one and only one Catholic Church
Jose Paul (Delhi)
Variety is the spice of life. Variety of flowers and plants gives colour to a garden. Variety of colours give beauty to the rainbow. But when it comes to faith, experience is; variety is a sharp wedge creating division. Our universal Catholic Church has two major sets of Catholics - the Latin Church and the Oriental Church. The oriental Church has 22 different Sui juris Churches. There is variety. In the presence of this diversity, we expect it to add taste, colour and beauty. Unity in diversity is a beautiful concept if this happens. But in the case of Catholic Church, the situation is different. As far as the essence of Catholic faith is concerned, all these 23 Sui juris Churches without exception are proclaiming the same ecclesial Communion. I mean that they proclaim the same faith, same creed, same sacraments, same commandments, same Bible and the same Eucharist. In respect to faith, they don’t have even a single difference to distinguish one from the other.
Then what makes the one different from the other. It is the administration, the rituals of services and sacraments which are only the outer shell of each church. While the essence and meaning of each service is the same, they differ sometimes in language and some rituals. The type of dresses the clergy wear for different services, some colours of dresses on particular days of service, sometimes facing the audience or not facing the audience while praying, sometimes praying behind a curtain, use of different shapes of crosses, usage of some types of incenses, and so on which have no relevance to the substance of faith.
Instead of diversity in unity, today what is happening is rivalry and competition between the people of these Sui juris churches and division of catholic community into warring groups. In some churches, this has almost reached the stage of physical fight. Definitely it has done one good thing. It has encouraged competition in building institutions such as schools, colleges, churches, hospitals and other charitable institutions and adding movable and immovable property to the Church. The competition is tougher than commercial organizations. Christian values are thrown to winds by the different sui juris hierarchies for the sake of power and money. There is something drastically wrong in the formation process of the clergy in all these Churches. It has come to a stage that the faithful lay people who had faith in Catholic Church are losing their faith because of the bad role models from the clerical leadership. It is not only an individual bishop or member of the clergy that causes this division. It is the whole system and the rules and practices of these sui juris Churches which are repulsive and irresponsible.
The most dangerous part in all these competitions and divisions is that many of these churches are using the sacraments especially that of Baptism and Marriage as a weapon to make the lay people to surrender to them and in the process to alienate them from the church. Now a days even burial is used as a weapon to subjugate the laity. The lay people are rapidly losing their faith in all the catholic churches administrated by these power hungry hierarchy of each of these sui juris Churches. All these Churches teach that the Catholic Church is one and only one. They also proclaim that all the sui juris Churches belong to the same faith and same “one and only Jesus and his teachings”. If that is so, why can not any Catholic receive any sacrament from any of the Catholic Church? The Universal Catholic Church has to take a decision allowing all Catholic lay people to receive all the sacraments from any of the Catholic Church and there should be no discrimination of sacraments or Churches. It has come to such confusion that a Latin Church marriage is not accepted by a Syrian church. Sacraments whichever it may be must not be used to subjugate the lay people according to the wishes and greed of the hierarchy.
In Syro-Malabar Church, a Kananaya Syro-Malabar Parish member marrying a catholic from any other sui juris Church has to leave the Kananaya Church according to the church hierarchy of the Syro-Malabar and Kananaya Church. A decision taken by the two hierarchies together this year. In other words, in effect, the couple is excommunicated from the Kananaya Church, a Catholic Church. What an inhuman act by the Church hierarchy representing Jesus. It is against all norms of human rights. These days we find that the Catholic Hierarchy is on a war path with the human rights.
In Delhi, the Archbishop Anil Couto of the Delhi Archdiocese (Latin) and the Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulagara of Faridabad Diocese (Syro-Malabar) together has violated the human right norms. They commanded all the Syro-Malabar Catholics who were members of the Archdiocese of Delhi for many decades to become a part of the newly created diocese of Faridabad. They had the meanness to declare that these people are no more part of the Archdiocese of Delhi and they have already became the members of the Faridabad diocese with retrospective effect from the date of the formation of the new diocese one year back. And they have no choice in this matter. If things are going in these kinds of inhuman ways by the Catholic hierarchy, the state and the civil courts may have to control the Church activities. The faithful will lose whatever faith that is left in them.
All these churches proclaim openly that they are all part of the universal Church having the same faith, the Catholic faith. The universal Church has to put the foot down and stop these kinds of inhuman activity in the name of Church and Jesus. Sometime some people may revolt. Even some clergy may revolt. But for the sake of peace and quietness in the Church, the universal church cannot sacrifice the Christian principles and teachings of Christ. If such practices are tolerated, the Universal church itself is working against the Lord and his children. The Church has no face to show its morality even in a secular society, leave aside the great divine presence of Jesus. Jesus will walk out of the Universal Church. He will have the whole world to give salvation.