NEW DELHI: It may be a sheer act for survival in a pluralist country or a genuine acceptance of the changing realities. One of the most conservative churches in the country -- the Roman Catholic Church -- wants to have a more liberal Indian outlook towards inter-religious marriages, contraception, abortion and cohabitation, all considered “unpardonable sins” by the Catholic Church until now.
Seeking permission to adopt a more liberal way of looking at these issues, it has written to the Vatican. Underlining that there is a “disconnect” between the Church’s teachings and the lived reality in Hindu-majority nation, the Catholic Church has urged the Pope to guide it to take up a more “contemporary” way of connecting with Indian realities.
The document, which has been sent to Rome earlier this week, will be discussed at the upcoming world Synod of Bishops to be held in the Vatican from October 4-25. The Catholic Church -- comprising the Latin Church, the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara Churches -- represents the majority of the country’s Christian population, for whom the Pontiff is their supreme religious leader.
“We prepared this document after an extensive survey among priests and laymen. The general feeling among the respondents, including the priests was that there must be a better way to connect with the changed socio-political realities in our country,” said a Latin rite priest involved in drawing up the document.
According to him, the Indian Church strongly feels that it should be “more Indian” in dealing with the issues of the country where people belonging to different religions coexist.
“The Indian church faces many peculiar issues, which the Church in Western countries rarely faces. So, we have to have a more indigenous approach,” the priest clarified.
He pointed to the increasing instances of inter-religious marriages as one example of a “peculiar problem” that the church faces in India.
According to him, a large number of Christians are marrying outside the religion and the Church can no longer afford to “expel” all of them.
Till now, the Church used to “excommunicate” those, who marry outside the religion without any second thoughts unless and until the non-Christian spouse converted to Christianity. Excommunication means the church ends up losing members of their congregation.
“India being a pluralist country, such marriages are bound to happen. So, we need to find new ways to connect with them. Our document mulls at length over this,” said the priest.
The document proposes that those, who marry non-Christians, can still be part of the church activities without any hindrance if they so wish. It adopts a similar liberal attitude towards those, who are in relationships and living together, divorcees and others who have “lapsed from the faith”.
As of now, Catholics, who divorce, are not allowed to receive Communion and are considered to be living in sin.
The Church document has also underlined the need to have a simplified process for annulling marriages. “We want to make it more transparent and easier in order to speed up the process of (securing) divorce,” said the priest.
The priest said the Indian Church is hopeful that the Vatican will be very positive towards these suggestions as the Pope himself is “very progressive” in these matters.
He pointed out that Pope Francis had last week said that the Catholic Church must be “more welcoming” to Catholics, who divorce and remarry.
The document also mentions the rise in abortion rates in the country and says that the society in general adopts a lighter attitude towards it. In this context, the Church, too, wants to have a “relaxed stand” on contraception.
It also feels that the Indian society is becoming “highly skewed toward materialistic tendencies and career ambitions” and that there is a “growing dominance exhibited by lust, bodily gratification and addiction to pornography in Indian society”.
To deal with all these issues, the Indian Church wants the Vatican to guide it in adopting a “liberal yet Indian approach”.
The Church document also discusses in detail the impact of media and technology on Indian Christian families.