Mr Varghese Pamplanil an erudite writer and a free thinker, has done it once again. He has done what no one – at least none in the Indian Church Hierarchy – has ventured upon: He has made a clinical and dispassionate analysis of Fratelli Tutti, the third and the latest encyclical of Pope Francis. CCV readers must admire Mr Pamplanil's patience to go through the mire of 43,000 words of the Encyclical, just as a surgeon successfully works with his fingers and tools during a critical operation. Isaac Gomes, Associate Editor, Church Citizens' Voice.
Child Regugees – Looking at others as brothers and sisters to save ourselves and the world
Fratelli Tutti (All Brothers) — (roughly 43,000 words) —is the third encyclical of Pope Francis summarising his broad vision “on fraternity and social friendship”. The Pope has pointed out that COVID–19 pandemic has proven the failure of the world to address the crisis by working together.
A bird’s eye view of the Encyclical, from the perspective of a non-religious person, is attempted below:
The Pope indicates: fraternity and social friendship are the ways to build up a better, more just and peaceful world with the contribution of all peoples and institutions. He says an emphatic “NO” to war and condemns the “GLOBALISED INDIFFERENCE”. He points out that the current globalised emergency has demonstrated that “no one can face it in isolation”; the time has come to “dream only as a single, human family” in which all are “brothers and sisters.”
Chapter1 : Dark Clouds Over a Closed World.
The document reflects on the many distortions of the contemporary era — manipulation and deformation of concepts such as democracy, freedom, justice, the meaning of society, community and also history. It focuses on social ills such as selfishness, indifference towards common good; a market exclusively geared to profit alone; the culture of waste; prevalence of racism, unemployment, poverty; aberrations like slavery, trafficking of women and the enforced sex perpetrated on them, organ trafficking, etc.
Chapter 2 : Strangers on the Road
The focus is on then on an egalitarian unhealthy society turning its face on suffering; non-caring of the frail and the vulnerable; he pleads for the overcoming of prejudices — historical and cultural — removal of barriers; he advocates the creation of an inclusive and integrated social order and ‘building bridges of love”.
Chapter 3 : Vision of an Open World
“Envisaging and engendering an open world, the Pope exhorts, all humans to get outside the “self”, find a fuller existence with “one another” with the underpinning of dynamism of charity that makes all to tend towards “universal fulfilment”. He asserts that “sense of solidarity and of fraternity begin within the family.”
The right to live with dignity cannot be denied to any one; including those who even have no borders regardless of where people are born. The Pope calls for an “ethics of international relations” and “borderless movement of goods and services”.
Chapter 4 : Heart Open to the World
On the theme of migration, the Pope says, “with lives at stake” fleeing from war, prosecution, natural calamities, uprooting from places and communities of origin, the migrants were falling victims to unscrupulous trafficking and other human-made convulsions. The Pope writes that migrants, who are forced to take refuge in countries beyond their borders, are to be welcomed, protected, supported, absorbed and integrated in the host countries. He points to the indispensability of allowing migration of those facing all types of grave natural and humanitarian crisis.
Chapter 5 : Better Politics
The Pope advocates “better kind of politics” attuned to the service of the common good; recognising the importance of human beings, eschewing of “populism” that ignores the legitimacy of the notion of “ people” and protection of “work”, an essential dimension of existence and social and economic survival. The Pope lays stress on politics centred on human dignity separated from the acquisitive pursuit of wealth alone, because “the marketplace, by itself cannot resolve every problem.” The “havoc” that wrecked the market by “financial speculation has demonstrated this.”
Another focal point of the Encyclical is the urgency for the reform of the United Nations, independent of military might and economic status. The task of the UN should be to give substance to the concept of a “family of nations” and should work for the “common good”; the eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights. Tireless recourse “to negotiation, mediation and arbitration” is the need of the hour, he says. The UN must promote the “force of law” than the “law of force”.
Chapter 6 : Dialogue and Friendship
In the sixth chapter, “Dialogue and friendship in society” emerges the concept of life as the “art of encounter” with every one, even the ones in “world’s peripheries” and with the uprooted native peoples from their original habitats, because “each of us can learn something from others. No one is useless and expendable”. The Pope speaks of the miracle of “kindness” to be recovered because it is a star “shining in the midst of darkness” and “frees us from cruelty, anxiety, frantic flurry of activity” that prevails in contemporary era.
Chapter 7 : Renewed Encounter
The value and promotion of peace is reflected in the seventh chapter. “Paths of renewed encounter” where peace is connected to truth, justice and mercy. Far from the desire for vengeance, it has to be “proactive” aiming at the formation of a society based on service to others and converged to the pursuit of reconciliation and mutual development. Thus peace is an “art”that involves and regards everyone; each one must do his or her part in a “never ending task”. Forgiveness is linked to peace; we must love everyone without exception— the Encyclical reads — but condoning an oppressor may encourage him to continue his criminality of oppressing his neighbour : forgiveness does not mean giving impunity to wrong doings. To forgive does not mean “forget”. Denounce the destructive power of “evil” and the tendency for “revenge”. Never forget the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; also prosecutions and ethnic cleansing. They must be remembered all the time — these horrors should never be “anaesthetised”.
The seventh chapter focuses on war: a “constant threat”, that represents “negation of all rights”, “a failure of politics and of humanity” and a “stinging defeat before the forces of evil”. The nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that strike innocent civilians do not justify any war, let alone the so-called “just war”; it has no place in any civilised society. We must vehemently reaffirm “Never again war”. The total elimination of nuclear arms is “a moral and humanitarian imperative”: the money earmarked for the war efforts should be utilised for the elimination of hunger.
The Pope is clear in his position that “death penalty is inadmissible” and it should be abolished all across the world. He lays emphasis on the “sacredness” of life; every one is part of the “human family”, none should be “sacrificed”; “the unborn, the poor, the disabled and the elderly”, he says.
Chapter 8 : Religion and Fraternity
In this final chapter, Pope Francis talks of “Religion at the service of fraternity." He opines that terrorism is not due to religion but to the erroneous interpretation of religious text books. (On this last observation, one may beg to differ from him: Sam Harris in his book “The End of Faith” observes: the world may come to an end not because it is written in the stars but because it is written in the Book claimed to be God given).
Lastly the Pope quotes the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”which he signed on 4 February 2019, in Dubai along with the Grand Imam of Al- Azar Ahmad Al-Tayyib. He reiterates the appeal: in the name of human fraternity, dialogue be adopted as the “way”. He urges mutual cooperation as common conduct and mutual knowledge as method and standard.
The Great Irony?
“In a world where knowledge is not free, where the world has been broken up into narrow domestic walls, where words do not from the depth of truth, where the clear stream of reason has lost its way into the dreary desert of dead habit", the wise words of the Pope may fall into deaf ears; his agonising cry unheard and lost in the empty desert of wilderness.
To my limited understanding, the pearls of wisdom of the Good Pope Francis, may end up being strewn in the pig sty of the society, especially in the inverted pyramid structured monarchist Catholic Church, with King Popes (Pope Francis is a rare exception), the Princely Cardinals, Lord Bishops and the high name flaunting ecclesiastical establishment. The Pope’s much laboured effort , in all likelihood, will be ignored, in the very heart of Catholicism —the Vatican with its obdurate Curia, a Mafia modelled set up crawling with obscurantists and statusquoists. Charity must begin from home. This is an impossibility, as the Church stands now.
How can the ecclesiastical “leave their chantings and singing and telling of beads? How can they stop worshiping in the lonely dark corner of their temples with all the doors of their hearts shut tightly? Will they open their eyes and see their God is not before them? He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the pathmaker is breaking stones: He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered with dust. PUT OFF YOUR HOLY MANTLE AND LIKE HIM COME DOWN ON TO THE DUSTY SOIL; COME OUT OF YOUR MEDITATIONS AND LEAVE ASIDE YOUR INCENSE! WHAT HARM IS THERE, IF YOUR CLOTHES BECOME TATTERED AND STAINED? MEET HIM IN TOIL AND IN SWEAT OF YOUR BROW.”
In the “dog eats the other dog” secular world, every country is at the other country’s throat; greedy aggressive crony capitalism rules the roost, the Wall Street makes its merciless massacre of the innocents. The Encyclical is likely to be dumped into the waste heap with disdain!
The creature called “human” plunders, denudes and destroys the planet Earth. Future generations, if any, may watch with sad eyes brimming with hot tears, from their perches in other planets in the solar system and beyond its confines, at the barren Earth, where once upon a time there were plenitude of living creatures and luxurious vegetations.
It may not be too late to save our precious environment by desisting from “scorch the earth” policy. Otherwise, be prepared to shed all our tears till our eyes become totally dry and our hearts become stone cold unfeeling granites.
The Kerala Scenario
Is any one of the Zero-Malabar clergy, except a handful, is capable of understanding the implications of the encyclical Fratelli Tutti? Even if some of them are capable of assimilating the meaning of the Pope’s sage message and his dire warnings, do they have the sagacity to conduct their affairs in the context of the wider vision of the Pope? The theme of the Pope’s encyclical may appear strange to them; they cannot and, will not, opt for the brotherly mode of life advocated by their own Pontiff.
At the moment, the clerics seem to be mighty worried of matters mammon. They may be racking their brains to “fleece” the “sheep” viz., by depriving of their Gandhiji picture embedded Reserve Bank currency, the IOUs, i.e. the bearer promissory notes of RBI, otherwise known as bank notes which has only fiduciary value at the most. Money has now become mere entries in the books of accounts of banks and other business concerns.
Can any one expect the money-crazy clergy of the various types of Zero Churches to pay any attention to the encyclical? Not a fat chance? The ground reality is the Kerala clerics deprived of the ceaseless and abundant flow of money to their kitties, may not have the time even to look at the papal document. The copies of the encyclical, in all likelihood, would be dumped into some nondescript corners of diocesan pastoral centres, and ultimately buried deep among the church kitsch?
About the average Zero Malabar believers, less said the better. Most of the Zero Catholic Church folks seems to have no “ allthamasam” under their skulls. They are jolly happy and content to lap up the soap operas shown on Shalom TV and the lies printed in it’s sister publications. At the most, they may opt for reading the half truths and trivia in other church bulletins. They appear to be keen on watching with relish,the charades and utter lies of Shekinah TV and similar channels. For the average believers, these are the “Words” of their God.
The Catholic clerics of Kerala live and move among people mainly engaged in the cultivation of crops and doing businesses, How then, can they call themselves “shepherds”; the uppity bishops carrying “crooks” to guide the imaginary sheep under their control? But, “don’t worry, Mustafa”, the “dumb sheep” believer whose cranium is filled with clay to the brim, would be happy to gulp the dung discharged by the diarrhoea infested clergy; of course, on payment till the last rupee coin with him/her is picked dry: for he or she is warned of being dumped into the bottommost part of the ever burning “seven level dungeon, the “Inferno”of Dante.
It seems, after all, COVID-19 may have its last ghoulish eerie laugh of Mephistopheles before its retreat. As things stand now, the pandemic will be ravaging humans for a long time resulting in empty pews in the vast, spacious praying areas of gargantuan churches constructed by cheating and looting the gullible. No doubt, the religious business, with no capital outlay, is the most lucrative money spinner for the clerics? In their anvil, they have forged efficacious tools to draw out the very last drop of life blood of their unsuspecting followers; they seem more heartless than Shylock. They have devised clever and cunning methods to siphon off funds from church kitty facilitated by the absence of oversight standards and accountability.
Hold your breath: despite the periodic loud wailing appeals to the Christian God, when it comes to the fury of nature, there is no escape: the upright arm of the statue of Christ installed at the pinnacle of the Kanjirappally Cathedral was knocked out by a recent thunderbolt, despite the remodelling of its Altar, at a cost exceeding Rs. 125,00,00, 000/- and the installation of a gold plated “Manichaean Persian origin “‘Clover Cross”’. In the process the aesthetically done normal cross installed in a teakwood panelled beautiful Alter was torn down.
Please have a look at the ludicrous scenario in the Kerala Catholic Church. The Chenganachery lot with their “clover cross” of Persian-Manichaean origin, say Mass with their buttocks directed at the “Holy of the Holies” and the Ernakulam – Angamaly outfit, with another “cross”, do the same thing with their behinds for the congregation to gaze at. Then, there is a Malankara sect which enjoys the best of married life and priesthood simultaneously. The other group is Latin Catholics. Each of these groups and subgroups have their Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Chancellors, plenipotentiaries, separate mansions,pastoral centres,collection centres, budgets, accountants, clerks, tax evader experts to sanctify huge briberies collected for appointments and admissions in church-run colleges, schools and other educational institutions. Various types of leaches, hangers-on, nobodies, unemployed, unemployable “vanokkies” crawl around in the labyrinth corridors of dozens of pastoral centres spread across Kerala and beyond.
If one wants to witness Christian brotherhood make an in-depth study of what happens in the corridors of pastoral centres – Leg pulling, back biting, snapping at the heels of fellow clerics, name calling, spreading canards about fellow cassock wearers, boot licking and such other “Holy” deeds have been finetuned and elevated to very sophisticated art form. (I am speaking from my experience at close quarters, rest assured).
Numerous permutations and combinations of factions and groups exist in the Kerala Churches.“Vadakkumbhagam” outfit members claim that in CE 52, their forefathers were baptised by none other than Thomas the apostle of Jesus from the gentile “Namboothiries”. It is claimed that the Namboothiries were awe-struck by some gimmicks of Thomas. Unfortunately history is not on the side of this fictitious yarn. The population of Malabar was not even Hindus in the first century of the Common Era, let alone high class Namboothiries.
It was Paul of Tarsus who recruited “gentiles” from the middle of the 40s of the first century to his brand of Christianity. His religious recruitment was limited to the confines of the Roman Empire. Then who was this “owl” (“moonga”) who flew all the way from Galilee or Jerusalem over the Arabian Sea in search of its gentile folk? After all terminological inexactitudes and forgery have been the life blood of Roman Church beginning with the “Constantine Donation.”
The “thekkumbham” a.k.a “ pure blood” — “Kananaya” fellows is another group. BothVadakkumbhagum and Thekkumbhagam fellows claim racial superiority. They may better search their genetic profile. The unraveling of their genes may give them rude shocks with the result they would be forced to hide their faces behind thick black purdah for ever. The false edifices built on wild conjecture may come crashing down burying them deep in inescapable rubble?
This writer’s understanding: we all belong to the human species Homo Sapiens who originated in the Rift Valley Africa some 200,000 years ago and migrated to various parts of the Earth during the “Great Dispersal” around 70,000 or so years ago. Another take on the subject: the Homo Sapiens inter bred with the Neanderthals who emerged in Europe some 30,000 years ago and then vanished.
The Latin Catholics were referred to as “puthuchristianies” till the recent past; they were disallowed to mingle with the snooty Syrian Christians; in the Suriani churches, they were segregated and marginalised to the far corners of the churches and referred to in derogatory terms.
What a strange creature the Kerala Catholic Church is; bishop Jossutty doesn’t like bishop Matthachen ; both envy Archbishop, called “Baby”.The Pala Catholics look down upon at Kanjirappally ones, both dislike Catholics beyond Aluva.
About the brotherhood of the Christians, the less said the better; each and every fringe group looks at the other Christian denominations with extreme hatred, bordering on madness. Each outfit claims to be the true inheritors of Jesus-cum- Christ. They fly at each other’s throats snarling all their teeth bared. One calls the other group – pagans and mad dogs. Look for charity and brotherhood in the festering court battles and ugly ferocious no-holds barred violence between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions.Above all the Christians seem to be unsure and uncertain about even the persona of Jesus Christ ; they may be utter confused of the guy they are worshiping.
For the clergy “deepastambam mahaschariam, nammu-kkum kittanam panam”(high value Gandhi notes), the oft repeated refrain of Zero clerics. After all what is the use of soul (atmavu) without a body, though the “sheep” are admonished: “lokam muzhuvan nedialum, ninte atmavu nasichal enthu gunam”. As the saying goes, the flesh near the bone feels more pain when hurt.