Archdiocese of Bombay & the Community……

Sometimes, for purpose of amusement, the inner circle of the clergy and their chief asks, ‘What reforms do you want us to do anyway?’ Well, that is pretty clear. Archdiocese of Bombay.jpg 2   Let us Choose Reforms                                                     Don Aguiar. One of the most honest statements from a clergy official of the Archdiocese of Bombay in recent times came from the inner circle of the clergy team who said big reforms are not applicable to a community like ours. At a recent event, he said, “If you look around the world, big dramatic reforms happen around crisis.” He also added, “Big reforms are not easy to happen in a community like ours that follows the principle of democracy. In democracies, you have multiple veto centers, multiple decision-making centers and it is very difficult to push through decisive change and if you look at our community at this juncture, we are not in crisis.” There you go. All you big change seekers, the party is over even before it started. The inner circle of the clergy and their chief has, in effect, said they don’t want to rock the boat. Things won’t change much and things won’t change fast. For the community it will continue to be pray, pay and obey while for the clergy and their chief who belongs to the secular / diocesan order will still not have to take the “Vow of Poverty”. In such perfect settings why would the secular / diocesan clergy who control the Archdiocese of Bombay want change as suggested by the community? People in the community are turning impatient, their trust and confidence have started to slip, and while none in the community will publicly criticize the clergy leadership, the profuse praise has certainly stopped. The only thing going for the clergy leadership right now is the civic and political associations they have thrown their weight behind, who at least at present are struck more by power lust than the lust for responsibly and honestly helping the community.  Any reasonably organized association from another community would be able to take on this power lust civic and political association, and this just without much difficulty. Look how easily the ‘non interference’ and ‘I do not care’ attitude labeling has stuck. Or how our Churches and institutions are attacked and damaged. Or how there is little certainty about the future of our community being able to practice and profess our religion and customs as guaranteed by our constitution. Sometimes, for purpose of amusement, the inner circle of the clergy and their chief asks, ‘What reforms do you want us to do anyway?’ Well, that is pretty clear. They revolve around opening up and being transparent in the areas of church and parishes institutions finances and properties, building houses and infrastructure for the community on these properties, interact with the government in safeguarding the community interests, looking after the welfare of the community and making it easier for the community to do business and live a peaceful and prosperous existence, which in turn creates jobs, growth and raises revenues for welfare projects. I think the intention is there. Many in the inner circle of the clergy and their chief are extraordinarily capable people, fully aware of what it will take to restore the community’s confidence and the like. So why don’t they do it? The issue is what the chief of the clergy stated. ‘In a democracy, change isn’t easy. Though the community people feel things need to change, everyone has a different idea of what that change is. I might think a more cautious approach is better.’ And since our community is closet socialists, trusting a more cautious setup is proving difficult for our community. Abuse can occur both in socialist and cautious systems, but a cautious set up does tend to get people impatient. However, it appears that the inner circle of our clergy and their chief would prefer that the community would rather have lesser opportunities and be in a familiar, oppressive system than trust a new system. Until that mentality changes, which means until the entire clergy and their chief change, there cannot be reforms. The risk of shoving in change the clergy and their chief are not ready for is simply too high. The only time it happened was some years ago, when we had a crisis, and that is somehow the only time our community and clergy become one and listen to reason. This takes me to my trip to Chennai a few weeks ago, a lesson worth sharing, where I had the pleasure of eating what were without question the best idlis that I ever have had. This was at a small stall in Cuddalore going by the name of Shri Idlis. This place is a little shack on a small road in a desultory residential colony and is basic enough not to have any sign that displays its name. The idlis were divine, the upma even more so, but they had run out of dosas, which is what they are really famous for. Like many other stalls of this kind there were clear codes to be followed – they were open only for breakfast – once they run out of batter, they shut shop for the next day and idlis that become cold are not served to customers. They have been in operation for around 30 years, were used to receiving guests from all over the world, but they couldn’t be bothered to add a bench for people to sit down. All over India there are these wonderful places, most of these places have no branches, little by way of marketing and almost every single day they run out of food to serve. They serve absolutely brilliant food and they all have one thing in common – they know when to stop.. If we do want big reform, many tiny changes are required in the mindset of our community and the clergy and their chief. The rich vs poor, land owners vs tenants, outsiders vs desi conflicts that we have created in our heads deny us the belief that win-win situations are possible but the need is to know when to stop… and follow clear codes… just like the wonderful eating places do for maintaining their clientele, getting good reviews enabling them to increase their clientele and keeping their staff vibrant by ensuring democracy, goodwill and the welfare of their staff. A vibrant community is important for democratic traditions and those who are peacefully seeking change are not anti clergy. The community has an ‘inalienable right’ in a democratic community like ours to argue peacefully and asking questions to the clergy or challenging their actions does not mean that one is trying to weaken either the clergy and their chief or their secular / diocesan order on the whole All this doesn’t mean the inner circle of the clergy and their chief doesn’t have to do anything. They promised change, and they have to somehow deliver on it. Some risks for the community’s good will have to be borne – what else is a bold inner circle of the clergy and their chief anyway? Yes, our community and the inner circle of the clergy and their chief want change but are scared of it at the same time. The trick is to come up with creative solutions that lead to reform and minimize damage. Interacting with the government in safeguarding the community’s interest and making transparency in areas of Church and Parish institutions finances and properties for example, is a less of an issue than building houses and infrastructure for the community, and perhaps that could be taken up first. A few big items, along with proper communication to change mindsets, would do us all good. Giving up, being too cautious or going too slow won’t. Sometimes, in life, not taking a risk is the biggest risk. Perhaps the  mistake the chief of the clergy made was to project himself as a cautious leader the community always wanted. The truth is: Much as we may all like to believe in the myth of the cautious leader, in reality we are looking for benevolence, simplicity, a leader who can hold together so many disagreements. That is the challenge. We are only a community in idea. Actually we all pull in different directions   No, there is nothing wrong with that. We hold together because we are all so unlike each other. It’s our diversity, our plurality our multiple mysticisms that bind us together. Each of us in our community represents a unique identity, a different culture, a different background, a different caste, language and yet coming together to build our amazing community. For a great community the future will not be built on uniformity or on forcefully erasing differences but by celebrating them. If the chief of the clergy can lend shape to that, we will have the community we want, where we can all have our own share. A community that will help us all to be what we are. Irrespective of what we believe in, where we come from, what we eat, what we wear, the language we speak, the cast we belong to, the saints we worship, the gender we are, the calling we pursue. Nothing will matter but the fact that we all stand proudly under one flag/leader, unafraid of what we are.

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