4 August 2006
Your report “Study says British Catholicism facing pastoral catastrophe”(Herald July 16, 2006) revealed some disturbing facts about the state of the church in Britain. According to the report, attendance at mass has slumped by 40 per cent and Catholic marriages by 60 per cent over the last 30 years.
From the study,the author, Tom Horwood,comes to some drastic conclusions, “The church in Britain is suffering from a terminal decline in membership, irregular commitment among the remnant, and in the wake of persistent child-abuse scandals, a leadership of bishops and priests that has toppled from its pedestal with a mighty crash’.
This observations is not peculiar to Britain, I’m sure similar findings will also be the feature in other countries in Europe and U.S.We too may not be that far from such a situation as we seem to be making the same mistakes of these so-called Christian countries of the West.
One has to just visit some of the smaller parishes to realize the pathetic state of our church in Malaysia. Most of these church premises which were once a hive of activity for the parishioners are now almost in shambles and at the verge of collapse. Attendance at masses and participation in parish activities, especially among the youth, is fast declining and I’m afraid, soon we may have to close down these churches.
Apart from carrying a Christian name and displaying a holy picture in front of their homes, many Catholics hardly display any true characteristics of our faith.
The success of the Church at the heydays was due to the strict adherence of Christ’s teaching of love God and love man. Our predecessors rightly transformed the love for God to love for fellow men.
Based of this love for God through man, came the establishment of the various institutions for providing service to man, like the mission schools, hospitals, and orphanages, homes for the aged, schools for the disabled and halfway homes for the wayward and so on. This service to man became entrenched as the social teachings of the church and were synonymous with Christianity.
I our country too, not long ago, we witnessed the love of Christ alive in our community through the activities of these institutions of God’s love. We were taught to see Christ in others and serving mankind was the way Christianity has to be practiced. Today we cannot proudly claim to have these institutions of Christ’s love anymore and our children are not able to witness the living love of Christ in our community.
There is a progressive erosion of the legitimate rights of the minorities in the country. We are confronted with an unreasonable authority which fails to adhere to established norms and refuses to engage in dialogue to solve common problems. There is real threat that the nation is slowly moving towards an Islamic state.
Faced with these new realities, the Church must be proactive in it’s strive to develop our Christian community to become self reliant in all fields, spiritual and social. Only by doing that we can overcome the “assault” by the unreasonable political authority we are subjected to.
The clergy must realize that society has become so complex and as Christians we have to pool all available resources to overcome our predicament today. We have the talent and capabilities within our Christian community in all fields - legal, administration, finance, business, medical, education and so on.
It is only by our unity of our different gifts and talents can we build the community of the Church. If we do not unite and utilize all our resources to the fullest, to defend our rights now, we would be totally and permanently robbed of these rights and possessions and become irrelevant in the not so distant future.