On 15 August 2015 India celebrates her 69th year of Independence from the British rule. This coincides with one important news in the Herald (August 7-13): – Crucial Inauguration of the Pastoral Plan in all 57 parishes and stations of the Archdiocese of Calcutta.
It’s an opportune moment for the Archdiocese of Calcutta to prepare its own report card on how free the faithful in the archdiocese are from the following bondages:
Poverty: to take stock of how the Archdiocese has fared in easing poverty in its parishes
– According to Ela Bhatt, Founder, Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA): We must recognize that poverty is violence. It is violence perpetuated with the consent of society – a society that is silent or looks the other way in the face of poverty. It is giving consent to exploitation, injustice and war. Poverty strips away a person’s dignity, humanity, it corrodes the human spirit. There is no justification for poverty in India. Poverty and violence are not God made, they are man-made. Poverty and peace cannot coexist. Doesn’t it shake up the Catholic Church’s perception: “Church of the poor, for the poor?”
Lack of basic education for all Catholics in quality missionary institutions where the Catholic student population is less than 10%, a misnomer for Minority Institutions. No wonder certain groups are considering moving court to redefine “Minority Institutions”.
Discouragement of and virtual elimination of poor meritorious Catholics from entry into Catholic institutes of higher learning due to exorbitant annual (Rs 50,000) and monthly fees (Rs 5000+) in Self-financed courses (in in St Xavier’s College).
Lack of centralised Corpus Fund to support these students. Can Lay organisations like the Catholic Association of Bengal take the lead in coming forward to raise funds to help poor children pursue their studies (admission just one aspect with many students vanishing into thin air in secondary classes) and provide financial/ material assistance to deserving and meritorious students?
Can they set up Centres of Excellence / Career Guidance / Aptitude Tests, Information and Grievance cells at the Diocese, Deanery and Parish levels, manned by professionals?
Oral hire and fire in Catholic institutions demeaning human dignity – The other day Fr. Charles Irudayam, Secretary, CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development, during his talk on Catholic Social Teaching – A Call to Social Activism, insisted that human dignity should be respected and defended by all in order to live in a peaceful society and explained the church’s concern about human rights. How does the Church bridge the yawning gap between what it preaches and what it practises? Repeated complaints of oral hire and fire have fallen on deaf ears.
Absence of Provident Fund, Medical and Retirement Benefits for employees in most Church institutions
Lack of basic healthcare particularly in rural areas – According to Dr. Mary D’ Cruz noted Diabetologist, 95% of the world suffers from health problems and therefore health is a major sector that cannot be avoided. Can we promote Preventive Healthcare (Yoga, Swimming, Physical Exercise) in all parishes to reduce overall medical expenses?
Keeping away the Laity, the fulcrum of the Church, from meaningful participation in the church, including administration & management of Catholic institutes. Will it, kicked like a football for years, find its due recognition after the launch of the Pastoral Plan?
Freedom from sycophancy considered a virtue of obedience
The church authorities’ refusal to reply to letters and emails including brazen refusal to honour written and signed undertakings
One man holding onto top archdiocesan finance position for more than two decades. Without a second line of leadership isn’t it inviting catastrophe in a crucial matter like Finance? Absolute power leads to absolute corruption.
Need-based Social Development : House-to-house survey of Catholic families to assess lack of basic human amenities, like housing, food, education, sanitation, healthcare, etc. and then draw up intervention strategy. For this creation of parish-wise family database jointly authenticated by PPC and PFC would be advisable.
If the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan is sincerely implemented across the 12 Concerns, with periodic stock-taking by joint Laity-Clergy teams, all the above loopholes can be are plugged. Only then we can say we have attained True Independence.
ISAAC HAROLD GOMES
Member ICPA & ASCC