Thursday, January 24, 2008

Parish Councils should be given due recognition

There is a need for more and open dialogue

I refer to the report “All parish councils are advisory in nature” (Herald ,January 20).

Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing, S.J. in his opening address at the 2nd Parish Pastoral Assembly(PPA)of the Church of the Immaculate Conception,Johor Bahru,disclosed the role of the PPA. He clarified that all parish councils are advisory in nature and the decision-making and lies with the bishop of the diocese or in the case of the parish, with the parish priest.

This advisory role Parish Council is very clear and there is no dispute about that, although personally I feel it should have more executive powers in non-spiritual issues. This is especially so in a society whose demands have become very complex and needs to be managed more professionally with all the resources available. Fortunately today the Church is not short of qualified expertise in all fields.

This brings to mind the ongoing inquiry into the Lingam tape. Our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr.Mahathir,in his testimony was so arrogant as to say that he need not give explanation to anyone on the choice of judges, even to the Chief Justice, who makes the recommendations to him. To him, he alone makes the final decision and owes nobody any explanation even the people.

Although the role of the PPC is advisory, is only proper that it be given due recognition and importance it deserves, which I am afraid may not be so in many parishes. It is very sad that there is little or no dialogue between the priest and the PPC in many places. There are no qualms as to priest making the final decision, but he must give serious consideration to the views of the PPC and the people and provide proper explanations and justifications if he has to reject their proposals for whatever reasons.

Unsatisfactory management and unaccountable unilateral decisions by the parish priests in many parishes, have driven away many talented members of the laity from active participation in the various organizations.If this continues I am afraid our Church will soon end up being just an institution that just carries out rituals and magic to cure the ills of mankind,rather than bringing the love of Christ to them.

It is timely for the Church to emphasize on the qualities of good leadership among the priests.A good leader is one who listens and respects the wishes of the people and is accountable to them in making any decisions. If he doesn’t then he will be no different from our own politicians, of whom we are very critical.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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