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 Blooming Stars

Prerequisites for Reformation

            It is deep and enduring dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs that motivates persons for reformation. There are certain indispensable characteristics or requirements before one can engage in any meaningful and substantive reformation of religion, politics, or any institution for that matter. While what I write here applies to the transformation of all institutions, I am going to limit specifically to the reformation of the Catholic Church. Many in the Catholic Church currently believe that the Church is badly in need of reforms to carry out the message of Christ and build the Kingdom of God. The late Cardinal Carlo Martini (himself a papabilis – widely believed to be deserving of being elected pope), for instance, stated in a widely publicized interview two weeks before his death last year that the Catholic Church is at least “two hundred years behind time, … and is in need of radical transformation”. Martini had made news in 1999 in a synod of European bishops when he suggested a world council to “unravel doctrinal and disciplinary knots” in the Church. Interestingly Pope Francis last week at a meeting to receive the presentation of the Martini Foundation, created to study and spread the life, works, and writings of Martini, called Martini “a prophetic figure, a man of peace and discernment, and a father for the whole Church”. He made special mention of Martini’s biblical contribution, life of faith and spirituality. Ecclesia est semper reformanda (The Church needs to be always reformed) is an old well-known Latin saying. For this task the members of the Church are in need of constant metanoia (a repentant and graced change or spiritual conversion).

            Now that the case for the much-needed reformation of the Catholic Church is made, I want to look briefly at the requirements of the reformers. I am writing this article in the context of negative and destructive e-mail communications and articles in which persons actively engaged in reform are involved. I was also pained because some of the persons involved are either my friends or acquaintances. Some of the articles in the print media or internet are sensational, and do more harm than good in the cause of reformation as exaggerations and condemnation of an entire group are counterproductive.

            Some of the guidelines that a reformer needs to have are:

• Purity of intention. The handy example that comes to my mind is the one that Gandhi used during the non-cooperation related to Quit India movement in 1942. The strike was succeeding to some extent, but he stopped it as it involved violence, and lacked the purity of intention that he was looking for.

• Trust. When some real or apparent dishonesty is suspected, one should respectfully raise the issue and ask for explanation. One needs to accept the simple and clear explanation without imputing motives to the other person’s behavior. More often than not some misunderstanding or breakdown in communication has taken place. Time will heal. If one intentionally continues to be deceptive, it is going to come out at some point or other. It always helps to give the benefit of the doubt to the other person before judging. Unintended mistakes do take place in spite of us, and often because of our imperfect nature. In spite of all our precautions betrayal of trust will happen. That is the human predicament. We learn from it, grow and move on in lifeWhile I suffered grave betrayals of trust in my life, from my experience I find it more beneficial to trust than mistrust. In earlier years everyone is believed to be right unless proved otherwise. In a world of fast developing paranoid culture everyone is beginning to be believed to be a crook unless proved otherwise. Speaking of trust, it is interesting to note that Marthanda Varma appointed Dutch commander (Eustachius De Lannoy), whom he defeated in the battle of Kolachel, as the commander of his own army. What a trust!

• Detachment. Doing the best that one can, and leaving the rest to the Lord is immensely helpful. I need to be doing the right thing irrespective of what others do. There is no vested interest or hidden agenda. Whether the Catholic Church is reformed or not, all that matters is that I reform myself the way the Lord wants me. Detachment will also help me leave this word more easily when that time comes.


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