By George Mathew
A Christian diocese in central Kerala, India, is rolling in money. They buy rubber estates, run medical stores, dairy business and diagnostic labs. All for money.
They have no time for the spiritual rejuvenation or nourishment of the laity. They are busy with running colleges, schools, dairy farm and pathology lab. They are constantly on the lookout for new business opportunities. They care two hoots about the well-being of laity.
This diocese recently received crores of rupees by chopping the trees in its rubber estate. Nobody knows where its income from rubber estate, dairy business, pathology labs and other businesses is going. Anyway believers are not getting any benefit from its income.
Behind all this money-making exercise, black money is also rolling. This is the case with most dioceses in Kerala.
Church in Kerala has fallen into the money trap. A large section of 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 accumulated 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. Permissions and approvals from government authorities are taken by doling out kickbacks. Politicians are taken care of.
Church is going the European way. Satan has tightened the grip.
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.
5. Diocese should stop dealing in black money and start paying taxes properly.
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?
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 or Orthodox.
Only God knows why the Church and sister organisations keep on accumulating land, institutions and new businesses.
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.
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, rubber estates, dairy business and diagnostic labs.
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.
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.
Clergy in Kerala 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.
Church needs good governance and transparency. This is sorely lacking now.