Better late than never! I mean a response to Chackochan Kalarickal's piece on: Why priesthood in Catholic Church? The most beautiful thing I noticed in the whole piece is the humble, simple, and caring way he presented his views without even a trace of pontificating or pressing down his thinking down the throat of his readers. It is something many including myself fail miserably to imitate or capable of. Please keep that up Chackochan to inspire all of us.
I too have an aweful number of priests, Sisters and Bishops whom I admire -- nay adore -- still I too often criticise the way of life of the majority. In fact what struck me as a young boy in Kerala was the arrogant and dictatorial attidue and conduct of the Syromalabar clergy which made my mind revolt against ever becoming one of them in spite of coaxing from many near and dear ones, and drove me out of Kerala to become a missionary far away somewhere in the Garrow hills, never to come back here. But God willed it otherwise. My younger brother. a priest and all three of my younger Sisters (all nuns) are doing exemplary service in North India. All feel suffocated when they come back to Kerala even for occasional family visit. So I think, it is the culture and style of priestly life that needs seachange in Kerala.
But the question discussed by Chackochan is the relevance and the very basis of Priesthood itself. A great deal of water has flown in that river and most of our comon folks and clergy, it seems, are still unaware of it. They are "theologially illiterate" as Cardinal Gracias of Bombay once said at the Church in India Seminar at Bangalore some thirty years ago. Lay people stop religious or scripture study together with their Sunday School, and priests in general stop reading and studying together with their ordination. So both are stuck in the intellectual wildernes of a bygone era, totally irrelevant to the "Knowledge Era" we are living today.
As a result of the enormous research and study on scripture, liturgy and sacraments including priesthood, many in the learned circle today have come to the conclusion that none of the sacraments have any biblical base or origin in Jesus. They were all manmade pillars to prop up a top-heavy hierchical church (one is tempted to sing the Vialar's poem: "Man created religions which created Gods.....) which started from the time of Constantine. Unfortunately it was modelled on the Jewish hierarchial religious structure which Jesus detested and turned upside down when he washed the feet of Peter. But it was unwittingly brought in through the back door by St.Paul, mainly through his letter to the Hebrews. Scholars now question the authroship of that epistle itself.
What Chackohan has done is to prode the vast majority of pious folks still slumering in the dream land of blind beliefs, to wake the m up and shake of their religious ignorance. Jesus did it to the woman at the Jacob's well, when he told her that time had come to worship God, not in that temple or this, that mountain or this, but in the cave of one's own heart in spirit and truth.
Jesus never instituted a hirarchical priesthood of the type we have, never went to any temple to offer sacrifice or even to pray (he went on to mountain tops to pray in silence), never built any churches of brick and mortar. His mission was to repair and rebuild living temples -- feeding the hungry in every respect, healing the sick, blind, deaf, lame and raising the dead which culminated in his own rising up from the dead. There was no superiors or inferiors in his company or among his followers. The only relationship he preached and practiced was that of brothers, sisters, friends and well wishers -- all called to vie with one another to serve and to be served through regular table fellowsip where all partake of the same food and drink, going even to the extend of doing a foot wasing ministry, but never to boss over any one. There was never the "leprosy of narcisism" (inordinate love of the ruling class to revel in fabricated praises from the coteri) which Pope Francis describes as the "Leprosy" of the Papacy's hierarchical establishment.
To come to the point in discussion, it was many months ago I wrote: "Forget Priesthood, there is no Scriptural Basis." Forget my writing. Think of Fr. (Dr.) Joseph attam sj, founder and for many years dean of the Gujarat Jesuit Regional Theologate and a regular invitee to lecture at various theological centres in India and abroad who also wrote in these columns and in the New Leader, from Chennai, an elaborate researched article to drive home the same idea more forcefully, under the innocuous title: "Clergy-Laity Divide in the Church." To read these and similar articles please visit the website: http://sites.google.com/site/jameskottoorspeaking/
Added to all this present Pope Francis is stryving might and main to wipe out every trace of inequality among the followrs of Jesus. Several papal quotes to that effect appeared in this websote/ Remember what he told an youngster on the phone to call him just "tu" (you)in Italian because the apostles never addressed Jesus "your excellency". Often he has been using very srong words against "clericalism" showing its ugly face when priests are seen strutting about pretending to be the boss in every situation. Besides "Sentire cum Ecclesia" (feeling with the church) he told us, doesn't mean thinking with the Hierarchy, but with the entire people of God which includes the last member of the laity. To that church alone he emphasises, the grace of "infallibility" belongs and not to the Pope alone. Now just think of his latest circular sent to bishops the world over to take an opinion poll at the parish level on disputed thorny issues like econtraceptin, birth control(specifically mentions Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI) divorce and remarriage, homosexuality,evolving concepts of marriage lie lesbian marriages, youngsters cohabiting before marriage or perpetually, all in preparation for a Synod of bishops in October 5-19, next year and another in 2015.
The loud message Francis sends out is that you are a Church Citizen (not just one of the Laity in the pejiorative sense) with equal rights as himself in the Church. Yes it is time for rethinking on all issues under the sun, not just "Priesthood in the Ctholic Church". So let us think boldly and speak out frankly because all of you are channels for the Holy Spirit to speak out.
There is a lot more to write but I stop because I am the last one to claim any infallibility in anything. My starting point is: "The only thing I know for certain is that I do not KNOW and that applies to everything in this world and in the next." I wrote it long ago in my book. Still I make bold to give wings to my honestly held convictions because, I still believe that God can speak also through the mouth of an ASS, yes He can even write straight with crooked lines like me. May He, if it is His will and pleasure. And may we have more Chackochan Kalaricals and Joseph Mathews to prode people to think alound boldly for greater enlightenment for all.
കത്തോലിക്കസഭയില് പുരോഹിതര് എന്തിന്?/By Chacko Kalarickal
കത്തോലിക്കസഭയില് പുരോഹിതര് എന്തിന്?/By Chacko Kalarickal