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11/26/2008, in category "General News & Articles"
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Chicago, Illinois, United States
The main reason I found inspiration in writing about this issue is how politics effects the youth. So many youth find politics in church intolerable and disgusting. The fear of the church being “red tagged” has been realized, since so many youth know parishes through their Christian communities (Mar Thoma, Jacobite, Orthodox) by how bad the politics is. They recognize how politics can break friendships between parents, create feuds between leaders, and finally, they are the ones who observe how the Achans take it to themselves.
Tribulations of Syro Malabar USA-
A Personal Essay over Church Politics within Leadership and Community
Abin Kuriakose (Chicago)
In my previous essay,"The Growth and Future of the Youth in the Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago,"I mentioned in my list the 5 Solution.
The Politics has to go:
I knew with this sub-title, any person who would be reading this would have their automatic assumptions. I notice a common saying within the youth in our diocese and other Malayalee Christian Churches, "Politics dominates the congregation." I have been attending the Mar Thoma Shleeha Cathedral every since I could remember. My whole family is active and I myself love coming to the parish. Like I have said before, it is considered a safe haven for many youth. A good percentage of teenagers in high school are drinkers or smokers (any high school student within our parish can't argue with that). Many say they do this for fun; however others just want to get away from their problems. Problems can go from their friends, their parents, high school (itself), grades, ACT, SAT, college applications and more. However I firmly believe that a church is a safe haven from all of that. You are away from the world's pressures, and plus, the greatest part is you are with the best person that can help you: God.
However here is a problem that is oppressing the safe haven theory: church politics. I am not speaking about political ideology but interference and hostile debate between parishioners and church policy (church policy includes leadership and standard). Church politics can be rooted through a parishioners economic status, activity status (how active you are at church), job status, view status (your views of a Bishop, Priests, Parish Leaders, and others) and more. Church Politics can get ugly and the worst product of church politics is a parishioners absence from church.
Why it can be so damaging
Of course, I made my list.
You just lost another Catholic, a SYRO MALABAR CATHOLIC
An issue the Synod of Bishops confronted in Rome of 2005 was church attendance on Sundays and for other liturgical services. It has been in the decline for years. However, church politics makes it worst. People who leave the church only come back when the politics has slowed down or at a low point. However when returning, they can never truly find his/her place anymore in the congregation.
Parish of Politics
In these days, since we have a diocese and a transparent leadership, more and more people are coming back to our parish. However, when coming back, the parish will be carrying a red tag. A red tag reading , All churches want a good reputation and that necessary if you want more people to come to the church. Imagine how shrines and famous basilicas received all their honorary titles and praise. Certainly you will never find any shrine or basilica to be rotting with politics.
The future of the Youth will diminish
The main reason I found inspiration in writing about this issue is how politics effects the youth. So many youth find politics in church intolerable and disgusting. The fear of the church being red tagged has been realized, since so many youth know parishes through their Christian communities (Mar Thoma, Jacobite, Orthodox) by how bad the politics is. They recognize how politics can break friendships between parents, create feuds between leaders, and finally, they are the ones who observe how the Achans take it to themselves.
How the Achans can help.
Most of the Achans are very neutral to the matter. And most of them have 99.99% effectively done that. However they are not deaf. They know the politics that is going on in their parishes. Of course they think it is just not right ,however, if they are involved, that is just going straight down the path for the end of their parish ministry in that particular church. So what do many Achans do? They continue with their parish work and activities. However they are the superpower and ally towards the youth. As I said before, the youth is such a powerful force in many churches. Especially in our own, the youth is the concrete future for the cathedral/parishes in general. We need them to come to church and to take on leadership. And the one great thing about the youth is politics is downplayed and suppressed. Yes there is some minor politics in the youth; however nobody sides in the issue. The majority does not side but suppresses the issues. They try to find the solution as soon as possible. In some youth leaderships, there is more of a discussion in making decisions rather than cold debate. The youth looks at both sides of the issue, and they do what is best for the community. With this observation, the Achan can be an influential and great parish leader if he has the youth support, and he himself supports the youth itself.
SMCC - Where are You?
"It was necessary to have a national forum for all these volunteers to come together and equip themselves for better service to the Church" (www.smccusa.com). The Syro Malabar Catholic Congress is a lay association within the bylaws of the Code of Canon Laws and under the jurisdiction of our diocese. They boast to have a common forum of extraordinary volunteers (deeming parishioners who have a more active role in their parishes). The SMCC members know how big the problem of politics can be. I will even bet that the SMCC had some type of politics within its own organization. Let me list some of the major aims and objectives of the SMCC listed on www.smccusa.com:
To provide a common forum for Syro Malabar Catholics living in North America to coordinate activities for the advancement of Syro Malabar Catholic community in North America.
To introduce the young people in the community to the spiritual heritage of Syro Malabar Church.
To work for the advancement of Syro Malabar Church in America.
First I would like to say, these are very thoughtful and amazing objectives/aims; something everyone should promote within their parishes. For the second aim I have listed about the youth, is the objective the SMCC should truly strive for. The youth are not attracted to politics. They don't want to see it. Politics only hurts the Syro Community and only advances the one person who came victorious through the whole political standoff. I call for the SMCC to foster the next leadership of the diocese: the youth. The SMCC is a wonderful organization with a great mission: to advance Syro Malabar USA. However, is the SMCC strong enough? Can they support the youth and call for a stronger Syro Parish-Community? Anybody can talk, however can you practice? I would like challenge the SMCC with a humble request: Can your organization help and define Syro Malabar USA in the future? Contact me if you have answer.
Status Quo for too long
We see the issue, but we don't do anything about it. We know politics is happening in the church at all times, however we stand aside and hope it will be gone in three months. Usually this is what happens. So many will challenge my essay and ask, "well, since politics only goes for so long, why should we care? Why are you writing about us and how bad we are?"
Like I said in my pervious essay, I don't want to point fingers. As a community, this is a problem that we have always faced. The problem is we must fight it out of our churches. People will say politics will always exist. People will say we are all humans, we fight and that is how we get things done. My argument: we are members of a religious institution; not a political association. Church should be the last place for politics. Personally, I have heard tens of stories about my parish. Most of them were not too pleasant. I came to the conclusion that the Syro Malabar Mission in Chicago was built by politics and that is what set the standard.
But then I looked this over. I love Syro Malabar, I love my community, and I love the Church, the bride of Jesus Christ. I looked over my history and I can more confidentally say that the Syro Malabar Mission of Chicago was created by leaders, and some of the greatest leaders we can ever have. And yes politics did come about however never truly built the mission. I would like to emphasize on truly.
My solution to this problem is already happening. Status Quo will change. I can safely say that the youth has been hauntedby the politics that has unraveled in their parishes in the last decade. They hate it, they despise it, and they want it to go.
The youth of the Catholic Church have gone through a phase by the revolution set by Pope John Paul II. Nobody can really identify or name this phase/revolution so I will tag it simply The John Paul Revolution. Pope John Paul II created new standards for future Pontiffs to recognize the youth as a premier community of the Catholic Church. He instituted World Youth Day, spent time with the youth community in his various international trips, and wrote about how the youth is the ;future of the church. This in turn created the youth community to become vibrant Catholics - a new breed of Catholics. With Vatican II still settling in, the Youth is more active through volunteering activities, bible study, instituting a better relationship with the clergy, attending conference/retreats/seminars, joining Catholic organizations and more. With all of this, the youth will not just sit around and debate over church issues when they take charge. However they will follow a discussion format, viewing both sides of the issues, and resolving or compromising for the final decision. To me personally, it is a beautiful thing to see. Yes you might see the occasional grudge or opposition however the final decision is supported by a concrete purpose and have been thought out carefully.
The purpose is not for personal gain, but for spiritual gain. The difference between the Youth Community and current Parish Councils is that the Youth Community is more focused upon spiritual gain. Of course the Parish Council is the administrative body of the church,.However its main mission should be expanding the pastoral care of all its members with leadership of the Vicar..
CODE OF CANON LAW (1983)
A particular council, for its own territory, takes care that provision is made for the pastoral needs of the people of God and possesses the power of governance, especially legislative power, so that, always without prejudice to the universal law of the Church, it is able to decide what seems opportune for the increase of the faith, the organization of common pastoral action, and the regulation of morals and of the common ecclesiastical discipline which is to be observed, promoted, and protected.
Originally published in the Syro-Malabar News, Oct. 2008