Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: Christianity

Church and Better India

Catholic Bishops of India had met in Bangalore on 1-8 February 2012 and after having reflected on “The Church’s Role for a Better India” have given their message. They have quoted the Preamble of the Constitution, talked about India’s condition, what the Church has done and what the Church intends to do.

Bishops should know that the words Socialist Secular were not part of the Preamble when the Constitution was adopted on 26/11/1949. They were added by 42nd Amendment in 1976 which came into effect on 1/3/1977. Bishops should be inspired by the Bible and not the Constitution.

The good work the Church does through its educational institutions, hospitals, orphanages etc. should continue.

It is wrong to blame economic development for inequalities, gap between the rich and the poor and tensions spilling over into violence. There was inequality before economic development. On the whole the people of India are better off than 20 years before. Some policies and actions of government have benefitted industrialists at the cost of others. Bishops can speak against devaluation of currency, stimulus, bail outs and corporate debt restructuring.

Jesus was not a do-gooder, social worker, activist, revolutionary or evolutionary. He was not a rebel without a cause or rebel without a pause. He spoke of the Kingdom of God. He did not speak of a better society. Jesus did not come to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

If a major cause of violence is injustice, bishops should strive for quick justice. Cases drag on for years and there are appeals and people lose hope. Bishops should ask for death penalty in all cases for murder, attempted murder, abduction, acid throwing, character assassination, hijacking, kidnapping, piracy and such high crimes. Bishops should ask for change in legal system. There should be no lawyers. Then the cases will be heard and settled fast.

Female foeticide is a concern. The Church can ask for ban on abortion except in cases of rape and saving mother’s life.

It is good that bishops want to root out untouchability and caste system wherever it exists from within the Church. I have heard that segregation is practised in churches and cemeteries of Tamil Nadu and parish bulletins in Goa carry matrimonial advertisements that mention caste. CBCI should put an end to it. However it is wrong to ask for reservation for some Christians because they were once Dalits. CBCI should fight for abolition of reservations as they are discriminatory. Reservations perpetuate caste system.

It is good to stand for protection of environment. It is not good for bishops and priests to lead agitations against illegal mining, deforestation, mega projects, pollution and so on. Lay people can lead agitations and bishops and priests can lend moral support. Governments crack down on protestors and politicians change their colours as we have witnessed at Koodankulam protests. Tuticorin Diocese was targeted and inquiry conducted about its finances.

Bishops have not said anything about corruption. Corruption is the root of many evils. As long as there is corruption there cannot be Better India. The Church can have some days of prayer and fasting against corruption.

It seems bishops have forgotten about evangelization. They have not said anything about use of media to make Christ better known. Fight against injustice or oppression can be fought by anyone but the Church is needed for evangelization.

Bishops can do something to promote Christian Unity in India. Anglicans who wanted to join the Catholic Church were granted personal ordinariates in UK and USA. Similar arrangements for Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants and other Christians can be made in India.

Mary Magdalene not a sinner

There are misconceptions about Mary Magdalene. Perhaps she is the most defamed person in the history of the world. There are people who say she was a great sinner by which they mean she was an adulteress or a prostitute. Many of them have heard that from others and repeat it.

It is wrong to say Mary Magdalene was a great sinner because Jesus cleansed her of seven demons. It means Jesus cured her of sickness. At that time people did not know of epilepsy. According to the Bible in one case Jesus cast out many demons from one person. Those demons entered pigs and ran into the sea and those pigs died. One pope, probably St. Leo I, identified seven demons with seven deadly sins, lust being the worst. After that Mary Magdalene was defamed.

Mary Magdalene is not the Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair or the penitent woman whose sins Jesus pardoned for anointing him with oil worth 300 denarii mentioned in the Gospel of St. Luke. Mary Magdalene was from Magdala. St. Gregory I wrongly identified the three as one.

Mary Magdalene is not the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus as mentioned in the Gospel of St. John. This wrong identification led many to believe Mary Magdalene was an adulteress. We do not know what Jesus wrote at the time. Some say he wrote the sins of people who wanted to stone the woman. Some say Jesus did not condemn anyone and did not write the sins. Jesus had used harsh words against scribes and Pharisees and could have written their sins to save the woman.

She was one of the women who accompanied and aided Jesus in Galilee. She witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. She stood by the cross, near Mary, mother of Jesus, and the beloved disciple of Jesus who is said to be St. John. Mary Magdalene is the first person to whom Jesus appears after his resurrection. He instructed her to tell the Apostles that he was ascending to God. She is the Apostle of Apostles. According to the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke there were other women with Mary Magdalene when she saw Jesus.

Every saint may have a past and every sinner may have a future but it is not proper to say someone is a sinner based on wrong interpretation or wrong identification. Mary Magdalene is a saint and her feast day is 22 July.

Vatican and Barabbas

Vatican officials oppose death penalty in disregard to church tradition. That has influence on other bishops. One official went so far as to say people who want death penalty for murder are like those who shouted “Kill him.” about Jesus in front of Pilate. The official could not have been more wrong.

First of all it is perverse to compare Jesus to a murderer. Jesus was not a murderer and he was not facing any charge of murder. His enemies had accused him of calling himself the king of the Jews. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent.

Secondly there was the custom of releasing a prisoner during Paschal time. Pilate offered the Jews a choice between Barabbas who was a murderer and Jesus. Barabbas was a murderer. Pilate hoped people will ask for release of Jesus. The Jews instigated by chief priests and Jewish officials wanted the release of Barabbas. When Pilate asked what shall I do with Jesus they shouted “Crucify him.” They did not shout “Kill him.”

Vatican officials who do not want death penalty for murderers are like the Jews who wanted the release of Barabbas. They are white washed tombs, hypocrites and a brood of vipers. They have eyes but do not see the sufferings caused by murders. They have ears but do not hear the cries of people who suffer due to murders. For them murderers are human beings, victims do not matter. There is nothing modern about opposition to death penalty. It was there centuries before and St. Thomas Aquinas had justified death penalty.

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