The Other Side of Christian Property Board
By Father Anand Muttungal
It is past few years the issue of making a Christian Property Board in the Country has fast picked up. It was an issue discussed in a few quarters of the laity and clergy of the Country. The Catholic hierarchy which holds major portion of the Christian property has come in open to protest against the debate itself. A few years ago the Commission for Minorities in Madhya Pradesh came into controversy when it came out with a proposal to bring all Christian properties (gifted and leased) under the board. It was welcomed by a few people from across the Country. Their voice was considered a voice of intellectuals and disgruntled common man. The entire issue was placed in the background of selling of properties belonging to a few non-catholic Churches in some parts of the Country including Madhya Pradesh. Then Church leaders realized black hands of the fundamental organizations to bring the Christian community under their thumb. So when the issue reached its peaks the Catholic Church approached the Madhya Pradesh High Court and later Supreme Court to stop the efforts of the allegedly RSS supported Minority Commission Member to recommend the State Government to make Christian Property Board like that of theState Waqf Board.
The case was later withdrawn from the Supreme Court due to the statement made by the Minister In-charge of Minority Welfare in the State Assembly that the Government has no plans to make any such body. Meanwhile the Christian member in the State Minority Commission completed his term as member. The issue went into oblivion till he was getting to end of his second term as member of the commission. This time he used his cards very well by roping in one of the top Christian religious heads through a close door meeting arranged by an aging former politician. Even though the detail of the meeting is unknown it is clear from their statements that the religious head has given his green signal to prepare the draft. Some trusted sources say that the Commission Member has promised to keep off the Catholic Church out of the said act but how could there be two standards for the Catholics and Non-Catholics in the same State under the same Constitution. Isai Mahasngh which spear headed the protests in the state has clarified that it is firm in its stand and it will not allow any attempt by the BJP lead State Government to interfere into the administration of the Church properties.
The Indian Law is very clear that all properties owned by individuals and societies are to be governed by the rules and regulations existing the Country. If any person makes false documents to sell off the Church property there are strict laws to stop them. We must remember that in spite of the Waqf Board Act a lot of property of the Board is under dispute. It is matter of fact that even if we agree with the Minority Commission to make a draft and hold discussions to reach a consensus before presenting the Bill, it will not be good for the Christian community because based on any Act wide interpretations and misinterpretations, use and misuse take place so it is always good that we must stall the very attempt itself.
The laity is not for any attempt by the Governments to interfere into the administration of the Church property. The growing support from the laity has to be seen as the growing disappointment of the laity who look for a collaborative approach from the Catholic Church in its administration and use of wealth. For years Church officials have not made any serious efforts to come out with a better formula to make administrative reforms in the Church. It is the need of the hour to evolve a better system. In Europe and in some other continents the financial administration is done by the clergy and laity together but here spiritual and material administration is place in the hands of one person who is not accountable to anyone here. The laity when questions the bad administration is termed a rebel or protestant and when a clergy questions, he is disobedient. The ‘whistle blowers’ are thrown out to be persecuted; the Indian Church is doing the same mistake as the European Church did years back. It is the right time the Catholic Church think of collaborative administrative system. Probably it may good to remember that the laity are the people of God for whom the entire hierarchy is called to serve.