The Dilemma? – Varghese Pamplanil

Thank you Varghese sir for your regular striking columns. You really make this online portal more informative and thought-provoking. Love to see you sharing more and more from your store. Gently squeeze those loaded neurons and allow honey ooze out gently. Joseph Mattappally asso. editor – CCV


My dear friend Dr. James Kottoor sometimes tries to needle and  provoke me to delve into social and religious issues. It is motivated by good intentions, I am sure. Thank you James for your efforts to pick up whatever remains in the grey matter under this old man’s cranium.

My dear friend,  I am not an intellectual giant but just another ordinary person – a “half-nosed” one;  a “Lilliputian”; no oracle of Delphi. I survive because of my relative unimportance and anonymity.

As the saying goes one person’s medicine could be another person’s poison. Our judgements depend on our perceptions; our conclusions tend to be vitiated by the facts or data we come to possess. I try to analyse contradictions or dichotomies or oddities I come across. 

What stands out  galling in the domain of society, ethics and  morality is the disconnect between preaching and practice. In my view, the  moral standards on hand ought to be that can be followed by ordinary individuals.  

I am driven neither by death wish nor do I seek consciousness after death. I don’t believe that my life was pre-determined  by a super intellect. Actions and reactions happen accidentally and randomly. I do not subscribe to the theory of design by a God or deity. I think my existence is guided by the laws of nature. For me there is no sin or salvation and the purpose of life is life itself. Science, especially quantum physics,  may be able to unravel the mysteries of our universe. Genome research is on the trail of decoding life.

For me absolute truths are suspect. The claims of infallibility either by the Pope or the Ayatollah, on the face of it, is unsustainable and deserves to be dumped into the waste heap. Those who try to mould the life of others in a particular pattern may end up being pasted on the wall.

It doesn’t  matter if  one is remembered or forgotten after one’s existence. Our dear ones, relations, friends and enemies will go on living without us. Death appears to be necessary for the recalibration of  genes to cope up with the emerging paradigms of nature. 

Most of the Syro-Malabar believers seem to be gripped with guilt complex; more concerned about what would happen to their souls. The dictum I heard often in my formative years: “lokam muzhuvan nedialum, atmavu nasichal enthu gunam” — (roughly translated it means “what is the use of winning the world, if one’s soul is in peril?”). To me the idea seems absurd. In my way of  thinking, the so-called soul cannot exist without a physical body; not the other way round. Can there be a  soul without a body? I like to pose this question. 

My understanding: our senses, thoughts and actions are governed by the neurons in our brains. I am no scientist, more learned and  knowledgeable among the readers of CCV might shed light on this matter.

During the course  of my life, I could detoxify at least some of the pernicious ideas injected into  my psyche by the Church and my elders. Incidentally, I have been careful to bring up my two sons as secularists and humanists. Long ago, I gave a go-by to the prescriptions and diktats of the Church.  

I am more concerned about what happens in my backyard, i.e. my immediate neighbourhood. I like to be aware of the  happenings in the wider world. I am hardly capable of influencing them in any meaningful manner. 

In the realm of religion, the Universal Catholic Church, including the good Pope Francis, hardly impinges on my every day life; my interest in the whole matter is purely academic. But the happenings in the community around me  influence my life. My endeavour is not to step on the toes of my neighbour.

The Ecclesiastical leadership of the Church, by and large, does not  seem to be of high  intellectual calibre or of exemplary spiritual or moral acumen.  They seem to be more interested in feathering their hats and filling up their pockets. Self-aggrandisement seems to be the motto for many. The aim of many appear to be milking the faithful to the point of destitution giving rise to a suspicion that they may have a family on the sly to take care of. Some others seem to be after climbing the stairs of positions in the Church. Ordinary priests appear to be after becoming bishops, then Archbishops and further to Cardinals by means fair and foul. In the  present setup, an Indian becoming Pope is a pipe dream.

Catholic religious beliefs and practices  do not seem to converge with normal ethical and moral standards. Morality and integrity appear to have found some other niche independent of the Catholic religion.

Modern thinking seems to veer towards individuality and autonomy. If one’s actions do not harm others, one need not be concerned with externally imposed standards, except one's thoughts.  In the present day context, less interference by the State or the Church would be a better option. 

Democratic governance does not seem cost-effective. Most of the political leadership seems to emerge from the milieu of unemployed and unemployable lumpen lot. Amassing wealth for themselves and their families and occupying positions of power appear to be the agenda of a number of professional politicians of the day. Corruption and cronyism seem to be rampant. A government manned by technocrats and specialists could have been preferable. A politician should have an independent source of income to be non-corrupt. In that case they may not put their hands into the common pool of funds.

In my view so many Archbishops, Bishops, Auxiliary Bishops, Supernumerary Bishops, Chancellors, Monsignor’s,  umpteen divisions and subdivisions of the Catholic Church – Syro-Malabar, Kananaya, Malankara, Latin and other outfits – are unnecessary. Why are there so many dioceses, foranas,  parish churches, chapels, wayside shrines, grottos, collection boxes, appurtenances, attachments, statues et al? What is the purpose of the plethora of Orders, CMI, VC, OCD, SJ, Capuchin, CMC, FCC, SH, SABS, Sdb, St. Martha’s and sundry others, including Franco Mulakal’s harem, prayer groups, charismatic circus tents, and unwanted retreat centres? Add to the cost, expensive and intricate apparels to be donned by priests while  conducting Masses and other “opirukakal”. Don’t forget to include the expenses for acquiring and maintaining luxurious top-end limousines for bishops, salaries to drivers, fuel for the vehicles, payments to wallets and other hangers on, plus costs of maintaining pastoral centres, accountants and clerks to keep track of the funds whisked from the “sheep”, exorbitant expenses for conducting festivals of saints of suspect pedigree. The Zero-Malabar crowds appear to have been brainwashed from infancy to keep all these useless unproductive people in creature comforts; provide them with wine and women for free rides, young children for homosexual enjoyment and other sexual deviances and perversions. Too many Franco Mulakkals, Robin Vadakkancheries are on the loose, ever ready to pounce on nuns, minor girls and young boys. They may be handy for sexually frustrated, easy virtue and loose women. But  these sexual predators may not be in a position to distinguish decent women.

The unanswerable question is: who will pay the bills for the luxurious lifestyles of these people who do not undertake any useful work? Their stocks-in-trade are inanities which they spew  polluting the surroundings. The clerical class, by and large,  are after furthering the interests of  their kin.

The people at the bottom, the agriculturists toiling in the oozing mud under the hot sun, the cogs in the conveyor belts of production lines without pause even for relieving themselves, the   heavers of loads and fetchers of water at the base level,  are forced to carry the heavy burdens on their bare shoulders to keep the few privileged in comfort and leisure. 

In the near future even low-paying jobs may be taken over machines and robots guided by artificial intelligence and  algorithms. Human  beings may become  irrelevant,  unnecessary and redundant in developed scientific societies. The social divide may become more distorted, asymmetrical, uncourageous and skewed up.  

This is the age of expeditions to other planets. Frogs in the wells can wallow in their narrow confines and pretend that everything is goody goody.  Some countries and societies  will  march ahead; others in the grip of religious nostrums and seeking  salvation in worlds beyond their graves will lag behind. 

Covid- 19 could be the game changer exposing the utter meaninglessness of the rites of the Church called “koodassas”. People accustomed to regular church-going irrespective of rain or shine, thunder or howling winds, seem to have adjusted to the new situation of being away from large church congregations and tedious ceremonies. Nobody seems to have become nutty without having auricular confessions and receiving Holy Communion. The various saints appear to be in slumber in their allotted slots. One can walk on the streets without being assaulted by frenzied mobs shouting meaningless words. The otherwise dangerous pandemic has delivered some good – it has put an end, albeit for sometime at least – to all round madness.  

Varghese Pamplanil 

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