Cover Photo :
A bishop votes during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual assembly. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)
dr. james kottoor
This is precisely to let readers see how US bishops actively and constructively make their voices heard in the politics of their country and what we in India can do something similar instead of sitting tight as mute spectators, as it happens often in India. Seeing and reading it, perhaps may prompt our bishops say: “If they can speak up prophetically and change things for the better, why can’t we?” Are our bishops listening even to a little one? Will they muster courage to speak up like the US bishops,(see report below) in public interest? God alone knows.
The article below deals with bishops’ concern about US government’s action on religious liberty, press freedom, health care for the poor, Obama Care, LGBT rights, forcing sisters to supply contraceptives against their conscience etc.
Improper and misguided actions of Modi Sarkar, due to lack of right advisers on national, political, social, religious and communal issues, many disturbing things, causing heartburns and headaches to Christians, Muslims, minorities and specially to dalits, are happening in India.
Topics to discuss
Some of them are: vandalisation of Churches in the name of alleged proselatization, reconversion or Ghar-vapsi, love-jihad, cow slaughter, enforced meat ban, terrorism from the Hindu vigilantes, rape and murder of girls all over the ountry etc. In the absence of needed action from Government to control unruly elements and enforce law and order to punish culprits and protect those at the receiving end, Christians in general and their leaders – priests and bishops in particular – have a duty to join the national discourse, as shown by US bishops to bring constructive pressure on the government to desist from certain misguided policies.
Recently some 65 senior citizens published a signed letter for the attention of the government. Similarly Bishops in India as senior citizens of various Churches, should be more concerned about issues these lay leaders raised. Two days ago a prominent Priest, Fr. Joseph Mattam sj, also wrote an article assessing 3 years of Modi rule.
Ideal thing to do
The ideal would be for the bishops of all the churches in India to come together – ideally churches should be united, not divided — thus to speak to the country by deed: “See there is no division among us, similarly there should be no division among communities in India. We too earn like Modi: ‘Sab ka Vikas, sab ka sath” and then bring to the attention of the government their suggestions to rebuild an India now divided and torn to pieces on all fronts – political, social and religious.
In the event of difficulties to get all churches together, what could be advisable, is to call an emergency meeting of the CBCI (Catholic Bishops’Conference of India) made up of all three Rites – Latin, Syromalabar and Malankara – for a joint deliberation. In any case the CBCI meet every two years. Let there be an additional extraordinary meet to focus on extraordinary happenings creating a crisis situation in the country. Let that meeting be for two or three days, after advance preparation and getting advise from experts.
Catholic = Global Citizen
In case neither the Christian bishops, nor the Catholic bishops in India can’t be persuaded to come together to discuss national Issues, what could be the reason? It only reveals, neither of these groups has a national outlook but only a communal and sectarian vision. Both are concerned only with the communities these bishops preside over. To give priority to national issues, they should think they are Indians first and members of Christian or Catholic communities next.
Especially for Catholics, it is an oxymoron, something counter-productive, doing something contrary to what their name says. Catholic means universal. What Catholics are they if they think only of the particular Catholic communities they lead – Latin, Syro and Malankara? They thus reduce themselves to “Ghetto-catholics” we used to accuse them of for long. To be a Catholic one should be a ‘world citizen’ first, not a frog in the well of this church or that church, this religion or that religion, this country or that, believers or unbelievers. That is what Jesus was “Son of Man” ideal man among humans, the ideal CATHOLIC.
This is what globalization demands of every broad minded human being, to be concerned first about the global community before being worried about one’s own petty country or community, the registered members of the Catholic community. To become global citizens our Catholic bishops have to graduate themselves to national citizens first from their present state of Curch citizens. How can one who is not able to give priority to one own national issues, think of global issues and become a global citizen like Jesus? So let our bishops rise above their narrow divisive, sectarian, church related mentalities and act as Indians first, concerned with burning problems in the country first and finally move forward to become global citizens, the final stage of being Catholic like Francis Pappa.
Modi, active 24 hours
You get the government you deserve. To deserve the right government in a democracy, the so-called enlightened citizens must speak up to persuade those concerned to preserve and foster unity and integrity of India. So the nation is waiting to hear from the Catholic leadership. We have a 24 hours active PM, running around in the country addressing meetings, besides delivering his weekly Man ki Baat or Globe trotting, starting today on a 3-nation tour, to meet world leaders, starting with US president.
At least let us all start praying, that his mission may produce good results for both India and US. What do our Christian leaders and Bishops hope to achieve sitting tight and silent behind closed doors in their comfort zones? Nothing! Pope Francis is always up and doing like Modi, speaking out daily on critical issues around the world. Christian community in India cannot rest satisfied with doing anything less, from the Indian Catholic bishops, the CBCI.
From the very start of his pontificate, Francis was sending out his strong clarion call: “Get up, get up! Get out, get out! Move out of the Church of the sacristy to go to the peripheries, to meet those who live in shanty towns or on pavements to share your good news, if you have any.” Jesus came “to preach the good news to the poor first”, but not ignoring the comfortable class like Simon the Pharisee who invited him for supper.
Don’t expect the political class to invite you or come to you. You have to invite yourselves to meet them face to face to share with them whatever good news you have for them, not just criticism of the government. So why not take a leaf from what the US bishops are doing. Replace inaction with action, silence with heart warming conversations and suggestions for collaboration in nation building. james kottoor, editor, ccv.
Please read below article on US bishops & politics
US Bishops and Politics!
GOP ‘Stealthcare’ bill reveals
Catholic Bishops’ priorities
By Patricia Miller, in Religion Dispathces, June 21, 2017
It’s unlikely that many of the Catholic (US) bishops who voted last week to make permanent their (formerly) Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty saw the irony when several of their fellow prelates sharply criticized the GOP health care bill making its secretive way through the Senate as potentially devastating to many vulnerable populations.
San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy called it a “breathtaking” assault on Catholic social teaching that will “deliberately fall apart in the coming years from market forces and ever smaller amounts of government revenue.” Montana Bishop George Thomas warned of “potentially catastrophic effects” on the lives of “children and the elderly, the seriously ill, the immigrant and the nation’s working poor.”
While the bishops’ low-profile Domestic Justice Committee has criticized several components of the House-passed American Health Care Act, and urged Republicans not to repeal the ACA without a replacement, the conference as a whole has been largely silent on the GOP health reform effort that now appears to be entering its final stages.
Unlike the vigorous effort it put into urging Catholics to oppose the Affordable Care Act if it didn’t ban access to abortion or the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, the bishops’ conference hasn’t attempted to harness Catholic opposition to the measure. And, at this late point in the game, with a Senate vote slated for as early as next week, there’s little chance they could effectively do so even if they wanted to.
At the same time, the bishops voted overwhelmingly to make their Religious Liberty Committee permanent. It was the Religious Liberty Committee, under the direction of Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, that was largely responsible for demonizing the contraceptive mandate, and by extension the ACA, as an assault on “religious liberty,” helping to pave the way for successful Republican attacks on the health reform law.
A new Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows just how successful the effort to forge the church’s opposition to reproductive and LGBT rights into a new political wedge issue to motivate right-leaning religious voters has been. According to the poll, which probed the political divide between urban and rural voters:
Nearly 6 in 10 people in rural areas say Christian values are under attack, compared with just over half of suburbanites and fewer than half of urbanites. When personal politics is taken into account, the divide among rural residents is even larger: 78 percent of rural Republicans say Christian values are under attack, while 45 percent of rural Democrats do.
This particular divide, and this widespread sense of Christian persecution, is relatively recent. As Julie Ingersoll noted here on RD, while evangelical leaders had tried to gin up a sense of Christian persecution going back to the mid-1990s, as late as 2005, “the argument that Christians were a minority in need of protection was not persuasive in the broader religious right.” But a “little over a decade later, conservative Christians across the country … now see themselves as targeted by powerful elites, one step away from imprisoning and executing people for their faith.
The lynchpin was the bishops’ claim that Catholic health care institutions, and by extension Catholic nuns, were being forced to provide abortifacients in violation of their consciences, which was quickly extended to bakers, photographers and others who opposed same-sex marriage. Evangelical leaders quickly took up the baton, conflating domestic assaults on “religious liberty” with the real world persecution of Christians in other countries.
And it’s this religious liberty effort, not protecting access to health care for millions, that remains at the heart of the bishops’ lobbying efforts. Lori warned the bishops that even with the election of Donald Trump the fight for religious liberty was far from over and said they needed to gird for new challenges, such as the granting of rights to transgender people.
While the bishops’ opposition to the Republican overhaul of health care remains piecemeal and lacks the imprimatur of the entire conference, the Religious Liberty Committee enjoys high-profile leadership, speaks with the full backing of the bishops’ conference, and has a staff and a dedicated budget. The Knights of Columbus and other right-leaning Catholic groups have contributed some $500,000 to the committee since it was founded in 2011 and Lori assured the bishops that the outside funding would continue.
Two of Pope Francis’ appointees, however, were notably outspoken about the bishops’ lack of nuance in their policies, the overly political impacts of their priorities, and the impact on populations the conference claims to protect. Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich was the only bishop to make explicit that the Republican health overhaul effort was “tied to hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tax cuts” and urged the bishops to “talk about uncoupling these efforts.”
But good luck trying to get the Dolan-Kudlow faction of the church’s leadership to oppose tax cuts for the wealthy, even if it comes at the expense of health care for the poor. And in an implicit rebuke of the political priorities signaled by a freestanding Religious Liberty Committee, Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin questioned why the work of the committee couldn’t be folded into the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. But in the end, he was voted down 132 to 53, which gives you a pretty good idea of the political priorities of the U.S. bishops.