SPIRITUAL ENDEAVOR – MARRIED LIFE IN CONTRAST TO CELIBACY
அறத்தாற்றின் இல்வாழ்க்கை ஆற்றின் புறத்தாற்றில் போய்ப் பெறுவ எவன்.
What fruit from other modes of virtue (celibate life) can he/she gain?” -Thirukural
In every religious tradition, celibacy has been promoted and valued as a higher reality or a nobler way of life than married life. The leadership is given or taken over by the celibates (‘sanyasis’ in eastern tradition), with some exceptions in eastern traditions. In certain denominations of the Christian faith too, there are married leaderships but they sprang up as a revolt to the clerical hegemony of the Roman Catholic tradition.
From the life of every saint or a worthy person, we note that their family as a whole or an individual in it played a vital role in their heroic life. Most priests and religious would agree that their grandma or grandpa, mother, father or an aunt had a more over-powering influence in their life than the many formal years of formation in the seminary. The simple ejaculatory prayer my own grandma(who never even completed 2nd standard), is influencing my life than all the sermons: “JESUS, FILL THE WHOLE WORLD WITH YOUR DIVINE LOVE”. Her prayer was a verbalization of her entire life, as she went about serving everyone in need.
Celibacy among the Indian Catholics is being used as a door to enter the powerful and secure Church hierarchy, than as a spiritual enterprise. The Church in India, which boasts of over 2000 years of history right from the days of St. Thomas the Apostle, is struggling to survive, her faith being eaten away by the compromise it had allowed, namely Casteism. Today, casteism reigns supreme in the Indian Church. The caste system of the Hindu society is replicated in the Indian Church.
The oppressed and the Untouchable (Dalit) communities embraced Christianity hoping to redeem their lost human dignity and spiritual worth. But the caste-ridden Hinduised Church hierarchy has totally failed the Dalit Christians. They suffer untouchability within the Catholic Church. (refer http://justicenews.co.in/first-time-church-says-dalit-christians-face-untouchability/17955).
The worst part of Church history is that the Dalit Christians suffer untouchability within. They are despised and are relegated to the last and denied due representation in the Church’s various organizations. The plight of the Christian Thurumbars (Washermen Community for the Dalits) whom I am working with will be dealt in detail in my next column. They are the dalits among Dalits, the most oppressed community, who were treated as Unseeables until 1932. Their situation needs a full column. The Bishops, priests and religious who hold all the posts and portfolios in the Church, are more worried about safeguarding their positions and eyeing promotions, than establishing justice and equality within the Church. In fact, most of them use the caste factor to promote their own interests.
The celibates in Indian Church who claim to have renounced everything for Christ, refuse to renounce their caste identity. But we should note the fact that the Church hierarchy come from the caste-ridden Christian faithful. Hence we should strike at the root of the problem. The very root of Indian Church’s woes and moral degeneration is the practice of caste. Unless we root out caste from the Church, it is doomed. The religious leaders with all their dogmas of Consecration and the like, could not uproot caste.
All the practices of piety in the world and millions of consecrated celibates have not been able to eradicate caste, because it is in people’s blood. Caste is perpetuated through birth which is intrinsically tied to marriage. According to a recent statistics, nearly 95% of Indians marry within their own caste. This can be extended to the reality of racial discrimination in the Universal Church. Hence the need of the hour is committed and virtuous married faithful than caste-ridden hierarchy.
Make inter-caste marriages compulsory if the sacrament is to be celebrated within the Church. The families of the clergy should give a lead in this
Celebrate inter-caste marriages rather than the Priestly Ordination ceremonies and religious professions
Make inter-caste couples as leaders and animators in the parishes
Ban caste names and surnames of individuals
Dismantle caste Christian associations
This alone will make us live the words of St. Paul “There is no longer any distinction between Jew and Greek, between slave and freeman, between man and woman; for, all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” -Galatians 3:28