Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Family and Marriage Issues in India

 Our burning Issues 
and the next Synod

We Christians in India missed the boat last year to reach the Rome Synod with family survey results or with knowledgeable spokes persons representing Indian Bishops and Christian families in India. Many countries sent even married couples who spoke at the Synod. India sent none although the synod was all about married people and we were not even informed of the celibate lot sent to speak at the Synod until their names were announced and their photos projected for public view from the Rome meet.

In order to collect a comprehensive data of the harsh realities families face all over the world,  Vatican had sent a set of 39 pertinent questions under 9 heads already in November 2013 to bishops all over the world. Sadly bishops in India, barring one or two, did practically nothing to conduct the survey, in spite of constant prodding to get started from concerned Church Citizens in Kochi and Bombay.

It was at this stage that CCRI’ntl (Catholic Church Reform International) an association of Pro Church Reform group with 6000 members in 65 countries intervened with help and advise to conduct at least a laity led meet in Pune last August. That a well-meaning group of laity took up the challenge and tried to do what the Bishops chose to ignore was its biggest achievement because in spite of months of preparation, reportedly only three dozen people turned up for the meet.

’ntl has over 100 registered members in India. It has also good connections with Synod organizers in Rome. Last year it did a scientific study of survey reports in many countries, conducted a two day seminar in Rome with many speakers of repute prior to the Synod and presented its findings to the organizers of the Synod. The CCRI is trying hard to establish a working vertical dialogue between Bishops and Church citizens in all countries. Sri Joseph Mattappally (Kottayam), Dr. James Kottoor (Ernakulam), Sri. Chottebhai (Kanpur), John Deyal (Delhi) and Astrid Lobo Gjiwala (Bombay) are some of the outspoken members of CCRI from India. Almayasabdam has been publishing all Synod related information and articles without fear or favoring any side. This website which completed its 4th birth day on Nov.6th, wishes to hear from many more of CCRI members and other Church Citizens on the various hardships families in India go through, during the remaining span of 11 months preceding the concluding ordinary Synod next October 5 to 23, 2015.

This November 20th will mark one month since the Extraordinary Synod Concluded on Oct.19th. It closed with the clarion call to carry on the Synod discussions at Diocesan and Parish levels in every diocese around the world. At least this time we in India should not miss the boat as we did last year. “Bishops from all over the world will have to listen to the laity in their respective dioceses. I expect lay persons to be protagonists, who search for solutions with their heads held high,” said Bishop Bruno Forte the Synod Secretary. It was always the laity that got the hierarchy moving, starting with the example of Mary Magdaline, who ran to wake up Peter sleeping or dreaming, announcing that Jesus had already risen. How is the Church citizens in India going to play their role 
during the next 11 months to make our sleeping church leaders to respond to the call of the Synods, is now the moot question.

First of all a vertical dialogue has to be initiated and any discussion have to be a continuation of 62 topics deliberated upon at the synod, out of which only three failed to get a two-third agreement. To these 62 topics other challenges peculiar to India, threatening or destroying healthy and harmonious families in various regions of India have to be identified and solutions suggested. Which means we have to find a short cut to data collection of ground realities which we ought to have done last year, through shortened questionnaires in various regional languages of the country. This would mean doing two years' work in the remaining 11 months.

One of the problems peculiar to India pestering family and married life in India are inter-religious and mixed marriages as pointed out by one of our Cardinals. More than that there are inter-Rite marriages between various Rites, inter diocesan marriages, inter caste marriages and marriages between advocates of pure-blood group and those opposing it in the Knanaya Diocese of Kottayam, which many are ashamed to discuss in public, as the present practice is pure human right violation and opposed to all Christian teachings. Then there is the dowry system which makes marriage and family alliances a big business enterprise. All these being shameful practices have become forbidden topics for discussion even in the so called Catholic publications. For example how many Catholic publications in India permit discussion, let alone free and frank debates of them, just because they go against the vested interests of promoters of various Rites? It resulted in the Delhi Syro-Latin Rite explosion and a 155 page petition being sent to Pope Francis, titled: Is Christ Divided? The issues have been 
openly discussed in secular press. 
Another acute problem facing many families in India and until now fully neglected by the local churches, is the lives lead by innumerable couples separated from each other owing to one of them working in far away places or foreign countries. This causes great psychological hazards affecting not only the couples themselves but their children as well as their parents. What sort of consolation and spiritual assistance can the church provide them?
So the first thing for the Church in India to do is to put its own house in order. First it should rise above the three-fold divisions – each asking the other who will bell the cat even in conducting a survey. In the absence of any of the heads of three Rites taking the leadership role, we suggest that Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, who has already agreed to collaborate with the CCRI, to organize a common program of study of problems plaguing families in all dioceses irrespective of Rite differences. Almayasadam shall be ready to provide the common forum of discussion on any family related issue in India. So we invite all readers of this blog and other citizens to boldly and freely come forward to air their views through this website. We wish you all a Happy, friendly and enlightening discussion.

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