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Galileo-Catholic church affair: must history repeat at Malaysia’s St Francis Xavier church?

By Jay Ihsan* 

Christianity is the enemy of liberation and civilization -August Bebel
Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence -Jacques Maritain
Real Christianity can be summed up in two commands: Love God and love people. - Joyce Meyer
Pious XI was too neutral to mention the gas chambers; decent people like my own family were turned into devils by crude Christianity - Lionel Blue

Religious doctrines cannot escape the liberty of thoughts and expression. To each their own, so it is said. From all things nice to all things that make one cringe - religion is polarised and in this regard, Christianity has over time faced the wrath of bigotry espoused by those "bequeathed" to protect it.
Take Pope Francis for example. He had a secret meeting with giant pharma Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla last year while the world struggled to make sense of the word "lockdown" and suffer adverse effects of the Corona virus vaccines produced by Pfizer.
On his part, Francis proclaimed that getting jabbed with the Covid-19 was an "act of love" and a "moral obligation".
Devout Catholics took Francis' words as the 'gospel truth" and rolled up their sleeves for the Covid-19 inoculation. The result - some suffered unanticipated agony which affected their health while many others died after being vaccinated.
“Thanks” to Pope Francis, the pharma company pocketed $8.8 billion from its killer Covid-19 vaccines and $8.1 billion from its oral medication Paxlovid.
Dare Francis now do right by the Bible and make amends for misleading Catholics? Or has he like India's prime minister Narendra Modi the audacity to lie and lay all blame on the people for making a foolish decision to take the Covid-19 shot in an attempt to escape culpability?
Absconding from accountability is not new to the Vatican. Pope Francis however forgets that doubling down on hypocrisy is no less contagious with “pandemic” proportions, as evident both in the world western and Asian countries.
A 2021 survey, with watershed revelations, shows that for the first time, fewer than half of people in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian.
The proportion of those who identified themselves as Christian was 46.2 percent, down from 59.3 percent in the last census in 2011.
Should the Pope have sleepless nights over this? Yes if his remark that “Christianty is not a spirituality but a way of life” is not mere rhetoric.

Harm to Christian faith continues

In the meantime, churches throughout the world find themselves being rejected by the people. For Malaysia’s St Francis Xavier churchgoers, the unbridled power abuse and thuggery taking place has left them both scared and disenchanted.
It is said that the current parish priest enjoys absolute freedom to hire and remove staff. When vows like chastity, poverty and obedience become a laughing stock, it is time both the faith and church undergo healing and redemption.
When on November 29 published an article "Zakir Naik tumult, Catholic Church power abuse: will Anwar Ibrahim save Malaysia" the silence adopted by church top guns was and remains a baffled deafening.
Both Archbishop Julian Leow and Bishop Bernard Paul made no effort to counter the damning allegations made by a churchgoer against St Francis Xavier parish priest Moses Rayappan for abuse of power and disrespecting vows of celibacy and chastity.
Bishop Bernard Paul, who heads the Malaccca-Johor Diocese (Majodi) instead once told a churchgoer that the "church is political and to go with the flow".
The Bishop's remark that "church is political' is no less a loose cannon. Is he implying that the Catholic church enjoys political patronage or that the Catholic church is law unto itself and beyond reproach?
Whatever the “message” may be, the stubborn refusal to deal with malfeasance taking place at the St Francis Xavier church in Malacca has created a skid row situation forcing committed churchgoers to skip mass in a hostile environment.
How much more damage has to take place before church top guns turn conscientious? Must the parish and staff suffer in silence given the present day climate of fear and reprisal?
Does democracy and rule of law not apply to houses of worship? Are churches, gurdwaras, mosques and temples devoid of dignity?
Going by the disregard from the Catholic church bigwigs, redemption is hardly a safe bet, unlike politics of the day which have kept the church “busy”.
The Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) is one case in point. Its secretary-general Jonathan Jesudas promptly responded to a call by a state ruler that politicians stop playing the race card to instigate Malaysians.
CCM was just as quick to reject accusations made by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin of a covert agenda to “Christianise” the country.
Why the zero concern from CCM and the Christian Federation of Malaysia (comprising the Roman Catholic Church, CCM and National Evangelical Christian Fellowship) when it comes to animal abuse? Whatever happened to the Bible’s espouse of be the “voice for the voiceless”?
While CCM and the Catholic church unabashedly choose to ignore the perils in their backyard vis-à-vis the power abuse at St Francis Xavier church, the rot continues.
Is the fact that the Catholic church in Malaysia comes under the spiritual leadership of the Vatican ie. the Pope reason enough for Bishop Bernard Paul and the CFM to feel embolden and dismiss the misgovernment taking place at St Francis Xavier church?
What will it take for the CFM chairperson, Archbishop Julian Leow to intervene and instill confidence in churchgoers that the church remains a safe and dedicated place to profess love and commitment to the Christian faith?

Church’s toxic cancelling culture

When the church in all its high-handedness adopts the pernicious cancelling culture by shutting down communication as a show of vindictiveness in rejecting constructive criticism or even condemnation coming its way, where does it leave those are trying to reach out to it for help?
Is playing judge, jury and executioner a new role employed by the church?
Why the disdain in extending a helping hand to the voiceless? In this regard, both Father Lionel Thomas, the present parish priest of St. Peter’s church and nun Santhamary Ganapragasam of the Infant Jesus Sisters order could do good to remember that a sense of entitlement has no place in any faith or religion?
Why the haughtiness in living up to the vows taken? Claims of “charity” and “kindness” as made by the Catholic church in favour of nun Shantamary when she took her final profession of vows in 2016 remain baseless given her apathy towards both people and animals?
As for priest Lionel Thomas, the meagre concern offered to the “voiceless” as was the case with the dogs’ at the Good Shepherd Catholic Seminary( which comes under the purview of St Peter’s Church) does not warrant any appreciation.
But yes, as an activist friend reminded me that the church can be both nasty and vengeful with its mafia-style reign and cautioned that I not risk life and limb in disclosing the misdeeds taking place, I am troubled by the hubris and greed that so can easily inflict a man of God.
How long before the church accepts that it is time for “deliverance” and in all humility puts an end to cronyism and misuse of authority plaguing it remains a mystery.
Even Galileo, one of the founders of modern science, was not spared by the Catholic church for staying true to his belief that earth revolves around the sun, which the church denounced and deemed heretical.
Should history be forced to repeat itself by the church? Is attaining infamy for vile indulgences the Catholic church’s be-all-and-end-all agenda?
Not surprising then that church goers refuse to publicly share their concerns about the tyranny and mismanagement the church indulges in, fearing both safety and persecution from the top leadership.
Know that while Galileo fearing torture relented to the Catholic church's wishes, he however stayed defiant and muttered, ‘all the same, it moves’ as he was led out of the court.
It took over three centuries before the Catholic church finally came to its senses when in 1992 it conceded that Galileo was telling the truth, 359 years later!
Should the Galileo-Catholic church narrative serve unequivocally as an everlasting reminder and lesson for the Catholic church, to remind it that pomposity and arrogance are no virtues worth defending? Yes but with the church in all sincerity embracing modesty and courage to admit malpractices.
In the case of the 166-year-old St Francis Xavier church in Malacca, Malaysia's most dependable state in generating revenue through tourism, only time will show just how valued and respected the Catholic church is to those entrusted to care and protect its sanctity.



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