In Praise of Criticism. By Fr. Anand Muttungal

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In the recent times one of the Church heads who is very critical about the Conference of Diocesan Priests of India wrote in his long critical letter addressed to the Catholic Conference of Bishops of India (CCBI) that “As a whole CDPI is a colourful balloon attractive from outside, empty inside. A wonderful name is chosen but nothing substantial in the statutes.” It is very true of the organization. In the real sense it is supposed to be one of the biggest organizations of diocesan clergy but it has been slogging behind the Heads of the church for its existence. He has rightly said in his critical evaluation and because of this, it could not establish itself till now. The Canon 287(1) provides freedom to the diocesan clergy to form an association for their well being but over the years the Indian diocesan clergy has not been using their right. He has rightly pointed out how ineffectively its statutes are made. We must remember that it has been made by the Church heads. So can we put the blame on diocesan clergy or call it a manufactural defect? However, it is giving us an opportunity to improve the organizational defects.
The letter raises many serious questions on the rules and regulations made for the CDPI. It questions the place of the chairman, elections of the office bearers,and functioning of the National, Regional and Diocesan units of the CDPI. A serious objection is made regarding the process of membership into the organization. The statutes of the CDPI say that all priests incorporated into the dioceses are members of the CDPI. It really raises the question of the freedom of individuals. But it is not clear about the enthusiasm of the organization to expand, cancellation of membership, the issue of membership fees, etc. It is a fact that any organization that wants to grow should have provisions for a process of membership and election. They strengthen the organization. This question is really pertinent but what about the automatic system developed by the Bishops’ Conference of Catholic Church that all the dioceses are automatically members of the National and Regional Conferences. If we apply our mind to this principle then what is the inappropriateness in applying it to the membership procedure of the Conference of Diocesan Priests of India?
Another question raised in the letter regarding the election of the office bearers and its functioning calls for urgent consideration. The statutes permit that any person who occupies the post of the Secretary to the Commission for Clergy and Vocations of the CCBI will be the ex-officio Secretary to the CDPI in the National and Regional level. This rule has been truthfully followed in the National and Regional Level so we have some regional secretaries from the Religious Congregations as Secretaries to the Conference of the Diocesan Priests of India! The question raised in the letter is very right that the statute of CDPI is very weak and suppressive. The Statutes of the CRI would not take even a diocesan priest as its member, so how could the secretary of the CDPI be a member from the religious congregation? It is a valid point for reflection and it calls for a thorough change in the whole organization.
The letter as a whole has given a very critical evaluation of the CDPI and its working. If we follow the points that I have raised from the letter of the Church head in this note, then CDPI would become one of the most effective organizations of the Clergy to revitalize the Church in the Country. The diocesan clergy must keep in mind that we must work single heartedly for the renewal of the Church because we have nothing to loose but the possibility of an imminent transfer to a parish with fewer facilities.

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