DEAFENING SOUND OF SILENCE!
By George Nedumparambil
Back in September 2018 a group of 5 nuns sat in protest at Kochi’s Vanchi Square in response to Church’s non-action against Bishop Franco Mullakkal who was accused of having raped one of their colleagues on several occasion. The sit-in was an historical first as never in the history of Catholic Church had such a thing happened.
Vanchi means a country craft in Malayalam. The word ‘square’ is a misnomer for the location. It is at best a rectangular shaped open space by the side of a building with a wall on the road facing side carrying a built-in shape of a country craft. It is not big. It could perhaps hold 200 persons at a time. It is a favorite location for all kinds of protests in this part of Kerala which facilitates people to come, sit for some time to express solidarity with the cause, listen to a speaker and even make an impromptu speech of one’s own and then leave.
Thousands may come and go like this during the day whenever a day long protest is held. All through the days this was the scene at sisters’ sit sin. This writer went over thrice. Malayalam T.V. channels maintained live coverage. Many public figures visited, notable among being a retired High Court judge, a couple of Catholic priests, clergy representing other branches of Christianity, Hindus and Muslims and celebrities from the small and big screen. Notable absentees were mainstream Catholics barring a few!!
What could have stopped the ordinary Catholics from expressing open support to the nuns? At this juncture one needs to contrast the scene at the jail where Franco was jailed for a short period. Many prominent figures such as bishops and politicians went to visit him on daily basis. Some even organized daily prayers in front of jail. One politician (he is no more living) had no qualm in coming on the small screen declaring that it was Christian duty to visit prisoners. What he did not mention was that Jesus had also qualified that duty by adding “to the least of my brethren”. By any reckoning Franco could not have been the “least”.
The “least” were sitting at Vanchi Square where none of these guys as much as bothered to take a fleeting glance at. Jesus was always with the least, the neglected, marginalized and the downtrodden. He had least respect for the clergy clan of his times. It is mind boggling to find that many chose to ignore Christ and turned their back on these hapless sisters. Why? Why do the believers fear the establishment as represented by the clergy class so mortally so as to cause a deafening sound of silence?
The various Sacraments invented by the clergy and drilled into the minds of the believers could be one of the major reasons that scared the believers to stay away. The Catholic community in Kerala, who are otherwise vocal and outspoken in their criticism of political authorities, be it State or Central, for the most part wasn’t ready yet to do the same to their Church. They hold dear to their heart and mind and believe that these Sacraments are for observing and they guarantee a sure passage to God after death. There is no way a Catholic in Kerala would be ready to forego Baptism to his child, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, a Church wedding and ultimately a burial in the church cemetery.
Their counterparts in the West for the most part have relegated these niceties to the realm of optionals in the living out of one’s time on this planet. So, Catholic community in Kerala, though many are troubled by the handling of the “nun-affair” by church, are not yet ready to express their feelings openly so as not attract the wrath of the clergy falling on them.
Old Friend Devil & His Abode called Hell
In a way the church should be grateful to their old friend, devil. He is the one who holds the church intact. Just listen to any talk by a charismatic priest. If he mentions Jesus 10 times in a one hour talk the devil will walk away with the honor of getting mention 20 times. Catholics are brainwashed into believing the real possibilities of ending up in hell where they will burn for eternity. Catholics’ mindset, I am afraid, have evolved into a strange psychology whereby he believes that his sole purpose of living is to keep himself away from devil and ending up at his abode.
It doesn’t matter if one does not end up in heaven but by no means hell. As a result, nobody is as yet ready to hurt any of the alter egos of Christ, the self-proclaimed living Christ, the priestly clan. If Satan had not been invented, the church would have been history long ago. It is this chap that keeps the faith alive. Sometimes I wonder why church, ever so innovative in making money, is not installing a statue of devil in a corner inside the church and teaching the believers that all contributions received in the box kept below will go towards various Satan-eradication initiatives and then quietly pocket the money.
Wrath of the Church
Sr. Lizzy and Sr. Lucy are two classic examples of how wrath of church plays out in action. The former is reported to be a charismatic nun who used to even given talks to bishops and priests. She has been benched. Her crime, she spoke against Franco and supported the sit-in sisters. Sr. Lucy a popular teacher and reported to be loved by all has received the marching order for the same crime as Sr. Lizzy.
Fellow Catholics, it is time that you discarded your lethargy and manifested Jesus in action by speaking out in favour of these two sisters and asking for justice for them. Your sound of silence is very deafening indeed.