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Pastoral council laws divide Mangalore

Group objects to rule prohibiting Catholics who file cases against priests

A Catholic reads  the new Church constitution A Catholic reads the new Church constitution
  • Francis Rodrigues, Mangalore
  • India
  • January 11, 2011
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Catholics in Mangalore diocese are divided over new rules for pastoral councils that some say are discriminatory.

A local civil court has set Jan. 12 to hear the case that a laity group, United Christian Association, filed late in December.

The group, which claims 230 members, says several clauses in the constitution, promulgated on Nov. 2, 2010, are discriminatory and unethical.

The court recorded the presentations on Jan. 7.

The association’s president Alban Menezes said his  group has the right to approach the judiciary to rectify discriminatory norms.

The group mainly objects to the rule that prohibits parishioners, who file cases against the Church, priests and Church bodies, from becoming members of pastoral councils.

The 104-page constitution also bars tenant parishioners from becoming members of parish councils, finance committees and other Church bodies.

Melwyn P. Noronha, the bishop’s lawyer, said that 664 lay leaders have written to the court supporting the constitution and the bishop.

Noronha, a Catholic, has also filed a 30-page statement for the court explaining that canon law gives the bishop legislative, executive and judicial power to govern his diocese.

The bishop’s lawyer also said that the new constitution tries to ensure that only those with high moral standards and deep faith get elected to Church bodies.

Noronha said eight Catholic and two Hindu lawyers have the backing of the bishop.

Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza said his Mangalore  diocese revises rules for diocesan bodies every three years after consulting lay and Religious representatives from 158 parishes. The new constitution was framed after 32 consultations, he added.

Father William Menezes, the diocese’s Public Relations Officer, said that in a similar case four years ago the court had accepted the Church as a  hierarchical structure.

A Catholic lawyer, who preferred anonymity, says such cases should be settled at the grassroots. “Now the Church is at the mercy of the court,” he added.

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Archbishop asks state to erase anti-Christian wall messages

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