Need for Blameless Church Administration and Untainted Church Leaders and Helpers

Pope Francis being aggrieved over the mounting sexual abuse cases has already defrocked many priests. As no let up is seen in sexual abuse of minors by the priests, the Pope has recently issued a 20 page Manual containing the guidelines for Bishops to report the same to police, even when they are not legally bound to do so.

Need for Blameless Church Administration and Untainted Church Leaders and Helpers

By K.L. Joseph

It is high time for the Vatican to revamp its existing Canon Law and Rules and bring into stricter and transparent administrative reforms in order to effectively   deal with the incidents of sexual abuse cases against the clergy and members of the church so as to safeguard the interests and reputation of the church;   the overall image of the clergy in general ;   the believer’s reliability upon the integrity of the priests ; and to ensure sincerity and truthfulness of the priests. The recent years saw the trust of the Christians in clergy get rattled in Kerala over sexual allegations against them; their clandestine land deals in church property; and concealment of actual sale proceeds and tax evasions. Frequent sexual crimes being committed by the priests expose hollowness in their celibacy. These incidents also wound the pride of the Catholics in general and make them hang their head in shame before the public.

Allegations of child abuse cases against the clergy have gone into alarming proportions across the world over the years, especially in the churches located in the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, France and Australia. Pope Francis being aggrieved over the mounting sexual abuse cases has already defrocked many priests. As no let-up is seen in sexual abuse of minors by the priests, the Pope has recently issued   a 20 page Manual containing the guidelines for Bishops to report the same to police, even when they are not legally bound to do so. But these guidelines cannot be expected to have the desired effect, as the same are said to provide much leeway to the Bishops to dodge the required action. In fact, no leeway or loop holes have to be provided in the guidelines, in order to ensure the sincerity of the purpose. Anyway, the Manual issued by the Pope has to be seen as the first step taken to bring the erring priests into book for the incidents of sexual abuse cases against them.

Whether the sexual crimes are committed by the priests in the Catholic churches at Kerala or elsewhere in India or in the churches located abroad, it is after all the reputation of the Church and pride of the Christians in their religion that get tarnished. This in turn also exposes the morality of the priests and paves way to severe public accusations and criticism in other religious circles. Such acts will also set in motion a bad impression on the minds of the Catholic youth desirous of becoming priests. It is a shame for the entire priesthood and for the Christian faithful. Those priests who violate the Canon Law and engage in the carnal and worldly pleasures are not spiritually called to stand at the altar of God and perform the daily Holy Eucharist, which was founded by Jesus in memory of his sufferings and crucifixion for our eternal salvation. If the priests cannot maintain the celibacy governing the priesthood under its Canon Law and put a fetter on their wayward conduct and behaviour in seeking sexual pleasures and material attachments ,then that day will not be far off for devoted Christians to feel ashamed to say that they belong to Christian faith. 

‘Celibacy’   is not a doctrine or dogma. It acts as an enforcer for ‘discipline’. The need for the priests to remain celibate after ordination is a must. In theological sense, the rationale behind celibacy is to enable a priest   remain completely wedded to the church and to the Ministry of Jesus Christ, his life and teachings. A married man cannot be a priest, because he will get distracted from his devotion to Christ by his desire to possess the worldly riches for the sake of his family and for their future. He will be concerned more about the welfare of his wife and children rather than about the affairs of God. He cannot be expected to remain dedicated to the services of the church in his run to acquire the earthly riches. However, this should not be for a priest.

If a priest is bent upon violating the priestly commitments and seen going after the worldly pleasures and material wealth, then this condition will amount to his idol worship and result in violation of the very first commandment of God (Matt. 6.24). The need to remain detached from the material wealth and family relations by a person as a pre-condition for being in the services of God has been stressed by Jesus in the story of the ‘The Rich Man’ ( Matt.19.16-30) when Jesus told his disciples that it will be much harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, then the disciples were amazed and said, “Who then can be saved ?” When Peter reminded Jesus that his disciples followed him after leaving everything, Jesus said. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake, will receive a hundred times more and will be given eternal life.”

The Church does not force a person to become a priest. It is left to the discretion of the person aspiring to become a priest i.e. whether to embrace the priesthood or to get married or to remain a bachelor, as the case may be. So, those who cannot keep celibacy should not join the seminary for priestly studies. There is no use of such person becoming a priest with a divided heart between the two choices, the priesthood and married life. The divine call to become a priest must come to a person from within his heart, without his being subjected to any external pressure or persuasion. Then only such person can get spiritually moulded and   empowered as a priest to follow the footsteps of Jesus and to live as he was called. Otherwise, nothing good will come of such a person of divided heart. The role of a priest and that of a disciple is similar, as both of them have to abandon everything in life including the worldly pleasures, the family relations and desire for material possessions before their being admitted into the priestly order of the church for services of God or into the discipleship of Jesus as the case may be.

In connection with immorality in the church, Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians contains instructions to deal with the problems of Christian life and faith that had arisen in the church set up by him at Corinth. Paul’s chief concerns were with problems such as divisions and immorality in the church, and with questions about sex and marriage, matters of conscience, church order.

As regards immorality in Church Paul says emphatically in Chapter 6 .18-20 in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “Avoid immorality. Any other sin a man commits does not affect his body: but the man who is guilty of sexual immorality sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So, use your bodies for God’s glory.”

The Catholic Church also gets frequently rattled over corruption in its administration, especially while dealing with money matters at the time of acquisition of the land or construction of the new church or while giving a new face-lift to the existing structure. Affairs of a church cannot be managed by the Parish Priest alone without the active support of the appointed officials to the church, such as the   Church leaders and helpers. Often tainted Church Leaders and helpers are appointed to help church administration. However, while embarking upon the task of revamping the church rules, instructions contained in Paul’s First Letter to Timothy ( who was an Assistant to Paul in his missionary work ) , need be given an overriding consideration. Paul wrote (3: 1 – 7): “If a man is eager to be a church leader, he desires an excellent work. A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, sober, self-controlled, and orderly; he must welcome strangers in his home; he must be able to teach ; he must not be a drunkard or violent man, but gentle and peaceful; he must not love money; he must be able to manage his own family well and make his children obey him with all respect. For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the   church of God ? He must be mature in the faith, so that he will not swell up with pride and be condemned, as the Devil was. He should be a man who is respected by the people outside the church, so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the Devil’s trap.”

About church helpers Paul writes in Timothy (3: 8 – 13): “Church helpers must also have a good character and be sincere; they   must not drink too much wine or be greedy for money.”

Sadly speaking, above instructions governing appointment of Church leaders and helpers are not being adhered to by the Church. They are appointed without investigating into their character and antecedents. With the result undesirable and tainted elements lacking honesty, integrity and fear of God get appointed as Church Leaders and Church Helpers. In frequent allegations of corruption charges against the clergy, involvement of such unscrupulous Church leaders and helpers are noticed.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written with the intention to affirm the oneness of God’s people in union with Christ; the Church is like a body, with Christ as the head; or like a building, with Christ as the cornerstone. So, a clean and blameless Church administration with untainted priests, Church leaders and   helpers is needed to ensure the credibility of the Church as the body of Christ. 

(Today November 4 is the feast of Saint Charles Borromeo (1538 – 1584) Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Italy and Papal Secretary of State. He was a leading figure of the Counter-Reformation Movement along with St. Ignatius Loyola and introduced several reforms in the Catholic Church. Saint Charles Borromeo is the patron saint of bishops, catechists and seminarians.)

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