Wednesday, 17 July 2019

REAL ESTATE BROKERS, MIDDLEMEN CALL THE SHOTS IN CHURCH

Clergy should stop acting like kings, come down from their ivory towers and walk with the poor and downtrodden

Catholic Church in Kerala (India) has fallen into the money trap. Church and clergy are running after money, power and position. Dioceses and parishes are rolling in money. They are buying land, renovating buildings and constructing multi-crore churches. Middlemen and brokers are calling the shots in bishop’s houses. The craze for mammon has brought church to a perilous state. Believers are perplexed and stumped, watching the spectacle with consternation and trepidation. Real estate brokers and middlemen are calling the shots in the church.
Bishops and priests – including independent congregations -- want to control the accumulating money, land and institutions. They are not ready to give up their claims. On the contrary, they want more power and live a life king size. Each diocese is a kingdom where the bishop acts like a king. Bishop and the curia (administration) do whatever they want with the money collected from the believers who always remain in the dark. Money is diverted. Taxes are not paid properly. Duty evasion is rampant, especially in land transfer.

This was going on in a brazen manner in several dioceses but never came out in the open. That’s until it happened in Ernakulam-Angamally diocese in Kerala where land was sold at the whims and fancies of some curia members. Money is lost. Church didn’t get the full money. Middleman and broker took everyone for a royal ride. Church is now sharply divided in Kochi – church headed by Cardinal Alencherry and his backers on one side and priests who oppose him on the other side. Catholic church is going the European way. Satan has tightened the grip.
Syro Malabar Catholic church needs to undergo glasnost and perestroika – that too asap. Otherwise, we will witness an outflow of believers from the church.
1.Church should cut down the financial powers of bishops and priests. Let a body of clergy and laity take decisions on financial matters.
2.A committee comprising experts, including clergy, should take decisions on financial matters. There should be complete transparency in decision making. Laity should be informed of the decisions.
3. Dioceses and parishes should put a ban on building multi-crore opulent church edifices, five-star hospitals, engineering colleges and medical colleges. Use this money to build houses for the poor and help children from poor families or fund their healthcare needs.
4. Bishops and priests should only concentrate on spiritual matters… not on buying land, accumulating bank balances and building palatial churches and institutions. They should come down from their ivory towers and walk with the poor and downtrodden. In short, clericalism must end.
Currently, actions by bishops and dioceses are opaque and authoritarian. This must end lest the land mess in Kochi will repeat elsewhere. The High Court recently came down heavily on Cardinal Alencherry, head of the church, and asked whether the "Cardinal is the King.” Yes, there are several kings in the church today.
Church in Europe was once vibrant and contributed maximum to its growth nearly 100 years ago. They later digressed, constructed huge church edifices in every nook and corner across the continent and started “celebrations” instead of evangelization and mission work. The fall was faster and steeper. European churches started declining in the middle of last century and they are in a pathetic stage now with huge edifices abandoned and believers deserting them.
Clergy must stop running after land, buildings, expensive cars, luxurious life, buildings and bickering over liturgy. It should not remain a toll-house. Church should not end up as a museum.
They must also stop extravagant feast celebrations which have turned out to be a money spinning exercise for the church. Church needs good governance and transparency. This is sorely lacking now.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

PREACHERS TARGETED


 Cyber warriors have started targeting Christian preachers in Kerala. The persecution of preachers by these spiritual mountebanks, also comprising atheists, agnostics and non-believers, is by spreading canards and lies about them with the only intention of stopping evangelization.    

 It’s the work of devil. These persecutors have now started campaigning against preachers to prevent them from conducting prayer meetings and sermons in different parts of the world. They have launched nasty and obnoxious campaigns against preachers like Rev Fr Dominic Valamanal, Rev Fr Xavier Khan Vattayil and Rev Fr Daniel Poovannathil, making abominable and cheap comments through Facebook and Twitter.   

 The main argument of these cyber warriors: these preachers said diseases like autism, cancer and mental disorders are caused by the sins of their parents and forefathers. Now they are trying to stop preachers from getting visa to visit some countries.

 Why these warriors are running a campaign against preachers. These men of God spoke the truth. Nobody wants to hear the truth. Devil is guiding these warriors to stop the work of God. “The sins of you and your parents and forefathers will influence you. If you sin, you will get punishment… not only that the sins of your forefathers will affect you. You will also face failures in life as a consequence of your sins,” says Rev Fr James Manjackal.  

 Sirach (Ecclesiastics) 38:15 says, “he who sins before his Maker, may he fall into the care of a physician.” Bible is very clear about the consequences of sins. Quoting several examples of people who came to him for counselling, Rev Fr Manjackal says many of them led a sinful life – from prostitution, pornography, homosexual life and violation of first commandment.    

 The response of people in Kerala to the Word of God is not proper even though there are a number of retreat centres and preachers. Many people visit the retreat centre for physical healing and not for spiritual healing or to become a born-again Christian. Rev Fr Manjackal says he was persecuted by some people in Kerala for preaching the Word of God, forcing him to relocate to Europe.

 John the Baptist was beheaded for speaking the truth. Jesus Christ was crucified for speaking the truth. Similarly, some of the Malayalis in Kerala and abroad don’t want preachers who speak the truth – the true Word of God. They campaign against such preachers in Facebook and Twitter. They try to get the visa and tour programs of these preachers cancelled. They don’t want the truth to be told.

 Who is working behind such godawful characters? 1 John 3:8 says, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”  Whether you’re a Christian or non-Christian, you will have to face the consequences of sin, Rev Fr Manjackal says.

 These days, devil worship is common is major cities in Kerala. The number of people who practice non-Christian activities like yoga and reiki is increasing. Even some priests and nuns practice yoga and reiki which are incompatible with Christianity.

 Romans 2:9 says, “there will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil.” Rev Fr Manjackal says there’s a connection between sin and disease.

 Read Mark 2:3-12. “Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. However, some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The paralysed man was healed when Jesus forgave his sins, but teachers of the law who were present there, protested. Some of the Malayalis are now behaving like these teachers of law. 

Sunday, 5 May 2019

CHRISTIAN MONITOR: Persecution of Christians 'coming close to genocid...

CHRISTIAN MONITOR: Persecution of Christians 'coming close to genocid...:  Millions uprooted from homes, says UK-commissioned report, with many jailed and killed From The Guardian  Pervasive persecution of ...

Persecution of Christians 'coming close to genocide'

 Millions uprooted from homes, says UK-commissioned report, with many jailed and killed

From The Guardian
 Pervasive persecution of Christians, sometimes amounting to genocide, is ongoing in parts of the Middle East, and has prompted an exodus in the past two decades, according to a report commissioned by the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
Millions of Christians in the region have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against, the report finds. It also highlights discrimination across south-east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and in east Asia – often driven by state authoritarianism.
“The inconvenient truth,” the report finds, is “that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians”.
Some of the report’s findings will make difficult reading for leaders across the Middle East who are accused of either tolerating or instigating persecution. The Justice and Development (AK) party of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, for instance, is highlighted for denigrating Christians.
Hunt described the interim report – published on Thursday, based on a review led by the bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen – as “truly sobering”, especially since it came as “the world was seeing religious hatred laid bare in the appalling attacks at Easter on churches across Sri Lanka, and the devastating attack on two mosques in Christchurch”.
Hunt, an Anglican, has made the issue of Christian persecution one of the major themes of his foreign secretaryship. “I think we have shied away from talking about Christian persecution because we are a Christian country and we have a colonial past, so sometimes there’s a nervousness there,” he said. “But we have to recognise – and that’s what the bishop’s report points out very starkly – that Christians are the most persecuted religious group.”
He added: “What we have forgotten in this atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet. In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%.”
“We’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians. I think not just the bishop of Truro’s report but obviously what happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday has woken everyone up with an enormous shock.”
The interim report is designed to set out the scale of the persecution and a final report in the summer will set out how the British Foreign Office can do more to raise awareness of the issue.
The report shows that a century ago Christians comprised 20% of the population in the Middle East and north Africa, but since then the proportion has fallen to less than 4%, or roughly 15 million people.
In the Middle East and north Africa, the report says, “forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century.
“In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage. In Saudi Arabia there are strict limitations on all forms of expression of Christianity including public acts of worship. There have been regular crackdowns on private Christian services. The Arab-Israeli conflict has caused the majority of Palestinian Christians to leave their homeland. The population of Palestinian Christians has dropped from 15% to 2%.”
The report identifies three drivers of persecution: political failure creating a fertile ground for religious extremism; a turn to religious conservatism in countries such as Algeria and Turkey; and institutional weaknesses around justice, the rule of law and policing, leaving the system open to exploitation by extremists.
The report says: “The rise of hate speech against Christians in state media and by religious leaders, especially in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, has compromised the safety of Christians and created social intolerance.”
In findings that may pose difficulties for the UK as it seeks to build relations across the Middle East, the report states: “In some cases the state, extremist groups, families and communities participate collectively in persecution and discriminatory behaviour. In countries such as Iran, Algeria and Qatar, the state is the main actor, where as in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt both state and non-state actors, especially religious extremist groups, are implicated.”
“In 2017 a total of 99 Egyptian Christians were killed by extremist groups, with 47 killed on Palm Sunday in Tanta and Alexandria. Egyptian Christians were continuously targeted by extremist groups during 2017 and 2018.
“Arrest, detention and imprisonment are common in Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. For example in the course of six days before Christmas 2018, 114 Christians were arrested in Iran with court cases left pending as a form of intimidation. Though most cases in Iran involve converts, indigenous Christians such as Pastor Victor, an Assyrian Christian, with his wife, Shamiram Issavi, have also been targeted and imprisoned.”
It also highlights how states, and state-sponsored social media, sometimes incite hatred and publish propaganda against Christians, especially in Iran, Iraq and Turkey. “The governing AK party in Turkey depicts Christians as a ‘threat to the stability of the nation’. Turkish Christian citizens have often been stereotyped as not real Turks but as western collaborators.”
In Saudi Arabia, the report says, school textbooks “teach pupils religious hatred and intolerance towards non-Muslims, including Christians and Jews”.
The report says freedom of religious belief can also act as a means of helping those suffering gender discrimination, since there is clear evidence that female Christians suffer disproportionately.
Defending the claim of genocide, the report says: “The level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”
The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of “the sword” or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines. An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of church buildings and other church symbols.
“The killing and abduction of clergy represented a direct attack on the church’s structure and leadership. Where these and other incidents meet the tests of genocide, governments will be required to bring perpetrators to justice, aid victims and take preventative measures for the future. The main impact of such genocidal acts against Christians is exodus.”
Referring to the universal declaration of human rights, the report concludes: “The challenge that faces us at the beginning of the 21st century is not that we need to fight for a just legal system, it is rather that to our shame, we have abjectly failed to implement the best system that women and men have yet devised to protect universal freedoms.”
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Tuesday, 22 January 2019

WHAT THE CHURH SYNOD FORGOT TO DECIDE


The Permanent Synod of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church forgot to discuss and decide many things recently.
 The Synod, after its meeting last week, came up with a detailed set of guidelines to ensure “discipline” within the church. This was part of the circular on the decisions of the Synod issued by the church head, Cardinal George Alencherry. The Synod, the highest decision making body of the church, stated that the tendency to challenge disciplinary action with the help of the media and anti-church groups can’t be entertained. Rightly so.
 However, as usual, the Synod closed its eyes on many things. It remained silent on transparency in its financial and property dealings, costly construction activities, black money dealings and many more things. These issues dog many dioceses and parishes. Ideally, the Synod should have asked dioceses and bishops to observe the following things:

1. Strictly ban black money and cash dealings in church matters: Many dioceses still indulge black money dealings, especially to get permission for licences from government authorities and keep politicians on their side. This must stop. Black money is shelled out even for permission to build churches and acquire land. Do we need it?

2. Stop taking donations and cash for admissions and appointments in church institutions: The evil idea of taking money for admission and appointment in church institutions was rampant earlier. Though it has come down of late, this menace still continues in some places. Wealthy persons who can shell out money gain in the process, leaving poor in the lurch. The Synod forgot about this.

3. Ban construction of palatial and expensive church buildings. There should be a limit on the cost of construction: Construction of costly churches and institutions has become a big issue. Parishes across India are demolishing and reconstructing multi-crore, palatial churches. They collect money from poor people to build magnificent buildings. For whom? This money could be used for other productive purposes like building home for weaker sections or supporting the poor financially, but Synod doesn’t care about it.

4.  Dioceses should publish the accounts every year:  Each paise should be accounted for and taxes should be paid. However, there’s a lingering doubt whether dioceses are showing the full income and expenditure in their account books and tax returns. No tax is paid on cash transactions. It’s tantamount to robbing the government. Dioceses should publish their audited balance sheet without fail every year. If a plot is being sold, pay the proper tax and make the full disclosure.

5. Curia of each diocese should consult laity/ pastoral councils before taking major administrative and financial decisions: Church curia takes decisions – mostly foolish – without applying their mind. All decisions are taken secretively without informing the laity. Curia should consult experts and take permission from laity bodies or pastoral councils before executing major decisions.

6. Church should stop the practice of wealth accumulation and use its resources to help financially weaker sections: The main problem of the church – be it Catholic or Orthodox or Jacobite – is that the power of mammon has taken control of the church. There’s a huge tendency to accumulate wealth and build institutions. In the process, the mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present. Synod should bring in an evangelical fervour instead of the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence in our parishes.
 Dioceses and parishes are rolling in money. They are buying land, renovating buildings and constructing multi-crore churches. Middlemen and brokers are calling the shots in bishop’s houses. The craze for mammon has brought church to a perilous state. Believers are perplexed and stumped, watching the spectacle with consternation and trepidation. Synod must stop the hunger for money, land and institutions.

7. Dismantle clericalism: This initiative has to come from Vatican.  Clericalism is at the root of most of the problems troubling the Catholic Church. It has often led to sacramental blackmails in the church which are suppressed within its four walls. Clericalism is breeding a kind of mentality that revels in ecclesiastical ambition, status and power. For some, especially those attracted to the episcopacy, it often leads to indifference toward the experiences and needs of ordinary Catholics. It encourages the creation of teachings and regulations worked out in ivory-tower isolation from the real world.

8. Take immediate action when reports about sexual misconduct surface in the church. This doesn’t happen now. Many dioceses recently tried to save the offenders instead of taking action. This is not done.



Wednesday, 26 December 2018

YEAR-END MUSINGS: Mammon rules the world… devil is tightening the grip


YEAR-END MUSINGS:

Mammon rules the world… devil is tightening the grip

 Yet another year passes by. The scramble continues. The mad rush for wealth, power and position continues. Everyone is in a hurry to conquer some material things in the world. It’s money and position that matter for most people. The unsatiated demand for wealth is driving people to new vistas, new areas and new ideas, while trampling down others in the process. Mammon rules the world and devil is tightening the grip.
 People are chasing money as if wealth is going to disappear from the earth. They want more and more money. Nothing satisfies them. They might have amassed wealth that can last for ten generations. Even then they want more. Yes, money makes the world go around. We forget the fact that Jesus Christ was born in manger. Born poor. Our Saviour had the simplest and humblest birth.  
  What we have seen, in most cases, is that people who amass huge wealth are unable to enjoy even one per cent of it during their lifetime. It goes to others. They forget the fact that man is mortal. Nothing is permanent in this world. They forget the fact they are not going to live beyond 100 years.
  They challenge the creator, Almighty God, in the process. They think money can buy anything, but forget the story of the rich man in the bible who wanted to make more money. Jesus told people in this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.  He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
 In another place, Jesus told a young man who wanted to follow him, “If you want to be perfect, then go and sell all that you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me!”  But when the young man heard Jesus tell him to give away his money, he was sad. He didn’t want to do this, because he was very rich. So he left.
 The bottom line is: share the wealth. Don’t keep the wealth that we accumulate to ourselves. Give it to the poorest of the poor in this world. As Mother Teresa once said, “give away your wealth until it hurts you.”
  The phenomenon of amassing of wealth is visible in all the religions. Even churches and various Christian denominations work hard to amass wealth. They build palatial buildings, institutions and roll in money. Baby Jesus Christ in the manger is conveniently forgotten. The world has become too commercial and a throw-away consumer culture has gripped the people.
 Yes, money is everything. Mammon rules the world. We want to make more and more money. Buy houses, properties and material things. Kingdom of God is far away.
 Life goes on and on. Bible is ignored. Jesus teachings are ignored. Race to acquire wealth, position and power continues. Remember, nothing in this world is permanent or indefinite.

Monday, 10 December 2018

What does it mean when bible says 'Believe in Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved'?

What does it mean when bible says 'Believe in Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved'?

St Paul says, "Believe in Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved." What does it mean?

My dear brothers and sisters, please read:

To be saved means turning away from a life that is focused solely upon ourselves. It means giving up the obsession with our needs, our wants, our pleasures, our comforts, our importance, our egos, and our power. If my world is nothing but me only, God won't get into our life.

It's all about unconditional love -- towards your brothers, sisters, neighbours, everyone. Being saved from also means being saved from destructive patterns of life -- things that destroy us instead of build us up. 

It's turning away from alcohol, drugs, sexual misuse and abuse, intolerance, lust for power, calumny, jealousy, gluttony, pursuit of money at the expense of others, and so forth. We think it's ok to do it. No. 

It's also about tithing and using your assets to help the poor.  

Last but not the least is repentance and reparation. That's the bottom line.

IN short, it's about following what Jesus taught us. Believing means doing what Jesus told us to do. It's not parroting just the scriptures and refusing to do it. Execute it. 

Even devil knows that if you believe in Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. 

So think and act.

Monday, 16 April 2018

TRANSFER CONTROL OF CHURCH ASSETS FROM BISHOPS TO TRUSTS.


With infighting and mismanagement of church assets by bishops and priests becoming the order of the day, maybe it’s time to enact the Church Act and transfer the power to control the assets to trusts which in turn will report to a commissioner who will be appointed by the government.
Priests and bishops have started fighting for land and wealth donated by believers who, in turn, are completely perplexed and without any control over the money donated to the church. The Kerala Christian Church Properties and Institutions Trust Bill which was drafted in 2009 by the Kerala Law Reforms Committee will bring an end to the infighting for money and land to a great extent.
Bishops and priests who are now hankering for power, position and money will have to engage in full-time in spiritual work if the proposed Act is passed in the Assembly. There will be a three-tier structure to control all the assets – parish level, diocesan level and state level – of the church. Trustees elected from believers will manage the affairs with Managing Trustee to oversee the affairs at the three levels. Bishops won’t have any individual power over assets of the church.
While the proposed Bill doesn't mention about individual congregations like CMI or Jesuits, even their assets should be under the Trusts -- fourth level -- with laity having a say in their affairs.
However, no government has presented it to the state legislative house or the parliament. The result: bishops and dioceses are acting at their whims and fancies. They are busy building super hospitals, medical colleges, shopping malls and engineering colleges. There’s no transparency in their activities at the diocesan level and no one knows where and how the money is coming from and going.  
Several laity groups had recently protested against the claim by Cardinal Alencherry, head of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church -- in connection with the multi-crore land scam under the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese -- that the Church properties come under the ownership of the Pope and not the public. The core issue of corruption and the present mess in the church rests with canon law, which allows concentration of all powers — judicial, legislative and executive — with the bishops, giving them absolute powers even in temporal matters. Shady land deals have been reported in Kozhikode, Kollam and Wayanad districts where Church properties were sold without the knowledge of believers as well as priests.
The proposed Church Act will require lot of modifications in the current format. There will be stiff opposition from the church against the Act. Govt needs to initiate discussions with the church to arrive at a mutually agreeable structure.

WHAT THE ACT SAYS
The proposed Act (Kerala Christian Church Properties and Institutions Trust Bill) recommends three tiers of Trusts – at the parish level, diocese level and state level.
Parish level: On the basis of the number of families in the parish, seven Trustees including the Managing Trustee for a parish Trust Assembly having families within a hundred number, and thereafter three more Trustees for each additional hundred families and part thereof should be elected.
Diocese level: The Diocese Trust Assembly should elect the Diocesan Managing Trustee and the Trustees and three Internal Auditors. 25 Trustees should be elected in the Diocesan Trust.
State level: Three internal auditors and 101 Trustees should be elected in the Trust of the State Trust Level. The State level Christian Charitable Trust should consist of the Major Archbishop or Head of the Church as its chairman and 10 members elected by each of the Diocese Trust.
The Act says Christian Charitable Trusts should manage all the assets and properties of the Trust and collect and receive all income therefrom, all money received by the Trusts by way of contributions from the parishioners and donations to the church, sums of money realized by way of loans, sale, exchange etc., of immovable and movable properties.
Trusts should manage any other sum received by or on behalf of the church from any person or persons. The Trustee Committee should defray all reasonable expenses in relation to the management and administration of the Trust.
There should be a Church Commissioner for supervising the functions of the various Trust Committees constituted under this Act and the implementation of the provisions of this Act. The Church Commissioner should be an officer not below the rank of a Secretary to the Government appointed by the Government. The Parish, the Diocese Trustee Committees and the State Trustee Committee should submit their annual statements of accounts to the Church Commissioner.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

TRANSFER CONTROL OF CHURCH ASSETS FROM BISHOPS TO TRUSTS

With infighting and mismanagement of church assets by bishops and priests becoming the order of the day, maybe it’s time to enact the Church Act and transfer the power to control the assets to trusts which in turn will report to a commissioner who will be appointed by the government.
Priests and bishops have started fighting for land and wealth donated by believers who, in turn, are completely perplexed and without any control over the money donated to the church. The Kerala Christian Church Properties and Institutions Trust Bill which was drafted in 2009 by the Kerala Law Reforms Committee will bring an end to the infighting for money and land to a great extent.
Bishops and priests who are now hankering for power, position and money will have to engage in full-time in spiritual work if the proposed Act is passed in the Assembly. There will be a three-tier structure to control all the assets – parish level, diocesan level and state level – of the church. Trustees elected from believers will manage the affairs with Managing Trustee to oversee the affairs at the three levels. Bishops won’t have any individual power over assets of the church.
While the proposed Bill doesn't mention about individual congregations like CMI or Jesuits, even their assets should be under the Trusts -- fourth level -- with laity having a say in their affairs.
However, no government has presented it to the state legislative house or the parliament. The result: bishops and dioceses are acting at their whims and fancies. They are busy building super hospitals, medical colleges, shopping malls and engineering colleges. There’s no transparency in their activities at the diocesan level and no one knows where and how the money is coming from and going.
Several laity groups had recently protested against the claim by Cardinal Alencherry, head of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church -- in connection with the multi-crore land scam under the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese -- that the Church properties come under the ownership of the Pope and not the public. The core issue of corruption and the present mess in the church rests with canon law, which allows concentration of all powers — judicial, legislative and executive — with the bishops, giving them absolute powers even in temporal matters. Shady land deals have been reported in Kozhikode, Kollam and Wayanad districts where Church properties were sold without the knowledge of believers as well as priests.

WHAT THE ACT SAYS
The proposed Act (Kerala Christian Church Properties and Institutions Trust Bill) recommends three tiers of Trusts – at the parish level, diocese level and state level.
Parish level: On the basis of the number of families in the parish, seven Trustees including the Managing Trustee for a parish Trust Assembly having families within a hundred number, and thereafter three more Trustees for each additional hundred families and part thereof should be elected.
Diocese level: The Diocese Trust Assembly should elect the Diocesan Managing Trustee and the Trustees and three Internal Auditors. 25 Trustees should be elected in the Diocesan Trust.
State level: Three internal auditors and 101 Trustees should be elected in the Trust of the State Trust Level. The State level Christian Charitable Trust should consist of the Major Archbishop or Head of the Church as its chairman and 10 members elected by each of the Diocese Trust.
The Act says Christian Charitable Trusts should manage all the assets and properties of the Trust and collect and receive all income therefrom, all money received by the Trusts by way of contributions from the parishioners and donations to the church, sums of money realized by way of loans, sale, exchange etc., of immovable and movable properties.
Trusts should manage any other sum received by or on behalf of the church from any person or persons. The Trustee Committee should defray all reasonable expenses in relation to the management and administration of the Trust.
There should be a Church Commissioner for supervising the functions of the various Trust Committees constituted under this Act and the implementation of the provisions of this Act. The Church Commissioner should be an officer not below the rank of a Secretary to the Government appointed by the Government. The Parish, the Diocese Trustee Committees and the State Trustee Committee should submit their annual statements of accounts to the Church Commissioner.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

MAMMON AND POWER: CHURCH IN A TRAP


Clergy should stop acting like kings, come down from their ivory towers and walk with the poor and downtrodden

Catholic church in India has fallen into the money trap. Church and clergy are running after money and power. Dioceses and parishes are rolling in money. They are buying land, renovating buildings, constructing multi-crore churches. Middlemen and brokers are calling the shots in bishop’s houses. The craze for mammon has brought church to a perilous state. Believers are perplexed and stumped, watching the spectacle with consternation and trepidation.
Bishops and priests – especially independent congregations -- want to control the accumulating money, land and institutions. They are not ready to give up their claims. On the contrary, they want more power and live a life king size. Each diocese is a kingdom where the bishop acts like a king. Bishop and the curia (administration) do whatever they want with the money collected from the believers who remain in the dark. Money is diverted. Taxes are not paid properly. Duty evasion is rampant especially in land transfer.
It happened in Ernakulam-Angamally diocese in Kerala where land was sold at the whims and fancies of some curia members. Money is lost. Church didn’t get the full money. Middleman and broker took everyone for a royal ride. Church is now sharply divided in Kochi – church headed by Cardinal Alencherry and his backers on one side and priests who oppose him on the other side. They are doing everything what Jesus Christ told them not to do. Processions, name calling, abuses, bad blood…. Catholic church is going the European way. Satan has tightened the grip.
Syro Malabar Catholic church needs to undergo glasnost and perestroika – that too asap. Otherwise, we will witness an outflow of believers from the church.
1. Church should cut down the financial powers of bishops and priests. Let a body of clergy and laity take decisions on financial matters.
2. Dioceses and parishes should put a ban on building multi-crore opulent church edifices, five-star hospitals, engineering colleges and medical colleges. Use this money to build houses for the poor and help children from poor families or fund their healthcare needs.
3. Bishops and priests should only concentrate on spiritual matters… not on bank balances and building palatial churches and institutions. They should come down from their ivory towers and walk with the poor and downtrodden. In short, clericalism must end.
Currently, actions by bishops and dioceses are opaque and authoritarian. This must end lest the land mess in Kochi will repeat elsewhere. The Kerala High Court ordered investigation into Syro Malabar Catholic Church Cardinal and others for allegedly effecting a land deal that caused a loss of crores of rupees to the Church. The court also came down heavily on Cardinal Alencherry, head of the church, and asked whether the "Cardinal is the King.” Yes, there are several kings in the church today.
Church in Europe was once vibrant and contributed maximum to its growth nearly 100 years ago. They later digressed, constructed huge church edifices in every nook and corner across the continent and started “celebrations” instead of evangelization and mission work. The fall was faster and steeper. European churches started declining in the middle of last century and they are in a pathetic stage now with huge edifices abandoned and believers deserting them.
Clergy must stop running after land, buildings, expensive cars, luxurious life, buildings and bickering over liturgy. It should not remain a toll-house. Church should not end up as a museum.
They must also stop extravagant feast celebrations which have turned out to be a money spinning exercise for the church. Church needs good governance and transparency. This is sorely lacking now.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

POWER CORRUPTS

Supreme Court chief justice uses a simple and humble  Ambassador car for travel. Pope uses a 2008 model Ford Focus in Vatican. Its cost won't be more than Rs 6 lakh (new model costs $ 20000 or around Rs 12.80 lakh). He was recently gifted a luxury car -- Lamborghini Huracan -- which costs $ 200000 (around Rs 1.28 crore). But Pope auctioned it and gave the money for charity.
However, there's no need to tell you the vehicle brands (and their cost) owned by our church heads. Everyone knows it. The heads of two Christian churches (not Catholic church) in Kerala  own Mercedes Benz cars.
The day when cyclone ockhi wreaked havoc,  the head of a protestant church -- who is based less than 10 kms from the ravaged area -- spent Rs 75000 to get a particular registration number for his brand new Innova Crysta. Bishop of a diocese bought a Toyota Hybrid car worth around Rs 45 lakh last year. Another bishop has a Toyota Fortuner which costs over Rs 30 lakh.
The head of a Protestant Church denomination is on a buying spree of rubber estates. Several dioceses have huge properties including estates and buildings across kerala. One Christian  congregation owns two shopping complexes in a central Kerala town. There could be more. Where's the income going? Are lay people benefiting from this huge wealth of Christian denominations?
We witnessed the spectacle  of a section of priests launching a mutiny against the Cardinal in Kerala. Reason: a mismanaged land deal involving a  middleman. Rebel priests are washing the dirty linen in the public. They lamented about lack of career growth options. They want power, position and career growth.
The trappings of power that come with various positions in the curia or institutions are immense.... a great attraction for clergy. The menace of clericalism. Church has become an institution to climb the social and church ladder and control the laity. They are cutting the branch on which they are sitting. All in the name of God. Laity is watching the tamasha helplessly.
As English historian Lord Acton said, "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Saturday, 6 January 2018

GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT BELONGS TO CAESAR

 We are all supposed to follow the law of the land. Church, which holds vast real estate, buildings and institutions, is no exception. 
 Church, like any other citizen, must pay the taxes properly… sincerely hoping they are doing it. We’re not supposed to undervalue property to evade tax or launder black money. Whether this (evasion) has happened in the controversial Kochi church land deal is still not clear.
 Church must discourage black money and money laundering. When unaccounted cash transactions are illegal, why are some church institutions – especially educational institutions -- entertaining black money?
 As Jesus said, "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God." The big question is: Is the Church in Kerala evading taxes payable to the government and indulging in black money? There’re no answers. Church activities are now becoming highly commercialized and non-transparent, which is a bad sign. Church has become a toll-house where middleman and nouveau rich are tightening their grip and poor are no longer welcomed.   
 Let there be good governance and transparency in the church. Caesar's wife must be above suspicion. This is applicable to everyone in India, including the church whether it's Protestant or Catholic or Jacobite.
 Only God knows why the Church and sister organisations keep on accumulating land and institutions. On the other hand, there’s a shortage of 18 million houses in urban areas in India, per capita income is only around Rs 1.11 lakh and unemployment is rising. Per capita income in the US is over Rs 36 lakh and Switzerland over Rs 50 lakh.
 In Bible, Mathew 12:6-7 says: “I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.  If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” In short, God and His mercy are much more important than big churches, land or institutions. The sharp division in the Syro-Malabar church over a land deal shows that we are just messing it up. The Church needs a proper policy framework, transparency and governance.
 The bottom line: stop running after land, buildings, expensive cars, luxurious life, buildings and bickering over liturgy. Share the wealth among the poor. But we’re moving away from the one – Jesus – who gave up His life to save the mankind.


Saturday, 30 December 2017

Catholic Church must stop the mad race to construct palatial churches, engineering and medical colleges

 Jesus Christ, who was born and died a Jew, went to the synagogues to teach -- not to build new synagogues. But the new thinking in the Church curia and powerful moneybags who help the clergy in controlling church administration is: let there be magnificent and luxurious church buildings, engineering and medical colleges.
 Does the Catholic Church need more luxury hospitals, engineering and medical colleges? Do we need opulent and palatial church edifices? Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, is in the eye of a storm after debt-laden Ernakulam-Angamally Archdiocese recently got entangled in a murky land deal. The land was for a medical college. Catholic dioceses which have lost their focus are busy building institutions or buying expensive cars. There’s no time for evangelism or spirituality.
 Unfortunately, there’s no transparency in the administration of Church as clergy has full control over everything. Believers are powerless and ignorant about the decisions of the clergy. Laity has no idea about the accounts of dioceses.
 While bishops and dioceses are busy building institutions, parishes are competing to build tony, expansive churches.  A parish in Mumbai recently decided to demolish a beautiful 19-year old structure – not 900 years old -- and go for a bigger and spacious four-storied church which is estimated to cost Rs 7.5 crore. However, its construction is expected to overshoot the estimate and touch at least Rs 10 crore. 
  In Kerala, every third church is under renovation or reconstruction. Saving the souls is now secondary. This is also at a time when people, even faithful, don't have roof over their heads, and struggling to keep both ends meet. Spending crores of rupees on opulent churches, hospitals and engineering colleges is an atrocious idea in a country like India where a sizeable number of people live below the poverty line.
 Often, rich people in the parish are roped in cleverly and they don't mind diverting part of the black money generated from their businesses for church construction. Yes, the sad part is that church authorities are after these nouveau rich for big construction activities of the church. Parishioners are given specific amount as contribution for church construction. No wonder, these moneybags are now controlling most churches.
 There were complaints from poor people who were unable to give their share of Rs 35,000 or Rs 50,000 for church construction in their parishes. In one case, daughter's baptism was blocked until he cleared his dues. There was another complaint in North Kerala about overestimating the construction cost and money collected from poor people getting diverted to the pockets of some people.  
 The multi-crore church in Edappalli, Kerala, had recently raised many eyebrows. “It is a sin before God if the money offered by faithful is used for luxury instead of utilising it for social welfare projects or to help the needy,” Cardinal George Alencherry said while consecrating the Rs 40 crore plus church.
 There's also a demand that the Syro-Malabar Church should put a moratorium on building new churches. 
 Why are churches going in for costly renovations, expansions and remodelling? Is the idea to remain contemporary and show its prowess to the world? Is it to proclaim to the world we are big and powerful? In fact, Jesus never built any church. Nor did he ask his followers to build churches for worship. When his disciples called his attention to look at the huge stones with which Jerusalem temple was built (That was the architectural wonder of his times) he told them flatly: Not a stone upon a stone will be left intact.

  In Europe, Church constructed huge buildings many decades ago. That's history. Most of them are either lying closed or auctioned off with some churches eventually getting converted into hotels and liquor bars. Will history repeat in India?

Friday, 13 October 2017

Churches or cultural clubs? Why a pagan festival like Onam is celebrated in churches, that too, cancelling catechism for children?

 Are Syro-Malabar Catholic churches slowly turning into cultural clubs? Cultural programmes, competitions, sports days and vulgar display of wealth in feast celebrations have become the order of the day. The festival of Onam -- a Hindu pagan festival in Kerala state of India -- was celebrated this year with more fanfare and flourish than the Hindu brothers. There was no qualm on the part parishes -- as done by a parish in Navi Mumbai – about dropping catechism on Sundays and celebrating Onam festival with film songs and dance numbers, followed by a sumptuous vegetarian lunch for the parishioners. 
 Aren’t we diluting our faith when we celebrate the return of a mythological Hindu king? This is now happening in many of Syro-Malabar parishes. It happened in many churches in Mumbai. All said and done, Onam has nothing to do with Bible or Jesus Christ. But churches are competing to celebrate Onam in all splendor and opulence. And someone dresses up as King Mahabali and goes around church premises, followed by Onam songs and dances which shouldn’t happen in church premises.
 We see an ostentatious preoccupation for such meetings, programmes and dinners and for the Church's prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel has a real impact on God's faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time.
 Objecting to the practice of church celebrating Onam, Rev Fr James Manjackal said, “Church must have nothing to do with Onam. As a festival, there is nothing wrong in having a vegetarian meal with them, or have sports and games with them or some entertainment on that day with Hindus. But it’s nonsense to celebrate it in the church.”
 “I too hear about the compromises in Kerala Church and I pray that the priests will have the right sense to be authentic in their practice of religious faith! I remember when we were small, we used to go to Hindu houses for Onam (we were surrounded by them in our village) and eat "upperi, payasam" and sometimes used to eat a vegetarian lunch with them but we were forbidden by our parents even to look at the "Athakalam" with flowers. That was our faith,” Rev Fr Manjackal said.
 Churches are losing their focus. Now there is purely spiritual worldliness lurking behind a fascination with social and cultural gain, or pride in their (believers) ability to manage such cultural programmes. My personal opinion is that it’s like going to the level of a cultural club or a social institution. This is all done through controlling the believers using the institutional set-up. If you question such practices, you’re ostracised and kept aside.
  While the clergy is not largely responsible for this worldly fascination, they're moving along with tide. While in parishes, it’s the laity which takes the lead in conducting such programmes, clergy succumbs to pressure. There’re priests who take King Mahabali inside the churches and take selfies. And very often, the fixation of believers to run for social programmes in churches originates from a concern to be seen, in a social life full of appearances, meetings, lunches, dinners and receptions. Often clergy is forced to accept and approve such insidious worldliness propounded by closed and elite laity groups. To borrow the words of Pope Francis, they all have the same pretence of “taking over the space of the Church”.
 These laity groups raise funds for music, dance, shamiana and lavish spread of food without any murmur or protest. They spend hours and days to practise the dance numbers to be performed at such social occasions. Ironically, these groups are nowhere to be seen when a charismatic retreat or a prayer meeting or adoration is conducted in the church. The priest runs from pillar to post to get people and money for spiritual programmes. Where's Jesus?
 The organizers of cultural programmes may have 200 reasons to justify their cultural extravaganza in place of catechism and Holy Mass on a Sunday. My personal opinion is that they are replacing religious fervour by the empty pleasure of self-indulgence and hedonism. In the name of culture and tradition, song and dance numbers were belted out. 
 Are Christian supposed to teach children about this culture? The principal beneficiary of such cultural programmes is not God’s people but the institutionalised church. On the other hand, Syro-Malabar churches and congregations are busy building new hospitals, buildings, colleges, medical colleges, engineering colleges and others,   
 Pope Francis once said, “the mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present” during such programmes.” As he says, closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes which thirst for Christ. Moreover, expectations and hopes of children are given a different orientation, leading to the loss of spiritual fervour. Instead of opening the door to God’s grace, we exhaust our energies in arranging cultural programmes, receptions and lunches.
 I think we can consider such tendencies as “manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism” so forcefully expressed by Pope Francis. The church, as Pope says, shows a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.
 There’s no wonder when the same church organises a charismatic retreat or a prayer meeting or adoration, only a handful of people turn up.

 “In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few,” Pope Francis said in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’. “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life,” it says.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Feasts of saints becoming less spiritual and more pompous

SUNDAY, 26 JANUARY 2014

  Is the jamboree in the name of celebrating the feast of saints turning the attention away from our saviour Jesus Christ to saints?

   Our former parish priest, Rev Fr Biju Kollamkunnel, narrated this story in one of the homilies.
  When the father was serving in a Mumbai suburban parish many years ago, he used to conduct Novena for St Joseph every Wednesday. Parishioners and even outsiders used to throng the church on Wednesdays.
  So far so good. However, the sad thing was that on week days only few people used to come for Holy Mass -- the re-presentation of the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary.
  Intrigued by this no show for Holy Mass, the priest asked the parishioners, “Why you don’t come for Holy Mass?”
  One parishioner replied, “This area is infested with robbers. They will attack us. That’s why we don’t come for the Mass.”   
  The priest refused to believe and continued, “but you come in large numbers for the Novena of St Joseph.”   The parishioner said, “St Joseph will protect us from robbers.”
The priest nearly fell off the chair with that reply.
  Is Jesus Christ not capable of protecting you from robbers? Shocking. Whom do you believe? Who is your Saviour? Saints or Jesus Christ?
  The laity in the Catholic Church in India, Kerala to be precise, is still confused. Or shall we say ignorant? If that’s so, this ignorance is unpardonable and indefensible. Is the jamboree in the name of celebrating the feast days of saints in the Catholic church turning the attention away from our saviour Jesus Christ to saints? The festivities, illumination, fireworks and other embellishments on feast days of St Sebastian, St George, St Joseph, St Antony etc. are mind-boggling. In many parishes, celebrations have reached ridiculous levels with fireworks display, chariot processions and music bands adding to the cacophony. To top it all, commercialisation has added a new dimension to the celebrations in some places.
  Of course, these saints are martyrs and torchbearers of faith, but the central figure is and must be Jesus Christ. He is Son of God and your Saviour. Saints can’t take that position.
  Saints are good models of faith to emulate in this world. However, salvation comes through Jesus Christ. You often see a big crowd during the feast days of saints but Holy Mass, especially during week days, in many parishes witnesses only a thin attendance.
  This writer agrees that feast of a saint is an occasion to celebrate, give respect and proclaim the faith. But we sometimes forget that these are solemn spiritual occasions. Over the years, feast celebrations have become more colorful and competitive with parishes trying to outdo each other in displaying money power and pomp. It has also become an occasion for drinking sessions in many places. 
  “The spiritual dimension of the feast is often lost in the eagerness to make the feasts colorful,” one Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Catholic church wrote in a letter to laity.   Does Jesus Christ want all this? He’s looking inside your heart, your attitude and approach. What have you learnt from these saints? Have saints  brought about any change in our thinking and lifestyle?
This writer was a witness to another incident that happened inside another Mumbai church. As usual, less than a dozen people were attending the Holy Mass. A big group of children, teachers and office-goers came inside the church to pay respect, venerate and pray in front of the statues of saints. Ignoring the Holy Mass, many of them started praying in front of the statues of saints and the priest celebrating the Mass got agitated and flared up. He stopped the Holy Mass and admonished the crowd gathered near the statue. “You don’t want Jesus Christ? Why are you running after saints when Holy Mass is being celebrated, where real God is present,” he reacted angrily. He restarted the Mass only after the crowd in front of the statues dispersed.
   Aren’t they missing the woods for trees?  
  The Catholic bishops in Kerala often call for austere and more spiritual celebration of Church feasts, but their sage advices fall on deaf ears. “The feasts are becoming less spiritual and more pompous and commercial. We need to take corrective steps,” an Archbishop was quoted as saying. 
We have to celebrate feasts of saints, but our  celebrations should not become a show of money and pretentiousness. But celebrate them differently, in a spiritual atmosphere, to change our mindset.