This morning my spiritual daughter, Dr. C.S.Agnes, started to bombard me with congrats! Confused I asked her why all this hullabaloo. The morning news in the Mathrubhumi daily had caused all the tremulous reactions from Agnes. What happend? I asked her.
Daddy! your letter to the pope and your suggestions in your book seem to have created the right impact!
Still confused I asked her anxiously.
Come on, dear, tell me the details!
She began to explain:
Pope Francis told German pressmen that he was in favour of ordaining even married men as priests. “Paucity of priests in the Catholic Church poses serious problems. So we should examine the possibility of ordaining even married men with the right bend of mind!” Opined the Pontiff.
Soon my spiritual son Dougless chipped in: ‘Malayalamanorama’ also carries a detailed report of the pope’s opinion. ThankGod! daddy, your letter served to make the pope and the church in Germany ponder over the issue!”
Way back in 1982 I had met the Bishop of Brazil during a meeting of the ‘Miserior’ in the diocese of Ahan in Germany. He had explained in detail about the paucity of priests in Brazil. To compensate for the diminishing numbers, the Bishop had selected eight married men, imparted good training and proper instruction to them, and sent an application to Rome for permission to ordain them priests. But the then Pope John Paul II did not permit it.
In 1982 Brazilian population consisted of 92% Catholics. Today, it has dwindled to 45%. Very many Brazilian Catholics went across to other denominations.
Today we have no less than 2300 different denominations of the church proclaining Christianity. Of these the Catholic Church has 22 rites of which just three only insist on celibacy for priesthood — The Latin Church, the Syro Malabar Church and Syro Malankara Church.
I had served as a parish priest in Germany for no less than 38 years. I know the difficulties experienced by the different parish priests there. Details regarding this issue are furnished in my book ‘The International Highway to Heaven’.
Moreover, I personally find nothing wrong in ordaining as priests fervent and staunch Catholic married men with deep-rooted faith in the Lord, even before annulling the celibacy rule for priesthood. Let us not forget that all the disciples of Christ, except John, were married men having their own families. The disciple need not be greater than the guru himself. My Bible novel was first published in German and copies were sent to the pope and 66 bishops, of which 37 expressed a positive response. One among them exhorted all to pray for more vocations. I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and wrote again to the bishops: “Do the right thing at the right moment; otherwise, if the Catholic Church in Germany is ruined within forty years or so, you will be responsible for the loss!
Will the church in Kerala understand these issues? I have my own doubts! After a lapse of 40 or 50 years from now, who will be held responsible if shortage of priests is experienced here and the decline of the church results from it? Let us bear in mind that western civilization in spreading in India at a tremendous speed. Amassing crores by squeezing the faithful through different ways to build huge cathedrals and palatial parish churches might lead to frustration and loss of faith. Let there be enough shepherds to look after the sheep and lead them along the right path before they are led astray by the crooks of this world. Later on, our tears would be meaningless. Let us not shed crocodile tears!
We have to sort out degradation of values and shameful luxurious lifestyle leading to scandals. It’s high time the authorities of the church woke up from their listlessness and lethargy. Throw away the masks of power and prestige, and bring in drastic changes in their attitude towards the people. Let there be more of humility and service-mindedness in the place of authority and power. We need to serve the people and not rule over them; mercy, kindness, love and service should replace anger, authority and insolence. Let us sincerely follow pope Francis’s path of love, kindness and service.
A flock without a shepherd will go astray!