For the kind attention of KCBC! KERALA CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND ALCOHOL
By George Nedumparambil (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note: This happens to be a most unexpected article from George, who started writing in CCV very long ago but studying Bible only after retiring from his job in Banking at 62 when Bible propagating groups of various hues, started pestering him to join their groups!
Bible Quotes embellish!
He quotes both Old and New Testaments to base his views to answer questions raised by church and society; Why the ban; Problem with Keralites; Exorbitant pricing of liquor; how to drink citing his own practice (Transparency in his own case!); suggesting ways and means for the ‘Temporance Commission’ of KCBC.
We ourselves have written a lot on the subject — CCv’s writings are sent to all Indian bishops, who talk from top to bottom only, never taking any questions from below, especially on inconvenient questions for themselves.
General biblical teaching is: ‘Eat and drink whatever is placed before you! Cut and eat whatever you saw in your dream, (was God told Peter in his dream,) because everything is created for man, man for Christ and Christ for God. Nothing created is evil or sinful. What is forbidden is misuse, abuse or going beyond limits!
Jesus started his public life with a wine party (Cana); went through his three year public life befriending drunkards and prostitutes, drawing upon himself the renowned epithet ‘a win-beeber’ and ended his life with another grand ‘wine party’ at which he promised never to drink until he reached his Father. He never said he was stopping drink altogether.
Heaven for Drankards?
Jesus even warned the High priests of his time, that drunkards and prostitutes would go to heaven before them. You need better examples of teaching and example? St. Paul went even a step further, telling his disciple Titus, to stop his habit of being a teetotaler, since a glass of wine is good for his stomach which was upset often. You read George further, I am learning a lot from him.
Everything in the material world is created for MAN, “the crown and glory of creation” as Vivekanda affirms. Only “dare not call him a sinner!” because that will cast a shadow on an all perfect God, called Saccidanda (sat+chit+ananda), Embodiment of all goodness (Summum Bonum), All knowing, omnipresent etc.
“Akam Sat’ means each individual is fully ‘Brahman” not just part of it (Aham Brahmasmi reflecting Jesus’ saying: “I and the Father are one” and ‘you are the temple of God’). Hence the dictat of Vivekananda: “Never call any human a sinner”. Sin is the creation of ignorant humans, or of Maya. Become: ‘Sathyagrahi, Snehagraphi and Sobhagrahi’ searcher of Truth, love and light everlasting!
Can we hope that some of the Bishops of India, at least of the KCBC will respond to George’s article? james kottoor, editor ccv.
Please read below George’s Article on Liquor!
The Catholic Bishops in Kerala has an apex body. It is called “Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC)”. Their website describes the objective of the Conference as:
“…to cater the special needs of the apostolate in the State. It is to be understood as an assembly in which all the Catholic Bishops of Kerala, conscious of their unity and solidarity, received by virtue of the Episcopal consecrationjointly exercise their pastoral office in order to promote that good which the Church offers all mankindand thus foster unity of action and strive together to meet their common tasks" on questions of common concern to the Episcopal Bodies of three Churches of Kerala, and of a state-wide and supra-ritual character and importance, questions involving the Catholic Church and other bodies, and any other matter which the three Episcopal Bodies desire the Council to deal with..”
KCBC has constituted a Commission called “Temperance Commission”. Their objective as given in KCBC website reads “Temperance commissions strive for such a mission, saving people from the addictions of drugs and alcohol, and make them to experience the Life in abundance (Jn. 10: 10). KCBC constituted a Commission in 1998, Dec. 4th with the slogan “Alcohol free Church and Society”. To promote and implement this prophetic mission, we have KCBC Madyavirudha Samithy which is functioning in 31 Catholic Dioceses in Kerala. The Reduction of the substance such as Demand reduction, Supply reduction and Risk reduction are our triple formula of actions. In five levels – Parish, Forane, Diocesan, Regional and State, we have activities”.
This commission has been shouting for ban on alcohol sales in Kerala. Of late, they seemed to have gone on silent mode as the current dispensation in the States of Kerala does not care to hoots about any talk about banning alcohol. This Commission was very active during the rule of previous dispensation so much so that then Chief Minister and his party President got into a tango as to who bends backwards maximum to the dictate of KCBC which ultimately cost the party the State to CPM led formation. Surprisingly no one wants to admit in the open that this is what led to the fall and instead things like sex scandals are cited as the reason for the fall. During campaign time, CPM led formation succeeded in creating a sense in the minds of voters that if it got voted into power;all restrictions on liquor trade would go. They won and true to expectation the State began to loosen rules. Initially, KCBC made some noise but ever since has been silent about this issue or at least nobody knows what noises, if any, they are making. Certainly the media seemed to have forgotten them.
Alcohol free Church and Society
My objective in writing these notes is to examine whether KCBC can indeed achieve an alcohol free church and society. The short answer to the question is “No”. It is rather comical for the churchto aspire to become alcohol free church. The “blood of Jesus” that every priest is required to drink at the Mass is nothing but wine containing anything between 5 to 14% alcohol, depending on the country where the church is located. In India it is reported to be never more than 8%. Can church ever get rid of this ritual called Mass where the climax point is the Eucharistic ceremony culminating in the drinking of wine, which is believed to have turned into real blood after the priests recites certain prayers? The answer is profound “No” though I imagine it is far easier for the church to replace wine with look-alikes like black tea or coffee than expect the society to change. But is the Church ready for it? It is not and never will be.
In my opinion therefore the Commission is founded on a premise which they know it and we the people know it as hollow that can never be attained, thanks to its own rigidity and blinded beliefs with regard to its rituals. Accordingly the church has no or little moral authority, if any, to begin with to be demanding a state-wide ban, which by their standard mean “we will continue to produce and consume wine and you the people can’t and won’t. Church is telling these things to people who live in 21st century. I admire their guts.
Unfortunately KCBC website does not provide any help in getting an answer to the above question. One is therefore left to imagine the reasons. Accordingly my imagination led to the following reasons.
Men folks end up spending all their earnings on alcohol causing untold misery to their family.
Men acquire diseases that are expensive to treat and can lead to early death.
Drunken driving could cause accidents.
Men can end up being a nuisance to the family and society.
All the above reasons are valid. But then alcohol is available in all countries of the world except few. Even there, it is in the grey market. Here I would like to state that Alcohol is sold even in Vatican. Those who have visited Vatican Museum would recollect that to exit out, they have had to pass through an area where on one side is a souvenir shop and at the other a cafeteria. One can get beer and other drinks in this cafeteria. I have sat in this cafeteria and drank beer on two occasions and on another occasion Campari which is a favourite of Italians. I believe that this cafeteria is still functioning and selling alcohol. Outside and around St. Peters Basilica there are several cafes selling alcohol right under the nose of the Pope. The point that I am trying to make is that if Pope has no issues with alcohol being sold inside Vatican why should the Bishops in Kerala insist that it should not be sold in Kerala?
What does the Bible say about Alcohol?
The most interesting narrative on wine is given in Chapter Sirach 31:27-29 (Prabhaskan in Malayalam bible). 27 Wine can put new life into you if you drink it in moderation. What would life be like without it? Wine was created to make us happy. 28 If you drink it in moderation and at the right time, it can lift your spirits and make you cheerful, 29 but if you drink when you are angry and upset, it leads to headaches, embarrassment, and disgrace. The chapter further discusses the etiquette to be followed when having wine with a group of people.
In the Old Testament there are several references to wine and all of them point to excessive intake of wine being bad but not moderate downing. Drinking in moderation is not prohibited at all in the OldTestament where instances of what could happen if one drinks in excess appear in the chapter covering Noah and Lot. Noah did not know that his clothes had come off and his son happened see his nakedness, scandalous in those days. Then there is the story of Lot who along with two of his daughters survived Sodom and Gomorrah. From where the girls got wine, as they were running for their lives, remains a mystery but they managed to get themselves pregnant by their own father who was made to drink and when sex happened he is reported to have known nothing! Psalm 104 says “There's nothing wrong with wine itself, and we could compare it to many other things that are gifts of God. It further says that God has given wine to gladden men's hearts. On the other hand, there are warnings about the abuse of wine, the abuse of alcohol. Scripture over and again warns us against the dangers of drunkenness. You've got that in Proverbs 23, you've got it in Ephesians Chapter 5, 'Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.'
Coming to New Testament, the first miracle of Jesus, according to the Book of John, was about wine. The story of his turning plain water into wine is all too familiar for most Catholics. Would he have done this miracle if he were against wine? Did Jesus drink wine? In Luke 7:34, Jesus is seen saying “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' Jesus had not barred wine from our lives.
The scriptures, both Old and New do not discourage consumption of wine and by extension other alcohol products that falls within the family of spirits, differing only in the raw material used for making and the strength. What is discouraged is excessive or irresponsible drinking.
What is the Problem with Keralites?
For the most part, most people in Kerala do not know the art of drinking. The so called Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) such as Rum, Brandy, Whisky and Vodka etc are not to be drunk like toddy. In the olden days, I mean some 50 years back, pure coconut toddy used to be available in Kerala. In those days, tipplers used pour the stuff into a glass and then without detaching the glass from their lips empty the full contents. It was alright back then; for one the toddy was pure and the alcohol content minimal. Unfortunately, Keralites inherited the same principle when it comes to hard liquor that is now being sold to them. As a result they end up taking pegs after pegs in one go and in quick succession.The result is that the Keralites end up drinking more than required.
Actually, IMFL is never to be drunk in that manner. It is a gentleman’s drink where the imbiber dilute one peg of alcohol with a minimum of 2 to 3 pegs of water and sip it over a period of time, generally 15 minutes. By the time, the person is on to the second peg, he is already warm and the second peg becomes the last peg followed by dinner. Some people tend to have dinner first and engage in this ceremony post drink. Keralites have to be taught how to drink. To begin with the bottles can carry “Instructions”. If we buy a bottle of cough syrup, it has such instructions. Why not for hard liquor?
Price of Liquor
It is no secret that liquor is overpriced. What the government gets for 200 rupees they retail it for Rs.1000 or more. For the rich, this is not a problem but for the daily wage earners and those employed in private establishments, where the pay is meagre, it is indeed a problem. The problem gets accentuated as art of drinking is not followed by them. This is (High price and unscientific consumption) that causes all the problems in our households.
What Kerala needs is consumer education on best practices to be applied while drinking IMFL and more importantly reasonable prices at the beverage corporation. Prices need to come down by at least 50% to make it affordable to consumers so that more money may be left in their hands to care for the family. Some people may drink more but for the most part humans are conditioned to be selfish towards their family and would not desire to be the biblical father who would give brick when his children ask for bread.
If I may give an advice to KCBC, they need to refocus. Campaign for price reduction and education on best practices are the areas to be focused. Believe me, I am speaking from experience. I am 70 now. I began to take alcohol at 18 when I was a typist in Bombay. That was once a week and two pegs. I studied while working and progressed through the ladder and retired as a VP from a bank in the Middle East, never missing my weekly drink. I followed that discipline until retirement. Now I am retired since last 8 years and I have every day two pegs. Never more. You see, where I am coming from:- I began with two pegs and manage to remain there even today. I am celebrating retirement with no health problem that I know of. Is that not proof that enjoyable life is possible by practising responsible drinking? Responsible drinking is what Kerala needs and organisations with clout like KCBC should be fighting to get conducive environment (price reduction and education) in place rather than shouting for the unachievable total ban.