Our beloved Pope Francis recently exhorted through Italian newspapers all Christians of their duty to come forward to speak up against injustice, wherever it be … God expects Christians to be His legs and hands in this world … The Lord requires our service for support and liberation of the humbled, rejected and the marginalised… More than anything else, what is needed is love and compassion….
And, today, 25 September, his speech in Estonia pinpointed tolerance to sexual abuses and financial irregularities as two major irritants which distance the youth from the Church. He emphasised, we introspect and correct ourselves to bring them back.
When the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said that only constant in the universe is change – the only thing that does not change is change itself – he was speaking a universal truism, applicable to individuals and institutions alike for all time.It’s humanity’s infinite capacity to change and bring about change that guarantees salvation from decadence and degeneration.
Situation being so grave, our Holy Father has convened in February, 2019 a world conference of leaders of Catholic Church to deliberate on the woeful state of affairs we confront in many parts of the world, as we witness in Kerala now. This is a glimmer of hope for an unequivocal declaration of zero tolerance to any deviance in our morality, be you ever so high.And that, women are as much an integral part of our Church and society as men, with equal legal and social rights and equal functional status, in every respect.Reverend Sisters deserve more respectful treatment, no less than priests and bishops. Prophetic are Victor Hugo’s words, You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.
When the Holy Father and the universal Church are grappling with this vexing issue, prayerfully exploring means to combat the menace that eats into the vitals of the Church, can we afford to take retrograde steps, reminding us of Einstein’s words – Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity?
A silver lining is theflaming torch of eternal vigilance by the truly faithful Christians that saved Sr. Lucyfrom the agony of unjust penalty for supporting the victim, which, no doubt, was a Christian duty.We need to continually ask ourselves vigilantly: are we with the victim or persecutor?
The Missionaries of Jesus at Jalandhar should realise that they are not mercenaries of anyone. Even as the accused in the worst crime against their own fellow sister – In the words of Justice Krishna Iyer, “A murderer kills the body but a rapist kills the soul.” –is in jail, and investigation on, they are busy with their bizarre obstructive tactics to exonerate him, alleging a conspiracy hatched by the victim. In the final judgment of the Supreme Court in the Nirbhayacase, 2017, Justice Banumathi ruled, “To equate a rape victim to an accomplice is to add insult to womanhood. Ours is a conservative society and not a permissive society. Ordinarily a woman, more so, a young woman will not stake her reputation by levelling a false charge, concerning her chastity.”
Instead of solace to their suffering sister, they let her down miserably. And, by publishing the victim’s photograph, they committed a crime with unavoidable penal consequences. The Superiors of the Order at Jalandhar, without whose connivance none could commit these outrages, are equally culpable. Their failureto report the crime to the Police is punishable in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court in Vishaka & Orsvs State of Rajasthan. As per Canon Law, Can. 666: In the use of means of social communication, necessary discretion is to be observed and those things are to be avoided which are harmful to one’s vocation and dangerous to the chastity of a consecrated person.
We need to probe the evil forces behind the accused, desperately labouringto stall the redress of a legitimate grievance of a woman, who chose to give up all her life to serve her fellow humans in the name of Christ. She is not forlorn.Christ is with her, and so her tryst with truth is bound to succeed.Every Catholic, every Christian, every human heart is with her.
Social Justice Department, under Nirbhaya schemes, had definite obligations to aid, support and protect the victim. Who stood in the way of discharge of this basic duty, part of a declared state policy? Investigative journalists should expose the shady characters behind the curtain who wielded influence for this criminal lapse.
As to the future, let’s be optimistic. Perhaps, we need to think out of the box. History is replete with such examples of human lapses, remorseful though, and, humanity’s innate capacity to get over them. Until President Abraham Lincoln took a tough stance in 1865 – 13th Amendment to the Constitution –slavery and slave trade flourished in the United States of America, now a haven of freedom and liberty! In the Mother of Parliaments – as British democracy flaunts – hesitant Britons pondered for centuries to grant universal suffrage to women only as late as in 1928!The infamous Spanish Inquisition was another. In modern times, the apartheid in South Africa and the reign of terror of General Franco ofSpain,are remnants of this.
We are now rebuilding a new Kerala for those who lost everything in the recent floods. The process requires brick, mortaret al. But, more than all that, stronger moral foundations and a fabric of fairness, equality and justice isa sine qua non. For, Unless the Lord builds the house, they who build it labour in vain.
As Ignatius of Loyola reiterated the warning of Our Lord to Francis Xavier, what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
Kuruvilla John, IAS (Retd.)
(The author is a former Principal Secretary to the Governor of Kerala)