Our New Associate Editor – By Our Staff Writer
Isaac Harold Gomes from Kolkata, is the new Associate Editor of Church Citizens’ Voice (CCV). The present ones in a team of triumvir are: Zach Nedunkanal, Joseph Mattappally (Associate Editors) and James Kottoor (Editor-in-Chief). All details about them can be found in the About us section of CCV, that is, the write-ups we published as and when they were introduced.
Office Bearers of Catholic Association of Bengal Unit of Auxilium Parish. Isaac Gomes (Secretary) is second from right after Fr Ajay Sardar, Asst. PP.
Officially, CCV started its baby steps on Nov.6th 2014 as a joint venture of the above-mentioned triumvir. Its goal is to unite people of goodwill around the globe in the spirit of Pope Francis’ famous utterance “Our God is not Catholic”, according to our editor in Chief, James Kottoor. This is a Global Community (rather than a group representing any one Church) of people of goodwill without borders and divisions, with which CCV identifies itself. Today no church, among thousands of churches, can claim to be global de facto.
Only because it was originally started by Citizens belonging to the Syromalabar Church(SMC), it was called Church Citizens’ Voice. But SMC happens to be one of the narrowest and divisive churches, in which anyone with a global vision gets suffocated too easily. The reform-minded group of CCV could not suffer long to continue like frogs in the wells of SMC and Kerala. Theirs is the vision of Jesus which embraced the whole of humanity described best by Sri Narayana Guru who spoke of one God, one religion and one humanity. We are therefore Global Citizens striving to rise first above the oppressive and divisive narrow SMC 'well’ and then above all divisions created by a multiplicity of Churches and religions.
CCV introduced its editors already and announced the names of editorial collaborators, contributors and columnists from different parts of the globe as well. Isaac Harold Gomes has been one of those contributors and columnists from Kolkata from the very beginning. He has been a prolific writer for long and also in CCV ever since its inception.
Isaac is a member of Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA), a member of the Archdiocesan Social Communications Commission (ASCC), Archdiocese of Calcutta, a regular writer in the Herald, Kolkata. HeHH also writes in Silent Voice Mumbai, Mumbai Laity, Smart Companion, Ucanews, Matters India and he is seen in Church Citizens' Voice almost every other day writing articles or leading discussions on burning issues like the Kidnap and torture of Cuduppah bishop, alarming school drop-out rate among Christians, in-built entry-bar to Christian students in higher education, particularly in self-financed courses in Kolkata colleges, need for creation of database on families in different parishes to assess and ensure that educational, health, housing and other assistance reach the really needy, etc.
Isaac has been a votary of Laity Empowerment, structural changes in the Indian Church through implementation of Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) and particularly Parish Finance Committees (PFCs) in all parishes of India, as mandated by Vatican II. He says our Cardinals and Bishops, led by CBCI, are deliberately sitting on 100% implementation of PPCs and PFCs in all parishes of India, for fear of transparency and accountability in church finance. He emphasizes that members of the Laity are CO-PARTNERS and not collaborators. Therefore they have a right to seek transparency and accountability in all matters particularly administration of temporal goods of the Indian Church, which is the largest and richest after the Government of India.
Some of his recent articles in CCV, to recall to your attention were: “Dialogue only way forward, bishops told at CBCI Bengaluru Synod”, “Dropout rate among Christians alarms church official” – Dissection of the report (21-05-2016), “Laity must become watchdogs through PPC & PFC in every Diocese” (17-05-2016), “Pope Francis says Parish Priests are obliged to form Parish Finance Committees” (19-05-2016), “Catholic bishops decry attacks on African nationals in Delhi – Crocodiles tears?” (31/05/2016).
He is also ASCC Adviser for the Auxilium Parish monthly newsletter called AUXILIUM SPEAKS, and also its Editor (English & Bengali). As per ASCC guidelines, it is a self-financed newsletter. That is a mouthful to get an insight into Isaac’s journalistic background. So Isaac is the CCV news camera raised over Kolkata to scan all relevant happenings for the benefit of CCV readers. As he starts off, we hope he will have many instructive surprise personal experiences as well to share with the rest of us.
Isaac with his wife at her Kalimpong house.
Growing Collaborative Venture
Slow and steady wins the race. Slowly CCV plans to rope in more talented hands from various Indian metros, country sides and from around the globe. As all can see CCV is not a one-man show but collaborative venture of all available talents ready to collaborate, according to our Editor in Chief.
According to Joseph Mattappally our internet expert, CCV is growing fast. Two months ago, it was at the 222,560th rank according to global ranking system. When CCV got started on Nov.6th 2014 it was hovering around 460,000 globally and below many other portals in India. It then overtook all English portals in India. UCANIndia used to be the top English portal in India, it was at 322,538th rank, that is some 100,000 points below CCV. It remains to be seen if CCV will overtake UCANEWS ASIA which was at 204,807th rank, that is some 18000 points above CCV, according to our internet watchman, Mattappally.
In any case, global ranking is not the concern of CCV at all. We never dreamt of overtaking anyone. How could we? The Editor in Chief didn’t even know that a global ranking of these portals existed! It was Sri Mattappally, the internet expert who brought it to the notice of our Chief. His primary concern has been and is to make CCV a source of all kinds of relevant news and views worth printing fast (news is not news if it is not new) and to make CCV an open and free forum for frank discussion of all issues especially those withheld or blacked out by religious or political pundits to promote their vested interests.
Church media: Caged birds
All church publications can be compared to caged birds. They parrot the master’s voice. They are a censured press, which is a mortal sin according to the ethics of Journalism says Kottoor, who did his journalism at the Catholic University, Milwaukee, USA. Besides lay people treated like Sudras, at the lowest ground level of the hierarchical or Catholic Caste ladder, can never hope to get their vews printed in the Catholic press run by the top Brahminic class. How many Catholic papers have published, for example, the news of the kidnap and torture of Cudappah bishop which happened on April 25th. It has not come even in the Examiner of Bombay till now: “what is totally strange is that the Examiner has not carried any story about the kidnapping,” writes(May 30th) an informer from Bombay. CCV continues to publish its developments from May 8th. So CCV is here to provide an open-door-policy (recall Francis’ call to all Churches to keep their doors always open for prodigals to enter) to everyone, even to the untouchables to make their voice heard, says our Editor in Chief. So CCV is the Voice of the Voiceless!
Of course global ranking gives one an indication of where CCV is in relation to others and if it is making any progress or declining. What matters is the impact CCV exerts to form public opinion for the good of global community. Charity begins at home. So the first duty of CCV is to form a healthy public opinion first in India about its pestering problems – social, cultural, religious, political and economic – and strive to find their possible solutions.
Pressing Religious Issues
Since Isaac Gomes has been already writing in CCV about various religious issues affecting the churches we asked for his views on some of the burning Church related issues. The hot potato in the Catholic Church in India today is the Kidnap and torture of Bishop Prasad Gallela of Cuddappah. What does he think of it?
Isaac: “In enacting such a drama, the Catholic Church in India has made history, because I have not heard of such a drama with all the ingredients of crime and adventure of a Hollywood production enacted anywhere else in the world and that too by three of the Bishop’s own subordinates, 3 Catholic parish priests who pledged obedience to him. They made the word “Catholic” profane, abominable and detestable. They did it to extract plum posts (of a procurator, imagine!) and quick money to the tune of lakhs from the Diocesan kitty. Its aftermath is what is most shocking: the stony silence of almost all 180 brother bishops even one month after the incident on April 25th.” This stony silence on the part of Cardinal Alencherry Cleemis and his other cardinals and bishops implies tacit admission that the Indian Church is corrupt, it is controlled by mafias, and it is beyond repair! So the best that Cardinal Alencherry can do is follow in the footsteps of Pope Emetirus Benedict: RETIRE immediately!
CCV: Didn’t Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay speak up instantly and condemn it?
Isaac: “Yes he did. But none followed his example. The worst example is the stony silence to this day of Mar Baselius Cleemis of Syromalankara Rite, who is Chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), comprising all three Rites. On minor issues like “Agnus Dei” a film or drama offensive to Church teachings, he complained to the Government to stop its screening in India and drew blank response from Government and got no support from people either. Kidnap and torture of a brother bishop of his, is no minor issue and he has said nothing on the matter till today!
“When an elderly sister was raped in Ranaghat Nadia district, Kolkata including bishops and priests, made a hue and cry, doing protest marches and prayer vigils of the faithful and the clergy. Did the CBCI Chairman or any other cardinal think of doing or organizing anything similar to show solidarity with the tortured brother Bishop who is still bed-ridden or to expose the criminal priests and punish them with nothing less than defrocking them? That is what Pope Francis prescribes for pedophile priests.
“Some comforting news was that some protest marches and meetings were held by lay people in Cudappah in which even a CSI bishop was reported to have spoken but not a Catholic bishop was present, according to Father AXJ Bosco SJ, adviser, Citizens Forum for Justice and prominent spokesperson for Dalit community, who organised it.
“Can one imagine such brute insensitivity from Catholic Bishops? Of course Bombay’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias briefly and speedily condemned it but he has not said anything against the Caste Cancer which was at the root of this dastardly act. None of the bishops who attended the two family Synods in Rome ever spoke of this scandalous caste system practised and promoted both by laity and bishops in India. Cardinal Gracias is credited for speaking up mainly for gay and LGBT people in India. But the worst disease killing the Church in India is the practice of Caste system, not gay relations, in all dioceses and Endogamy (pure racism) in Kottayam diocese. We now see an overflow or casteism and racism breaking out in the repeated attack of Africans in Delhi which CCV reported several times.”
CCV: What do you think the Indian hierarchical church should have done immediately after the Kidnap of Bishop Gallela?
Isaac: “The immediate response should have been a strongly worded, elaborate public condemnation of the Kidnap and announcement of punishment of the culprits (nothing short of defrocking the wolves in a sheep’s clothing) and concrete deeds to comfort and assist the victimized Bishop. It should have come first from Cardinal Cleemis, the CBCI President, then from all other high ranking Cardinals, some call themselves “beatitudes”,(anything more stupid?), then from every other bishop in India to show his brotherly fellow feeling, then setting up committees to study and eradicate Caste, Class, Blue blood thinking and practices (endogamy in Kottayam, practiced like day-light robbery) from the Church in India.”
CCV: Recently you wrote on setting up Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) and Parish Finance Committees (PFCs) in every parish as ordered by Francis which is not complied with by bishops in India. Then will this suggestion of yours be even listened to by any of the bishops?
Isaac: “I am astonished at the thick-skinned attitude of the church hierarchy in this ordeal. They just shudder at the thought of bringing in transparency, accountability, checks and balances in their financial dealing. Yet from the pulpit they preach honesty, integrity and the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). How many church-goers do you think will go in for confession when they know the person to whom they are going to confess is corrupt and full of vile and wile?
But this parish finance committee (PFC) has to come in each parish, for fear of the Government clamping down on the church on its transparency and accountability in matters of church finance. The attack on its own Bishop, the birthday gift of Innova, the demand for INR 50 Lac, and the possibilities of more such happenings in the face of Cardinal Cleemis behaving like King Dhritarashtra of Mahabharata, will certainly raise the eyebrows of the State and Central Governments, who will demand more transparency and accountability in church finance. And mind you this demand will not be anything new. As the pope said on 12th May 2016 at the Vatican, PFCs in each parish will be in keeping with the prescriptions of the Canon Law. Let me quote what the Pope said: “It is a matter of canon law: the parish priest is obliged to have a council of, for and with laymen, laywomen and women religious for pastoral ministry and for economic affairs. And they do not do this. This is the danger of clericalism in the Church today. We must go ahead and remove this danger, because the priest is a servant of the community, the bishop is a servant of the community, but he is not the head of a firm.”
Isaac is extreme right (row three) with members of the parish.
“Honestly, I am convinced that those bishops who refuse to cooperate must be retired compulsorily. Pope Benedict has done it voluntarily and set an example for weaklings and wrong-doers. No Bishop in India will ever retire voluntarily, no matter what allegations are brought against him. Therefore to answer the question: “Who will bell the Cat? Lay organizations may have to be headed by CCV in the absence of any other crusader to take up the fight. At least it will not be said, no one has tried. Success is not the be-all and end-all of life. The basic question is: Did you at least try? So we must go forward to do our mighty bit to wipe out caste system and blue blood Brahminic mentality from the Church. Use the whip as Jesus did, if necessary. Kneeling and beseeching will not do. It is the humble Jesus-like foot-washing ministry which is to be cultivated at any cost.
Well versed in English, Bengali and Hindi, Isaac Harold Gomes, took his B.Com from St Xavier's College Kolkata. He is married and settled with two children – one daughter and a son. His wife is a School Teacher and they live at: 30A, Mahendra Roy Lane, 1st Floor, Kolkata 700046, West Bengal. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and Mob.9830440603. He shares his birthday on Dec.25th with three great personalities: Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif, India’s famous Prime Minister Atalji and of course, anyone greater than Jesus? CCV welcomes him to the inner circle of Associate Editors.