Where are pastors with smell of sheep? Priests, Power & Profits
Note: “All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down,”(Nietzsche). That is what I thought, when, my great Archbishop Louis Mathias of holy memory told me long ago: “You have to go to Rome, become a journalist, you can become a good editor of New Leader, but first take a doctorate in Theology, so that you will not write heresies,” none of it I never dreamt of even in the wildest of my imagination.
Still I went at it “hammer and tong” like a horse with blinds to hit the target set for me because that was the “rule of the times: “blind Faith” in what your well wishing superior tells you and to gallop ahead. Yet when I wrote my longest “Editor Resigns” signing off, on a July 3rd, feast of the doubting Thomas, I was dead set not to take up the pen again to gallop ahead with renewed vigour, wondering in which direction, but not any more rooted in Faith in Faith! Which of my actions, was right?
Satyagraha and Snehagraha!
The question is first to Mani, the writer of the article below, my good friend who is very rational, logical and convincing. Are we all remote-controlled by a supreme Magician (God) who for me now is: “Satyagraha and Snehagraha” (Mad in love for truth eternal and love unending) inbuilt in every human mind and heart – so no accidents in life, only providential happenings which inscrutably drives “every dog to its logical end” – comical or tragical. Just think of the tragic comedy of the “Jalandar drama” unfolding with new twists and turns, to keep the whole world glued to the idiot box called TV these days.
CCV Salutes to Raped Nun & her friends!
But who should get the top credit for unleashing a ground swell of revolution in bold thinking and questioning among the ‘blind believers and followers’ of the clergy’ in the Church? The hero is the Raped Nun, and the five nuns who took the bold decision to step out into the streets to do a sit-in strike. The villains are first the hierarchical class, second the Superior in the Nun’s congregation, third her diocese which censured the sister and fourth politicians of all parties — all time servers — as none of them had the courtesy or the courage to shows up at the protest site.
These Sisters made history for the whole world of Christian, unchristian, unbelievers and atheists and set a shining, towering example for the rest of the world to follow. Why? Because, if the so-called Catholic Church (It is ghetto, through and through) still has a good name and glorious image all over the world, it is solely thanks to the self-emptying, slavish work of these sisters (Nuns) all over the world, top among them Mother Teresa. But the hierarchical class arrogate to themselves all the credit for themselves and revel in pomp, princely comfortable living and appearing in public like peacocks in attire, to attract attention without doing anything worthwhile. Bp. Mulakkal seems to have become their hero, and ‘Shame’ for the laity.
Persons fit for job only!
All questions raised by the writer Mani, in addition to our firm conviction are that only persons fit for the post should be considered for being appointed as Pastor/Bishop, that is, ones with the “smell of the sheep.” Judged by that rule, it seems the vast majority of Indian Bishops are unfit, since none spoke up for the exploited nun. So all with the flair for making profit, burying truth with dead silence or lies repeated ad nauseam to outwit even any “lie detecting test”? That highlights how exploited and trampled under foot were the Nuns and in them flames of TRUTH ETERNAL and LOVE INCARNATE AND UNDYING, by cover ups of sexual crimes and financial loot indulged in by our revered bishops.
I don’t have any other answers to give to help liberate the many who are caught in the stinking prison called ‘the Catholic Church’. That is why I still call myself a “Know-nothing.” Hence my request to all ‘Know-somethings’, and ‘Know-alls” – starting from simple people, priests, bishops and very highly placed with hot lines to the heavens to come to my help for right answers. james kottoor, editor Church Citizens' Voice.
Please read below the article by Joseph Mani
Whenever a scandal or scam among the clergy comes to light, the apologists for the Church point out that a few rotten apples do not make the whole basket of apples rotten. They point out that for every Father Abraham Varghese, for every Bishop Franco Mulakkal and for every Cardinal Theodore McCarrick there are ten priests, bishops and cardinals who live exemplary lives dedicated to the service of God and man.
They are absolutely right. I have never believed that anecdotal evidence is a sufficiently strong base to make a generalization. If episodic evidence was sufficient, we should believe in astrology and superstitions and that God answers prayer because people can quote tens of cases where an astrologer’s prediction or a superstitious belief has come true and a person has been cured of cancer in answer to prayer. We do not take these anecdotes as proof because we know of hundreds of other cases where an astrologer’s prediction and a superstitious belief have not come true and where even a million Hail Marys had no effect whatsoever. So the Church apologists are right in asking us not to go by a few isolated cases.
Every time a clergyman is caught with his pants down (literally) or with his hand in the till we clamour for his scalp. Giving an exemplary punishment to an erring cleric may be necessary, but this is no permanent solution. How many bishops and cardinals can Pope Francis ask to step aside? For every Mulakkal and Allencherry that the Pope defrocks, five others will crop up or will be unearthed. The Pope will spend the remaining years of his papacy chasing erring clergymen with a stick.
If we want misbehaviuor by the clergy to stop, we need to look at the possible causes or circumstances which lead to the wrong doing.
We have had plenty of sex scandals among the clergy. In this article I would like to deal with the financial scandals among them, not focusing on any specific case but on the root cause. I suggest two possible causes, and offer it as a hypothesis to explain why the clergy indulge in financial irregularities.
The financial misdeeds by the clergy are because of two reasons 1) The Edifice Complex which many in the clergy seem to be suffering from and 2) The Secularization of the religious vocation. Let us take these one by one.
The Edifice Complex
Soon after a new Parish Priest takes charge, one of his first thoughts seems to be “What can I build now?” He builds a convent because he needs some nuns to take care of church services. Once a few nuns come, they find they do not have enough work to occupy themselves. So a school is built which the nuns run. A school needs children and children have be delivered. Soon a hospital is built with a large maternity ward. More and more land is bought and more and more buildings are constructed. Before you know it, your Parish Priest has become more of a real estate developer than a shepherd of souls. You seldom find him in the parish, he is more likely to be found at the sub-registrar’s office or at a construction site.
And the priest looks at everything he has built and he finds it very good.If the convent, school and hospital already exist, the Edifice Complex urges the priest to expand the existing church building or even demolish it and build a larger and grander church, even when the number of church attendees is coming down and this vast space will be used only for a few hours in a week.
Then there is the insistence on having our own church. Periodically there are conflicts among Malayalee Catholic groups outside Kerala – one group wants to continue with the Latin-rite church while another group wants a new Syro Malabar-rite church though both belong to the same Roman Catholic Church. To paraphrase Woody Allen: If a time comes when there are just two Syro Malabar Catholics in the city, one would turn to the other and say “I want to build a separate Syro Malabar Cnana Catholic Church.”
We spend a few million of people’s money on building a new “Dwelling Place for the Lord” when millions of the Lord’s children have no dwelling place. A Supreme Court appointed panel has found that more than 90% of the urban poor in India have no roof over their head. An NSSO survey has shown that about 80% of the rural poor households and 60% of urban poor in India have less living space per person than mandated for a prison cell. More than a million of God’s children live in the Dharavi slum in Mumbai alone and many of them go to bed hungry including children.
The 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index released by the UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative says that about 1.3 billion people in the world live in multidimensional poverty. That is more than the whole Catholic population of the world. ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018’ report says that more than 50% of the world’s “wasted children” (child underweight for his/her height) and more than 30% of the world’s “stunted children” (child shorter than his/her age) are in India.
Given this grim picture, are we justified in spending millions to build a palace for the Lord? It is as if the priests and bishops are telling the poor “You are welcome to sleep under bridges, on railway platforms and even on footpaths where you may get mowed down by rich kids and drunken celebrities in their fancy cars. But this simple Galilean who, we have told you, was born in a manger and the saints of the Church need a palatial house.”
“Thank God, we need a bigger church, how much can you people contribute?” How often have not heard this from the pulpit? The church or cathedral is built with people’s money. But once it is built and functioning, the people who are co-owners have practically no say in its running. The priest and the bishop treat it as their personal property. The parishioners who gave their hard earned money to the priest do not even get a discount when they want the priest to say a Mass-for-the dead.
It is nice to have architectural monuments, but should our priests and bishops be the modern-day Pharaohs and Shah Jahans? Did they receive holy orders to become construction engineers?
If the priest spends all his time going from house to house, place to place, country to country to collect crores for his new palatial church and supervising its construction, where will he have the time to feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are naked, console those who are sick and visit those who are in prison? I agree that ministering to the poor does not bring in the moolah. But isn’t it what Jesus wanted all Christians, specially his ordained ministers, to do?
(I have dealt with and suggested alternatives to this ‘church-building’ mania among the clergy in greater detail in my book BEYOND GODS AND SCRIPTURES, p. 135 ff).
I heard about a priest who would study the city plan 5 to 10 years from now; find a remote place where a railway station, government hospital or other infrastructure projects are planned in the future which the farmers in that area are not aware of; he would buy large tracts of land there dirt cheap; once the project comes up, land value shoots up; the priests sells, makes a 100-fold profit and moves on to the next site. This priest is highly admired in his diocese because he has mastered the art of making money in real estate.
Why should a cardinal be spending his time in buying and selling land and constructing buildings which is the job of the real estate developer and the civil engineer?
Obviously because there is a lot of money in it. But did he don the cassock to make money? There is a saying in Malayalam that if a family has an elephant or a priest, the family’s fortune is made. Families with elephants have almost disappeared, but some families with priests are thriving and if he is a bishop, the sky is the limit.Related to and combined with the Edifice Complex is the next factor.
Secularization of Religious Vocation
Look at the irony: The Church bemoans that there are so few vocations these days. Seminaries are closing down because there are few takers. Many are called but most do not want to be chosen. These few who agree to be chosen take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and spend many years in a seminary studying philosophy, theology, Church history, pastoral care, cannon law and rubrics, and then they spend the rest of their lives in book keeping, teaching mathematics or in real estate business.
Let me give some actual examples to illustrate this point. A priest is the Financial Controller of the diocese when a lay person with a CA can do a better job. I once met a former parish priest. He is now posted at the Bishop’s House looking after the diocese’s properties. Another priest claimed that he was the greatest Cannon Law expert in the country, but during the two hours my wife and I were in his office he spent most of his time sorting out the administrative problems of the diocesan scholarship scheme.
There are priests in many cities whose primary occupation is organizing pilgrimage-tours to Europe and the Holy Land. There is a convent in Chennai. There are 9 Sisters in this convent. One is in her late nineties and blind. Of the remaining 8 nuns, 3 are full-time occupied shuttling between the convent and the Railway Station and Airport receiving and seeing off nuns coming from other convents in India and abroad. These nuns joined this Congregation to minister to the poor and the destitute and ended up as taxi operators!
In July 2018 there was a news item that one Fr. Richard D’Souza, a Jesuit priest of Indian origin and his Michigan team have found evidence of a lost galaxy, a sibling of our Milky Way, which had been gobbled up by our neighbor Andromeda billions of years ago. Great astronomical find and kudos to Fr. D’Souza. I wonder if this Jesuit is an astronomer who happened to be a priest or a priest who happened to be an astronomer. Priesthood and astronomy are full-time professions. Was Fr. D’Souza working full time at his computer and peering through his telescope and only moonlighting as a priest? If so what a waste of his priestly vocation and training!
It is true that cardinals, bishops and priests do spend a few hours in a week in ceremonies and rituals which are mostly meaningless pomp and show in any case. But many of them spend the bulk of their time in purely secular pursuits.
Many years ago the Carmelites appointed a lay person as the Director of Rajagiri College in Kerala; the Jesuits have recently appointed a non-Catholic as the Principal of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Others should follow. Why should priests and nuns spend their lives running schools and colleges in metros which are mostly catering to the privileged?
Soon after Independence, Nehru knew that private industrialists would not be interested in starting infrastructure projects which require huge investments and have long gestation periods. So he built massive PSUs, “Temples of Modern India”. Now we realize that the business of government is not business and are going for disinvestment of PSUs. Similarly a century ago no one was interested in spreading education. The Christian missionaries took the initiative to build schools and colleges. And they did a great job. But today there are others who can do as good or even a better job.
Certainly the ‘missionary’ schools and colleges are some of the better ones. But not necessarily the best ones. The IITs, NITs, IIMs and IISc are not rum by priests and nuns. Are the alumni of Christian institutions imbued with nobler values? Is there any evidence that those who have studied and passed out from Christian educational institutions are better human beings, more charitable, less corrupt and less power-hungry than those from institutions run by the Krishnamurti Foundation or the Ramakrishna Mission?
I agree that the religious congregations who run educational institutions are doing a good job. My point is that there are others who can do an equally good job. More important, these others will not be inclined to do the work for which religious people took their vows. Do priests and nuns believe that they can pass on the message of Jesus better through the binomial theorem than by ministering to the poor?
It is true that running a prestigious school or college does mean a lot of money and a lot of power. But is it for money and power that they became priests and nuns?
Power corrupts and when power is combined with a lot of money there is the temptation to be financially corrupt. There is a saying “If the box is open, even a saint will steal.” So if the Church wants to weed out financial corruption among the clergy, it should remove priests, bishops and cardinals from all secular occupations and make them concentrate on spiritual service, unless the secular occupation is in the service of the poor and the marginalized who have no one else to come to their aid. I know of priests and nuns who do this and I salute them. Except in such cases let Caesar’s people look after Caesar’s job and God’s ministers look after God’s work. It is not enough to pray “Lead us not into temptation”, the Church should remove the temptation.
But may be priests, bishops and cardinals do not want the temptation to be removed. Money and power are addictions and they do not want to be de-addicted. If the laity complain and criticize, the clergy can always claim it is the work of the enemies of God (anyone who criticizes the Church and its ministers is an enemy of God).
Does not the New Testament say that the enemies of God will heap calumny and persecution on the Church’s ministers? They take the criticism by ‘the enemies of God’ as a sign of God’s approval of what they are doing as a preacher on Goodness TV claimed on July 31, 2018. So make money and be glorified for it!
I shall appreciate your comments.