Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One year after PMPCIII

15 Aug 2007

One year after PMPCIII – what have we achieved?

In August this year we will be exactly one year after the Third Peninsula Malaysia Pastoral Convention (PMPCIII) which is held every 10 years. About 600 representatives from all three dioceses took part in the 3-day deliberations that is supposed to charter the course of our Church in Malaysia over the next 10 years.

Before that convention I wrote an open letter to the bishops which were not even acknowledged. Herald and Catholic Asian News(CANews) did not see my letter to be important enough to be published.

Post-PMPCIII disappointment

For months we all prayed earnestly for the success of this convention. We asked God, through the Holy Spirit to guide our clergy and lay leaders to come up with definite and concrete plans for the building of His Kingdom here in Malaysia.

There was so much publicity and hype beforehand, but unfortunately the PMPCIII itself was an anticlimax. We eagerly awaited some news of the outcome of the convention but to our disappointment at the first post-PMPCIII Sunday mass nothing was mentioned about the deliberations and decisions at the meeting either from the priests or lay leaders who participated in that historic event. The silence on the proceedings continued week after week It was a real disappointment to all Catholics who prayed so hard for the success of the PMPCIII.

This goes a long way to illustrate the importance given to the lay members of the Church. We are continuously being reminded “we are the church” but when and where it really matters we are ignored. How can we expect to build the true Kingdom of Christ when we do not reach out to the ordinary members of the church?

Now we are one year after the all important convention which we spent over RM 700,000 to organize. The next PMPC may cost us more than double this amount. Are we better off than before? Have our members benefited from the convention? Have we managed to bring Jesus actively into our lives and the lives of others? These are the questions we must pose and find honest answers.

Let us reflect on the various problems that continue to plague us and see how we are dealing with them after the PMPC III.

Clergy-laity relationship

This was one of the hottest issue debated at the PMPCIII.Most Catholics are very unhappy with the authoritarian attitude of the clergy. They wanted more responsibility on the day to day running of the parish.

Has the PMPCIII brought any effective change in this relationship? Most members of the laity would deny any change for the better. The “I know all” and “take it or leave” attitude of the clergy is still much alive as it was before.

There is a need for a bigger and more responsible role for the laity especially in the administration of the parish. Laity’s voice, maturity, intelligence and talents are often underestimated and not utilized.

Promoting and developing BECs as basic functional units in the parish.

A lot of emphasis is being made on the role of the BECs.Week after week we are preached the importance of BECs.We are also unfairly accused and even scolded from the pulpit for not attending BECs meetings. Do our priests really understand the problems of the BECs? I doubt so. How will they know when they do not make any attempts to attend any of these meetings?

There is an urgent need for active pastoral involvement in the BECs, whereby the priest establishes inter-personal relationship with the people on the ground. It is useless in having BECs without the active involvement of the priest to advice and directs his flock.

Open dialogue, transparency and accountability in the administration of parishes

Are there more open dialogue, transparency and accountability in the administration of the parishes? Are qualified members of the laity being employed to administer the church to make it more professional?

Is our parish council elected and given the rightful place as the governing body of all parish?Do the parish priests consider the views of the councils on major decisions?

Of late the weekly collections are displayed in the church bulletin which is an encouraging change and hope it is the beginning of an era of more accountability and openness. Much more needs to done to enlighten the parishioners on the expenses in the parish. Monthly income and expenditure and yearly audited accounts must be made public.

Mechanisms for feedback

Of late the Herald is available for feedback from parishioners and it is encouraging that it is being promoted by the clergy in some parishes. There is still more room for improvement. More space must be given for articles and commentaries from our own parishioners instead of being dominated by foreign writers. This would enable active discussion on local issues. Other forms of feedback at parish levels must also be encouraged such as parish bulletins and newsletters.

Declining Christian education.

With the decline in education as whole, we are also witnessing deterioration in even the basic universal human and moral values especially among the young.

We have lost all our Christian schools which used to be the main source of moral and religious education of our children. Our present school system has failed miserably in this aspect; it is therefore left to the parents, the church and the lay Christian community to take over the task of teaching the young the values and traditions of their faith.

The Church must take this seriously and set up a task force at the highest level comprising experts from all sectors to tackle this problem urgently. A strong, unshakable and lasting faith can only be developed by inculcating fundamental Christian values from young. We are now failing to do this, and I’m afraid our future generation will not withstand the various challenges to their faith.

There is need for the establishment of a national Christian Institute of leadership and teachers training for the training and education of our young men and women.

Growing crisis in marriage and family life.

There is serious concern over the ever increasing divorce rate which threatens family institution to the core. This is becoming rampant even among Catholics where divorce is forbidden. Uncompromising parents and rebellious children who do not respect elders are becoming common.

There is a need to strengthen the family unit. There is a need to train our people in the area of counseling to advice and check the disintegration of the family unit. At present there is no one to turn to in times of crisis as the priests are too busy and preoccupied with other commitments. Very often they do not even know their parishioners well to advice.

Neglect of the youth the declining morality among them

Our children are exposed to the strong attraction of a misconceived culture that is prevalent in today’s world. This culture contradicts every established principle of all religions.

Free sex, abortion and adultery are not frowned at anymore. Corruption and greed for wealth are becoming acceptable norms even among us, Christians. This is basically the result of failure of our national education system which is in disarray and in dire need of revamp. This has placed a greater responsibility on the Church and parents to instill good moral values in our children

Our youth today are under tremendous pressure in a materialistic world that is controlled by advancements in modern scientific and technological developments. They outsmart parents and teachers in these fields.

The church, instead of condemning these advancements as anti-religious, must keep abreast with them so as be able to advice and guide them. Failing this the church would become irrelevant to the youth. Depending too much on faith alone to accept certain practices will not take us very far with our young people.

Neglect of the social teachings of the Church

There is an increasing religious fervour among Malaysians of all faiths. The growth of fundamentalism in our Church may be driving many away. The social services to mankind that were the earmark of our Catholic faith in the heydays are on the decline. Holiness has become synonymous with just praying and observing church laws blindly without a feeling for the human heart.

Jesus stressed on loving God and man and unless we combine the spiritual and social teaching we are not going to appeal to the vast majority of the people. There should be emphasis that spiritual development without accompanying social values is devoid of substance. Our spiritual activities must enhance our unselfish service to man. Christ is present in the Eucharist; there is no doubt or dispute about that. But he is also present alive in every one around us.

Racial segregation in the church.

Racial segregation, initiated by the government, is creeping into our church and becoming a real problem. This is further aggravated by our practice of segregation of the races according to language groups. This was not a problem when English was the main language of the church in the seventies, why are we making it one now? We should not succumb to the forces that propagate a divide and rule policy but unite as one community because our strength lies in this unity in diversity. We must be Christians first then Chinese, Indians or others.

Awareness of the socio-political developments in the country.

Islamisation and marginalization of minorities by the government will soon be accepted as a way of life. Christians are complacent, hoping and praying that they will not be affected.

The church must make the members be aware of the serious repercussions of Islamisation on our religious beliefs. We should not be just happy to pray and go home; there are serious problems ahead which must be addressed now.

We must make clear our uncompromising stand on rights abuses that are so frequent these days. The recent Moorthy and Lina Joy cases should alert us to the seriousness of the situation today. Sad to say our priests hardly neither highlighted these cases nor was any special prayers offered during the masses.

Unity with other religious groups

We are not alone in our struggle against injustice, racial and religious prejudice. We have the other Christian denominations and other major faiths with whom we must cooperate and interact. We should not adopt the misguided notion that ours is the best religion and all others are false. We must be open to the universality of God, where every faith leads to the same God along different paths.

Lack of basic facilities in small parishes

Most parish premises used to be hive of activities for the people. But today many of the buildings and infrastructure in small parishes are in a sorry state due to neglect.

Every attempt must be made to improve the basic facilities in all parishes to develop them into centers of education, training and human development. All parishes must be equipped with adequate modern facilities for training and human development, especially the young.

The priests must be energetic and dynamic in keeping with latest developments. A task force at diocesan level must be formed, comprising experts in the various fields, to upgrade the facilities in all parishes.


These are some of the large number of issues that confronted us before the PMPCIII.Are there any genuine signs after PMPCIII to indicate they are being addressed?

One year has passed since the PMPC III and about RM730,000 has been spent on it. Let us search our conscience to as to who if any had benefited from the convention?

We eagerly organize various formations, rallys, conventions, seminars, talks and fellowship. We take great pains and spend lot of time and energy to raise funds and organize these activities. Regrettably we fail to show the same enthusiasm in reaching out to those in need in our midst. We forget that Jesus is waiting for us in the sick, the dying, the elderly, the widows, the orphans, the poor, the oppressed and lonely.

Unless we make efforts to touch these less fortunate among us, our faith would be meaningless and all the PMPCs that we may host will only go to waste.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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