Starting in the Herald and spilling into the internet, a debate has been raging since the past couple of weeks on the issue of the ownership of land by the Church and issue of its accountability.
The issue is fairly straightforward, one with which there can be no real and material disagreement. The Church (the aggregate of individual parishes) is the owner of vast tracts of property in
The location of the debate, in the secular public space, provides for us an interesting starting point to contemplate the issue and examine the possible problems that emerge from such a space.
To begin with, it is significant that this debate is actually taking place in the secular public space. One would not find such a debate among say the Muslim communities in
This self-confidence however is one that needs to be checked, given that the ‘dominance’ of the Goan Catholic, is really one of self-perception alone, devoid of any material basis for it. On the contrary, the growing majoritarianism both in
This is not to say that there is no cause for debate. There is indeed, and without doubt. The question is where is one to have it, or how, and why has this debate spilled into the secular public space. Some blame for this could definitely be laid at the door of the Church. Its monthly magazine Renovacão is largely perceived to be closed to matters that the hierarchy of the Church would not like to debate. Personal experience has also indicated that social groups –largely Catholic – that wished to debate this issue with the Archbishop received no response. In the absence then of an ‘internal’ space to debate and dialogue, where are the disgruntled to go but the secular public space?
When examining this debate regarding the ‘Political economy’ of the Church in
Another possible reason, for what may be an analytical error, is a unreflexive replication of European models of understanding society. The strong tradition of anti-clericalism was popular in Portuguese-India as well. In
Conducting debates such as that of the relationship between Church and property in a society fraught with other tensions is not easy. The answer does not lie in pushing the discussion entirely within the realm of the community, since this is the perfect way for the debate to be quashed, and dissidents silenced. Discussing these issues, and engaging in mud-slinging (as is the wont in any debate in Goa) is not the answer either, given that it leaves the field even more open to capture. The way forward therefore seems to be in the initiation of genuine discussion and debate initiated (no seized, and immediately) by the hierarchy of the diocese toward a resolution of a problem, that in truth has been kept of the back-burner for way too long.
(Published in the Gomantak Times 10 June 2009)