By Valson Thampu
16th July 2018 in New Indian Express
Of late, the Kerala Christian community has been serially buffeted by tremors of priestly sexual aberrations. Where did the church fail?
Note: “The spiritual merit of the church is not that no wrong happens within its premises, but that no wrong is condoned or covered up, pressured by parochial compulsions.” Well said Valson Thampu. This penetrating observation from a well-meaning outsider, we hope, will prompt even the hard-hearted in the Catholic church to reflect, repent and change for the better (Please read his article below).
All 34 Chile bishops were driven by remorse, seeing the example of Pope Francis, to offer resignation (not ordered by Francis) and we had suggested that all the 200 Indian bishops should be driven to such a state of mind and remorse, if the Church in India is to have a future in India.
Become Cattle Class
It is for that we pleaded with them for long to stop being preachers of the gospel of ‘prosperity’ of Trump and Constantine to become, instead to become a preacher and practitioner of the ‘Gospel of poverty”, yes to promote the CATTLLE CLASS of Jesus where there is equality, fraternity and a rat race for the last place to serve, instead of promoting the Hierarchical Class, decked and decorated in imperial glory to dominate.
We had been trying to din this idea into receptive ears that the crying need of the hour is not evangelizing the poor, ignorant and credulous people but evangelizing the well fed, well-dressed class who call themselves the “Evangelizers” or ‘Alter Christus’.
There was one second Christ in St. Francis of Assisi, another in Kabir of Varnasi in the 15th century also called the ‘Christ of the East’. As for the present times the best quote is: “There was only one Christian and he died on the cross,” of Frederic Nietche.
Other unforgettable quotes from Valson Thampu are: “Saving criminals thus becomes basic to safeguarding the church. This is a fatal error”; “The spiritual merit of the church is ….. that no wrong is condoned or covered up by pressure” (Pope says it often, but none listens.); “Hand on heart I testify: the church has chosen to damn itself by serving Mammon, while pretending to worship God…. As a rule, we become what we worship….“You cannot serve God and Mammon.”
Cleansing Indian Church
Jesus cleansed the temple of Jerusalem to rid them of their craze for money (he literally overturned their money tables). But someone may ask: was not Alencherry making money to build a medical college to heal the sick as Jesus did?
A week ago I witnessed the triumphant glory of the Syromalabar Church in Chicago, exhibited on July 2,3, 4 (Thorana feast). Time permitting I shall give a write-up on it later. But the impression created is that the Great Syromalabar Church is becoming ZERO too soon.
What we can do now is to coax Francis Papa to come to India with his broom and do a repeat of the cleansing he did in Chile, starting from God’s own country, Kerala in the south arresting its speedy run to becoming big ZERO literally. james kottoor, editor ccv.
Please read below Valson Thambu’s article in the
The earliest crisis I remember the Catholic Church in Kerala has had to face was the conviction of one Fr. Benedict in the late ‘60s in what was then the most sensational murder case: the Mariakutty murder case.
The church and the community pulled their weight behind the condemned. Benedict was later acquitted by the Kerala High Court, thanks to the legendary legal skills of A S R Chari, assisted by the best criminal lawyer of Kerala in those days, K T Thomas. On his acquittal, he was showcased as a scapegoat, and given a hero’s reception into social respectability.
Much water has flowed in the rivers of Kerala since then, and many monsoons of tears rained in the privacy of ruined lives. Of late, the Kerala Christian community has been serially buffeted by tremors of priestly sexual aberrations. A celibate priest impregnated a teenage girl. She gave birth. The matter was hushed up and, worse, her father was coerced to take the cross of the crime upon himself.
Four priests, in a recent episode, are accused by a mother of two of raping her for years under blackmail. A Kerala bishop, billeted in Jalandhar, is now accused by a nun of sexually outraging her over a period of time and, further, of her failing to get justice from the church, despite persistent efforts. She, in turn, is being degraded by way of retaliation.
For years now, scandals of priest-perpetrated sexual abuses—especially involving paedophiles—have been tumbling out of ecclesial closets in diverse parts of the world. In an unprecedented turn of events, Pope Francis ordered 34 bishops of the Catholic Church in Chile to resign en masse, all of them having been found guilty of sexual crimes.
To me, the greatest failure of the church in the past, until Pope Francis decided to catch the bull by its horns, is to have protected the predators under the mistaken notion that this safeguarded the church from infamy. In this, the church erred grievously.
This error was rooted in a confusion between personal and ecclesial virtue. The church labours under the misconception that its members —priests in particular—are non-discrete constituents of its corporate body. Consequently, the church fears that the aberration of any member, especially of priests and bishops, would be seen as the aberration of the church. It is deemed, therefore, incumbent on the church to hammer the lid down on addressing instances of aberration. Saving criminals thus becomes basic to safeguarding the church. This is a fatal error. It is preferable to perish rather than survive in this fashion. There is a crucial distinction between the health of the church and the virtue of its members, including the clergy.
The sign of the spiritual and moral stature of the individual is that he does not violate his conscience and the law. But no church or religious community can ensure that its members remain uniformly virtuous or sinless; for individuals are morally autonomous.
There will always be aberrations of diverse kinds. The church, in knee-jerk reactions of misplaced anxiety, sees them as rashes on its own face, and moves heaven and earth to save the culprits, as though its fate depends on the hypocrisy this entails. The spiritual merit of the individual is that he does no wrong, so far as it lies in him. The spiritual merit of the church is not that no wrong happens within its premises, but that no wrong is condoned or covered up, pressured by parochial compulsions.
The current discourse on the ever-worsening sex-crime profile of the church dodges the core issue. That issue is not that priests, due to an inscrutably perverse curse, have gained a turbulent extra spurt of testosterone. Sexual aberrations among priests is a reality, but the primary issue, I dare say, is not libido. It is money. Hand on heart I testify: the church has chosen to damn itself by serving Mammon, while pretending to worship God.
Today it is caught deep in the hypocrisy this spawns. The lust for money distorts the human person. Money is soulless matter. To worship money is, therefore, to lose the distinctive human quality. As a rule, we become what we worship. Mammon worship makes us indistinguishable from money. The soul is the seat of humaneness. The worship of money paralyses our souls. It is a logical necessity, therefore, that the distinction between the world and the church is lost via Mammon-worship. The parallel between the church and the commercial-consumerist world where greed is God, especially in respect of spiralling sex crimes, is too obvious to escape notice. But it is glossed over.
Lust for money corrupts love into lust. It sharpens sexual perversity with criminal propensities. It was this money power that made the priest already referred to think that he could rape and impregnate a teenage girl and plaster over his heinous crime with a bribe of Rs.10 lakh. Unlike love, which is respectfully, caringly responsive to each other, sex is brutally unilateral.
Whatever is unilateral is cruel and criminal. The ultimate tragedy for any church or religious community is that it institutionalizes the regression of love to lust. A priest must love women; for he cannot be a priest if he does not love. But he must love as Jesus loved. Such love ennobles, not degrades. Lust for money cripples love. To fail to love is to harden into a dagger of lust. So long as the church refuses to repent of and renounce Mammon-worship, the death dance of lust, in its many criminal forms, will continue in its backyard.
The church has preached repentance for long. It is high time it practised it. You cannot serve, Jesus declared with a clear premonition of what he saw as coming, God and Mammon. The message screaming at the church from these eruptions of aberration is just the same: “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”
(Valson Thampu is former principal of St Stephen’s College, New Delhi,Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)