Joseph Mani responds to Chhotebhai’s comments on his article PRIESTS, PREACHERS AND POLLUTION
The central point of discussion is Auricular Confession: Whether it should be continued, abolished or modified. Many articles on it have appeared in CCV in May itself, which the readers may go through for more information, downloading the articles in “Check by date column” at right hand bottom in every CCV page, as explained in detail in a previous article on ‘What is CCV?’ .
For the rest the readers make their on conclusion and write to the editor if they have something new to add or improve our discussion for a greater enlightment of all concerned.
One Central Point
One central point the CCV editor suggested more than once was, not “an either or but an instead”, to implement the second part of the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others trespasses.” This second part is most important, as necessary condition to get forgiveness from God. We make our neighbour bitter against us when we rob a thousand rupees from him. We forgive his legitimate bitterness only by giving back the money and asking pardon appropriately to make up with him.
Once that is done there is no need of any confession to any one. The case is settled for good before our conscience and before a God, if he exists. Forgiving others involves rectifying any damage done to our neighbor. It is this part of the Lord’s prayer that the church should make compulsory, even teach it as infallible and divine.
As for organized religions, CCV has time and again opposed it. Also we have stated that each one is free and duty bound to follow his conscience only in moral matters, not the views of an editor or any one else, since the greatest wonder of creation is that no individual is exactly identical to any other and therefore no universal manmade law can be applicable and binding on all in moral matters. james kottoor, ccv editor.
Now please read below Joseph Mani’s response to Chhotebhai
Joseph Mani responds
I am giving my response to chhotebhai's observations. It is not a rebuttal but just my point of view.
1. With reference to the article PRIESTS, PREACHERS AND POLLUTION by Joseph Mani, I find it rather illogical.
Perhaps some statements are made tongue in cheek, but there are several others that warrant a reply or rebuttal:
There is nothing wrong in a priest having consensual sex with a married woman. Other than the morality of it, it is also an act of adultery to have sex with a married woman without the "consent" of her husband! This is a crime u/s 497 of the IPC, and is punishable with imprisonment up to five years. Further, even consensual sex, by a person in authority, constitutes rape u/s 376.
Joseph Mani's reply:
I had explicitly stated that I was not getting into the question of adultery, whether by priests or non-priests. The matter is under the consideration of the Supreme Court. Mr. Chotebhai can have his own views about adultery just as anyone else and I respect his views.
2. The analogy of the signboard ‘KOTTAYAM’ not going anywhere is childish.
3. Is the writer supporting the view that clerics are not bound by the laws that they impose on others, or is he just being sarcastic? He quotes Jesus saying "You must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not however imitate their actions, because they don't practice what they preach" (Mat 23:3). The writer chooses to overlook Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees in the same chapter, "You snakes and sons of snakes! How do you expect to escape from being condemned to hell?" (Mat 23:33).
Joseph Mani's reply:
I do not support the view that clerics are not bound by what they preach. I believe they are. What I said is that many of them do not practice what they preach and think they need not practice. I have given specific examples where priests, bishops and cardinals do not practice the frugal, humble and inclusive life Jesus preached. Look at the titles they insist on: Reverend, Lordship and Eminence!
I do not understand the point about Jesus condemning the Pharisees. I know he did condemn them calling them even vipers and whitened sepulchers. Is Mr. Chotebhai saying Jesus would say the same thing about the modern-day Pharisees looking at not what they preach but what they practice? If so I agree with him.
4. I would concede the writer's point that an overemphasis on sin and confession helps in retaining/ reinforcing clerical control of the laity. However, we cannot therefore claim that all of salvation history is a clerical myth. We cannot rush from one extreme to another.
Joseph Mani's reply:
What I said is that the Christian religion is based on sin. My logic: If there was no Original Sin, there would have been no need for a Redeemer; if there was no need of a Redeemer there would have been no need for God to come down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ (Augustine’s ‘Happy Fault’), suffer and be crucified. Without Christ as God there would be no Christian religion, certainly not the way it exists now. So the Christian religion exists because of sin.
If there was no Original Sin, then Baptism, the most important and fundamental Sacrament, specially infant baptism, becomes redundant and meaningless except as a social function.
If Mr. Chotebhai disagrees with my logic, he has to accept that Original Sin is not a reality and every child today is not born tainted with that sin (I have tried to show in my book that based on Evolutionary theory and the Bible itself that a child born today could not have inherited the sin that Mr. Adam or whoever is supposed to have committed – pages 53-54). So either Mr. Chotebhai has to accept that Original Sin is a reality and Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for it was necessary OR he has to accept that there was nothing called Original Sin and hence there was no need for any atonement. If the former is the case, then my thesis stands: that the Christian religion exists because of sin; if the latter is the case, then Christ’s life and death was not necessary for salvation.
5. The hypothesis that a person can commit heinous crimes like rape and murder, seek absolution in confession, say a couple of Hail Marys, and go home scot free is patently absurd. Firstly, a hardened criminal is unlikely to go for confession. Even if he did so, the confessor would require him to make restitution/ retribution before getting absolution. In such an eventuality the "penitent" would first have to surrender before the law to prove his sincere contrition. If I were to rob a bank, go to confession and keep the money I would not be absolved of my sin or my crime. I would first have to return the money! So let us not over simplify complex issues and draw stupid conclusions.
Joseph Mani's reply:
On a rough calculation, I have gone to confession around 700 times in my life till I stopped going. In not a single instance was I told by the confessor that if I have hurt or harmed another person or society I should first go and ask forgiveness from that person and make reparation to him or to society before I can be absolved of my sin. May be I am outdated and the Church has changed its approach; may be Mr. Chotebhai’s experience is that when a person bribes a traffic cop, accepts a bribe, cheats a customer, evades taxes or robs a bank, the confessor will insist that the penitent go back and accept the penalty from the cop, return the bribe, return the money to the customer, pay his taxes, surrender himself to the police, return the money to the bank and then come back to the priest for absolution. If this is the case, I withdraw my statement and agree that I have come to “stupid” conclusions.
But if this is the case, then what is the point of going to a priest? If the Church has been teaching from my childhood that forgiveness has to come from the offended party, that reparation has to be made to that party, then where is the need for the priest and confession?
6. How does the writer claim that Canon Law is outdated, contradictory and confusing? The new Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1983, and the Oriental Code in 1990. They are not perfect, as no law can ever be; but they are a vast improvement on the old code of 1917. There are also other church teachings, as found in Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The former refers to the rights of workers, trade unions and going on strike. The latter calls drunken driving a sin. Such things did not exist in Biblical times. So the Church is trying to keep abreast of the times. Let us not write it off so soon. In contrast the Indian Penal Code dates back to 1860, and still retains archaic provisions like Sec 377 for "unnatural sex", and 497 for obtaining a husband's "consent" to have intercourse with his wife! I would also add that there are many enlightened laity today who know Canon Law better than the clergy. The wheel has turned full circle, and we are now in a position to throw the Rule Book back at them.
Joseph Mani's reply:
In my book I have quoted official Catholic authorities saying that a lot of the Cannon Law is outdated, contradictory and confusing (page 177). But I agree that the Church is trying to modernize its archaic laws. Who came up with these bad laws? Remember, many of these archaic laws are pronouncements of General Councils which are considered infallible. If they have now become outdated and meaningless, what happens to infallibility and “Divine Guidance” which the Church claims it has?. Penal Code and even the Constitution are amended, but no one claims these were infallible or divinely guided. But still, better late than never.
7. It is grossly absurd to allege that the entire Christian faith is based on the sinfulness of humanity. This again is a horrific over-simplification. Jesus clearly gave a new commandment "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34). If, on the other hand, we accept the writer's insinuation, then we might as well throw the Bible out of the window, accept Jesus as one among several other great human beings, disband the Church, and choose one's own pet philosophy of life. There would also be no need for a portal like "Church Citizens' Voice.
Joseph Mani's reply:
Under point 4 above I have given my logic for saying that the fundamental reason for the existence of the Christian faith is sin.
Jesus and the Church have sublime teachings. But the religion is not based on these teachings. Let me repeat the question: If there was no sin, Original and otherwise, would there be anything unique about the Christian religion? It is the Godhood of Christ that is said to make Christianity fundamentally different from other religions. Christ had to be invested with Godhood because only then the sin-ness of humanity could be properly atoned for.
I wouldn’t throw the Bible out of the window. The Bible has a lot of good things to say, it has also a lot of nasty things to say. Just read the Old Testament and even some of the writings of St. Paul. The Bible, like all Scriptures, is a book written by fallible human beings limited by the knowledge and morality of their times. About Jesus: I consider him one of the great teachers of all times, nothing more nothing less. I say this because there is no evidence that he was God or anything Divine except one’s faith and I cannot argue with faith. I can only go by logic and evidence.
Disband the Church? May not be a bad idea. Start all over again with the simple teaching of Jesus: Love your neighbor, extend a helping hand to those in need.
8. Those familiar with my writings will know that I am often a harsh critic of organised religion and clericalised Christianity. But I will not go so far as to cut my nose to spite my face, or throw the baby out with the bath water, as this writer seems to have done.
Joseph Mani's reply:
I am one with you in being against organized religion and clericalized Christianity. In this we are kindred souls. I’ll always value your comments so that I, perhaps in my overzealousness, do not go overboard. It is people like you, Mr. Chotebhai, that we need to keep a balanced perspective.
On a personal note: I don’t know if you have read my book. If you like I can courier a copy to you if you give me your postal address. I am requesting you to read my book, not to change your views, but you will get an idea of where I am coming from and perhaps find that we are mostly on the same page on a lot of issues.
My e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, mobile 09884024165.
Thanks. Joseph Mani