On Behalf of the Nuns

Fr George Olivera, Mysuru

Mangaluru, Oct 11: In the recent not so happy events that occurred in the Indian church between the accused bishop Franco Mulakkal and victim nun – these are a few in between the lines reflections – post-mortem ruminations, and I want to title these reflections as ‘On Behalf of the Nuns’.

Any segment of the society Christian or otherwise has its own rules and regulations to define, defend, protect the members of its rank and file. But from the first day of the history of humankind – law favours the strong and then it protects the rest.

It is said in any dispute there are not two sides but there are three sides. For example, if there is dispute between A and B, there is the A side and then there is B side, and then you have the third side that is the Right side. When there is a dispute between the ecclesial members of the church, then there is the church law to give rightful dispensation of justice to its members. When the church justice fails, then the civil society enters to protect its members.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal 

It is sad irony that the church law is as old as the genesis of Christianity and it cannot dispense fair justice to its members anywhere in the world. The recent sex scandals that affect the overseas church and our inland church have seen similar situations. Since the church judicial system has failed to take care of delicate situation in more humane and prudent way, the civil judiciary system has become proactive.

In the overseas world, the atmosphere in the society is less polarized because it is mainly Christian and the affected parties are Christian. But in the Indian context, recent unpleasant developments in the church circles failed to be noticed rightly by the Indian church, and also they were magnified by secular media. In the very recent nun’s rape case, it is believed by many people that the church is backing the bishop who is in the legal tangle and the victim is backed by majority and the press. Recently Cardinal Oswald Gracias said that that real victim is the Truth in such situations.

Lessons are to be learned for our future times. Things can be better handled in our four-walled habitat of the church dwelling, by protecting our own ranks and file with fair justice in the parameters of the church law so that aggrieved parties could get fair share of justice and recompense and restoration of lost human dignity.

I take a stance to speak on behalf of the nuns because nobody officially speaks for them in the church. Nobody is guilty unless it is proved contrary in the court of the law. But to speak in support of one party and to ostracize the other party before the fair judgment given is not fair. Some of the letters written about the victim is not Christian in any way to read. What is needed is less of judgments and more of mercy that matters.

I recently came across a three-year-old column by then-Oakland, Calif., Bishop Allen H Vigneron, who is now the archbishop of Detroit, titled "10 rules for handling disagreement like a Christian." He said that he wrote it while he was the rector of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit to help students "deal with the often sharp difference of opinion we find within the church."

1. The Rule of Charity: "Charity is primary." Whatever is said ought always to be offered respectfully and for the genuine service of others.

2. The Rule of Publicity: "Think with the mind of the Church." The criterion for deciding our disagreements is not one's own private opinions, but what the church thinks.

3. The Rule of Legitimate Freedom: "What the Church allows is not to be disallowed." This rule means that in situations where the Church says that a variety of views or opinions is legitimate, I should not impose my option as a mandate on others.

4. The Rule of Catholic Freedom: "There's something for everybody, but not everything is for everybody." God has given gifts of grace in an almost dizzying variety. Nobody has to live the Christian life exactly the way I do.

A group of priests supported the protesting nuns in Kerala recently

5. The Rule of Modesty: "Not all of my causes are God's causes." It's right to embark on projects with a zealous desire to give God glory, but I have to remember that there are cases when it's not God's will for everyone else to join me.

6. The Rule of Integrity: "To do evil in order to accomplish good is really to do evil." If, in the service of Christ, I act in an un-Christian way, I become a highly effective ally of the very forces I set out to combat.

7. The Rule of Realism: "Remember that Satan is eager to corrupt my efforts to build up the Kingdom, and he's smart enough to figure out a way to do it." My cause may be right or my view may be true, but I have to watch that their goodness is not corrupted by my infidelity.

8. The Rule of Mystery: "Not all the habits and attitudes which belong to a society governed by a representative democracy are appropriate in the church." The church is neither a democracy nor a monarchy. She is the church, the Lord's own creation, constituted according to his will.

9. The Petrine Rule: "Nobody ever built up the Church by tearing down the pope." The pastoral care we receive from the pontiff is a great grace, St. Peter's own service of his fellow disciples continuing to this very day.

10. The Eschatological Rule: "The victory is assured; my job is to run out the clock with style." There is one Savior, and it's not you or me. Our mission is to serve the Lord in fidelity and hope.

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are of the author and not of Daijiworld)