Perception of a Bishop: Do They stand the test of Social auditing?

Perception of a Bishop/Priest According to an Ordinary Believer and Transfer of Metropolitans from Diocese to Diocese.

Dr. K. M. George;

I was reading with keen interest the arguments for and against the transfer of bishops in the bulletin. It sounds very laudable and attractive prima facie. There are several inherent dangers if we apply this one size fits all yardstick in transferring the diocesan bishops. One need to make sure that the people are not deprived of the good works being done as they are being considered as demand driven -not supply pushed shepherds. Self assumed clergy superiority and supremacy approach in relation to parishioners has driven many well meaning and educated laity to develop indifference to the clergy and or to leave the Church.

As the current method of selection of bishops is known to us all, let us try to see how to make it work better to have really good bishops with mental and physical health as well as emotional balance. They must be matter of fact and current to face the challenges of the modern world like for instance HG Dr Thomas Athanasius of Muvattupuzha, HG Coorilose of Bombay and HG Nicolovos of America to mention a few successful ones as people centric and proactive. If the bishops and or priests are summarily irrelevant, the laity may tolerate them for a while and shun them in due course.

The following criteria may be considered to be used to choose the right ones for the right job. The following are mostly for bishops. But it is applicable selectively to priests too.
1) Fitness (Physical- educational- emotional- mental and metaphysical)

2) Personality attributes (do they suffer from hidden criminal tendencies, financial indiscipline, and behavioural disabilities.etc.)

3) Are they men of honesty and integrity coupled with absence of self seeking prejudices?

4) Do they have the right aptitude to become bishop-it may be identified right from day one of joining the seminary.

5) Monastic aptitude along with matching physical and mental qualities to match with the Sermon on the Mount.

6)Are they willing to undergo special training even after the seminary studies and to work as interns with success story bishops in various fields to make them performance driven candidates?

7) Are they totally free from net working clicks and from the chosen laps of the power brokers among the laity and clergy including bishops.?

8) What about the Christian witness tradition of the families from which they come from? They could be from the Dlait background ,provided they come from homes of prayerful parentage with excellent witness.

9) Do they manifest the fruits of holy spirit as detailed in the Bible- Gal 5:22-26 .

10) Do they shun the works of the flesh? (Gal 5:19-21).

11) Do they suffer from Small Persons Syndrome-(SPS)?

12) Would they subscribe to a sacramental and ecclesiological humanism?

13) Do they accept a sacramental-ecclesiological social ethics?

14) Are they real spiritual men of prayer? Is their spiritual life is of prayer for all the community and are they the symbol of the presence of Christ around?

15) Do they possess developed minds?
Why some become naughty and haughty after the consecration and after getting the Matthanga Thoppy (Pumpkin Cap)?
I have seen several bishops who behave at times like evil spirit haunted ones, once they get consecrated. They get puffed up by swollen egos and feel that they are next to God if not miniature gods!!

They seek worldly fortunes and luxurious life styles—what an anti-climax for a shepherd? Are they sermonising the faithful ones Sundays after Sundays to have liturgy after liturgy!!! Hypocrisy of the highest order!!! Some of them suffer from hypochondria. Some of our bishops wear different masks. When they are abroad for collection drive and once they come home they behave very much differently. When the same persons who donated liberally while abroad, try to call on the same bishop comes the rude response, “ I am eating my supper—and ask him to wait outside” .The classic example was the experience of a poor gullible Qatar worker form Ernakulum District whom I know personally!!!! Why not behave like decent human beings if not as a bishop at least?
Transfer Issue:

It is a widely misused reward and punishment instrument in the hands of the superiors anywhere in the organised sector. When it comes to Church, the whims and fancies of the Catholicose aided by his hunch men may play havoc.
Let us try not to treat the symptoms. We need to identify the causative factors to find out a lasting remedy for this malady. It is a truism that by and large not the cream of the community go for seminary education. Most of the otherwise competent priests get married and not available to become bishops. A few people like Fr Dr Konattu Johns Abraham go to seminary as it is their family lineage to be kept intact with professional excellence.
The most preferred realms of education even today are still plum jobs like medicine, engineering, information technology, automobile, space technology and the like. It is true those averages and below averages still make their way to seminary admissions. It was a matter of gossip that some time back even the cook of a bishop with apostolic blessings made to the seminary of the Church. There is no harm in cooks or for that matter butlers or such categories become priests or bishops, provided they are well initiated as men of nobility and humility alike.
The Church is yet to give critical importance to empowering the Dalits to priesthood.

The seminary is a kind of assembly of mediocre students and teachers, barring a few exceptions .There is a need to have quality teachers to train the priests . Otherwise we do churn out only Qurbana- – Eucharist- wage earners or at best a class of trade union workers in white uniforms with black caps.

The synod and its head the Catholicose must be have a burning zeal for getting the right candidates for seminary education. Remember, at the end of the day in the modern world, it is the quality that matters. It is not a supply pushed industry any more.

It is from here the future bishops are to come forth. If the stock is poor the bishops cannot be better either. That is the fate of the Church to day as though there are educationally qualified bishops, many are without any semblance of the mental and emotional qualities of their predecessors like Paulose Gregorios, Philopose Theophilose, Gheevargehse Othathious- the doyens of the Malankara Church. I fondly recall the illustrious Kallassery Bawa, who was a unique synthesis of man and God in the form chief priest of Malankara Church! Leave alone Parumala Thirumeni as he was a special gift of God to humanity!!!!

Surely the ones who are to be elevated as bishops must have a divine call to be eligible to enter His Courts. Apart from that, the above mentioned factors and norms are to be there to be the guiding principles coupled with empathy.
Aspiring bishops, current bishops and the priests as well as would be clergy must read the quoted address of late Paulose Gregorios as reproduced in the book titled, “ Prakasthileek oru ThirthaYathra” ( A Pilgrimage to Light),pages 328 to 331 by Joice Thottakkad.

Transfers are very tricky and we need to look around to see what is happening in other Episcopal Churches too, not to copy them but to take the good points.

Bishops are to be without any blemish. Hence the very selection process must be careful, may be with respective diocese to begin with and finally to be ratified by the Association and the synod. However, prior to consecration they must undergo on the job training with senior and success story Metropolitans for a period of 3 to 5 years to have wider exposure and experience in administration and in the field of pastoral work too.

An expert performance evaluation committee would assess their competence or otherwise every year based on verifiable parameters. The verifiable parameters will be developed by an expert and the summary findings will be discussed with the candidate too for improvement. This committee must be headed by a very senior well meaning bishop and its members must be the principal of the seminary concerned and the diocesan bishop of the candidates parish and an independent evaluator.

Let us make no mistake in our understanding. Let us remember the old adage- Garbage in garbage out. Gone are the days of “take it or leave it” approach in the realm of church administration and clergy selection. The future beckons!

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