholic Bishops are the least qualified persons, since they don’t practice democracy, to lecture  politicians on equality.

Catholic Hierarchy in fact has  a much taller and more offensive ladder of inequality, of a power structure,  much worse than the degrading Caste system in Hinduism. We have been talking ad nauseam that they should first give up all their imperial appellations and over lording power structures, to imitate the self emptying life style of Jesus from his birth in Cattle shed to Calvary’s top. As long as   they are not ready to do that all their preaching can sound only like the pot calling the kettle black.

So let the hierarchical church wipe out first every trace of Caste system and disguised racism (we dicussed them longer elsewhere) and hierarchical inequalities and possibly enforce the equality of the CATTLE CLASS before they can demand it from others. That is evangelization, attracting others through good example, as Pope Francis suggests emphatically.

Evangelization of Evangelizers fist!

Therefore what may be most urgently required first, is evangelization of the Evangelixers than any one else! What Jesus spoke of the High priests and Pharisees of his times(Mt.23) should not be allowed to be spoken of the priestly class of the Catholic church today. So let there be Unity and Equality among the members of the so called  Catholic Church first! Let the Church enforce the unity and equality of the Constitutions among its ranks first.

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1 Response

  1. Isaac Gomes says:

    The initiative to study the Indian Constitution was proposed not by Archbishop Thomas D'Souza of Calcutta.  It was first clearly spelt out by Bishop Salvadore Lobo of Baruipur Diocese, West Bengal, at the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) Convention at Indore on 9th March 2018. He said this as the Chairman of the National Social Communications Commission. I am a member of ICPA and of the Social Communications Commission – Archdiocese of Calcutta.  In none of our Social Communications meetings or in any publication in the Herald, which is the official mouthpiece of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, this initiative of the Archbishop of Calcutta was reported.

    The Office for Education and Culture under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India deserves kudos for having released on June 11, a 9-page module to teach the Preamble of the Indian Constitution in Church-managed schools. I flipped through the net including CBCI website. Nowhere this Module is visible, until and unless it is in some special folder only for the privileged.  CBCI would do well to send it in all the dioceses/parishes of India. Congratulations to Father Sunny Jacob, secretary of the Jesuit Educational Association of South Asia, for preparing the Module. Let us hope it is the beginning of the process of disseminating the full Indian Constitution in modular form among the Laity across all dioceses and parishes, through Sunday Schools and special seminars, besides teaching them in our schools. It would be a good if the modules were released on the CBCI website or on the diocesan websites. CBCI can even make it public so that the Aam Janta can benefit from this initiative and in the process, CBCI will have participated in disseminating the right knowledge and in nation building.

    In fact, this was expressed in my letter to the Editor in the Herald Kolkata issue dated 23-29 March 2018. The relevant excerpt is reproduced below:

    QUOTE

    Ref. Report on the National Convention of Christian Journalists organised by the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) at Indore, Bishop Salvadore Lobo, National Chairman of Social Communications, rightly stressed on the need to study the Constitution of India to know our fundamental rights and duties, to protect ourselves and our democracy. In fact Bishop Stephen Lepcha had emphasised on this during the Regional Laity Commission Convention on 28th February 2018. Our Missionary institutes which have 25% controlling stake in the Education Sector in India, must show the way, by disseminating the Constitution systematically over a period of time. The Constitution study can be made interesting through Quizzes and Debates.

    The Catholic Teachers’ Guild Kolkata, can set the tone in keeping with Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s remark: "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow" and in deference to the two Bishops from the Bengal Region. The Laity which according to Bishop Stephen constitutes 99% of the Church must be particularly vigilant to shake itself off the tag “Sleeping Giants.” One must be particularly wary of the Amendments being proposed. Since its first enactment in 1950, till date there have been 101 (latest by GST Act) amendments to the Constitution by invoking Article 368. Article 368 deals with the powers of the Parliament to amend the Constitution and specifies the procedure for this. The Parliament however CANNOT amend those provisions which form the ‘Basic Structure’ of the Constitution e.g. Secularism, Fundamental Rights, Independence of Judiciary, Parliamentary System of Government, etc. The Constitution is superior to all other laws of the country. Every law enacted by the government has to be in conformity with the Constitution.

    UNQUOTE

    Regarding Dr Kottoor's observation "Catholic Hierarchy in fact has  a much taller and more offensive ladder of inequality, of a power structure,  much worse than the degrading Caste system in Hinduism", he has been guarded and very cautious in his views.  What he has not expressed that the Indian Church hierarchy itself suffers from and tacitly encourages casteism which is prevalent in the South (Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andrha Pradesh) where there are separate castewise queues for communion and also castewise burial grounds with walled partition.  In Christianity there is NO CASTEISM for through one Baptism we all become one with the Lord. So the Church is in a very weak position when it takes up a position of a messiah against Casteism. It fact it propagates Dalit Casteism officially whereas it should have said in Christianity there is no Casteism.   

    Regarding Dr Kottoor's contention that the declared objective of NDA is to saffronize the whole of India, to make India ruled by Hindutva religious ideology since the  vast majority (80%) profess Hinduism according to India's 2011 census, this is outrageous.  Does he mean to say that this 80% majority Hindu population has sprung up only during the four-year NDA rule?  Wasn't this the percentage of population in all previous censuses conducted during the 60-year Congress and then the UPA regime?  Did India become a Hindu State then?  Dr Kottoor and his Archbishop friends seem to be oblivious of the Constitutional provisions (BASIC STRUCTURE) which cannot be altered/diluted/tamapered with even by legislation by all MPs.  Secularism is one such basic feature. So India can never become a Hindu or Muslim state, for the Supreme Court will step in.

    Regartding Dr Kottoor's argument "why do today’s  politicians allege that bishops are driven by a hidden political agenda, even when they do not deal in any party politics?", certainly our bishops do play politics.  They do so at all levels – both inside the Church and outside as the Pastoral Letters of the three Archbishops reveal to all, except to those who prefer to wear blinkers or rose-coloured spectacles.  Throughout Church history, starting with the Popes, the Church has been in politics, even the crowning of emperors.  Emperor Napolean Bonaparte was the first who took the crown from the Pope Pius VII to crown himself and his wife Josephine.  The only difference is that the bishops / cardinals do not take part in active politics, they fire over the shoulders of their flock.

    In this respect the observations by Chhotebhai who is the National President Emeritus of the All India Catholic Union, in his article ONE LETTER TOO MANY (A sequel to “Men of Letters”) which was published in CCV in June 2018, hits the nail on the head.  He wrote: "My wife, who is far wiser and more practical than me, has a different take. She says “Let the bishops stand for election”. Let them walk through the grime of overcrowded city slums, or the dusty and parched lands of distant villages. Only then would they understand what electoral politics is all about. They may then refrain from issuing more such “pastoral letters”.

     

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