"The Church must be poor again and go back to its roots"
What is your image of the Church?
I see the Church as a social institution that operates everywhere and does everything. It is somewhat distant from the spiritual role it should play. I do not see it undertaking a spiritual mission, but rather an incomplete social one. Today, to fully do a job, I must balance all its sides equally. Today, the Church is a salad bowl, doing this and that and so on and so forth. The role of the priest should be more spiritual, focused on preaching, but now I see him involved in public life and worldly matters more than his role as a preacher and spiritual guide. At the moment, the priest focuses on everything except his spiritual mission. The Church no longer gives me spiritual answers, and it does not help me grow spiritually. You are speaking with someone who was active in the Youth and the Synod in the 90s, but at the age of 30 I started moving away from the Church.
Nowadays, the Church is aristocratic and classist. The pastor only cares for the rich sheep, leaving behind the 99 lost ones. I spoke with many Christians who told me that they are embarrassed to go to pray in church because of their simple and modest clothes, and thus a majority of the poor feel that they do not belong to this place, because they see that the first places are reserved for the important people, while the least important sit in the back.
Homilies also affect people’s morale. One time during Holy Mass, one of the priest said in his homily that the rich have money because they work hard, while the poor remain poor because they are lazy. We also must change the notion that giving and charity is not a quality reserved or only exists in the rich, because this enforces classism.
The priest should focus on his spiritual apostolic mission and improving his preaching. What we see today is a priest reprimanding and scolding people, in the same manner that Jesus was doing when he cast out the money changers from the temple. You are not Jesus. Priests should not tell people that they are beggars, because it was priests who taught them to beg. People are mostly involved in the Church because they want to benefit from it. I will give an example, in the past most people were affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Church, but that started to change when the Catholic Church and the Franciscans wanted to attract people to their side, so they started offering, for free, a special kind of bread called (Tulmeh).
The Church is also aristocratic because it doesn’t distribute opportunities equally. Why does the Church today provide scholarships for the children of the rich who can afford to educate their children? Aren't these scholarships for everyone? Why do they do this? Because the Church, as I said, is aristocratic and is not concerned with developing all people and giving them equal opportunities.
I also see colonial notions in the Church through the purchase of real estate and land, seeking power, authority and money. Therefore, they form an entity and presence in this region and do not care about the poor, as they use them only to collect money. The Church and priests are rallying people through the matter and not the spirit.
Do you think the Church is distant from some people?
Yes. The priest today no longer takes the Communion for the sick! Why? Instead we have lay people called acolytes who do that? Is it enough for the sick and elderly to receive the Eucharist? no, the sick and elderly need someone to listen and talk to them about their fears, hope, their days.... They need to talk to a person who is said to represent Jesus on earth. Also, I think that one must take the body and blood of Christ from the hand of a priest and not from a person whom I know is not good in his daily life. Today, the priest steps down from his priestly role to take on other worldly roles.
Do you think that the Church encourages people to form bad habits?
When the Church is involved in social work, there is a tax that must be paid. When a social office is opened within the Church, people will tend to go and ask for help. There is a financial and commercial aspect to this matter. When this is present, not everyone will be satisfied and happy. The following question must be asked: Is it correct for me to take on this direction as a Church when there are other Christian social service institutions created for this purpose? Why does the Church not focus on its spiritual and religious role and leave this area to social service institutions? Why should a priest be a priest, a social worker, a businessman, a spiritual guide and a politician? A person should not go to Church to ask for aid, food, money...etc. A person has to go to find a place where he can address God through the priest. The Church has historically taught people to beg. In the past, this was done individually, but today it is organized and systematic.
The solution? There are frameworks and social service offices through which the priest can work. Here the priest took a role that was not for him and naturally he would be busy. If priests wish to help people, they should be close to them and listen to their concerns. The priest is not close to these people by establishing a social service office, but by being a good example for them.
How can the Church evolve?
The Church must be poor again and go back to its roots, its beginning, and the reason for which it started. The Church today is growing in size, but everything that grows will collapse because it has forgotten its roots. The answer is to go back to the roots, which is poverty, so you will be spiritually rich, and people will gather more around it because no matter how much possessions a person accumulates, he will remain poor, always looking for things that engage his soul, and they will not find that in material things. Today, the Church cares more about politics than spiritual matters. The priest talks about political matters more than spiritual ones. Even in politics, I wish they would stand by the word of truth, instead of using flattery and seeking to please.
The Pope is an intelligent man and I greatly respect his humane stances. All the reforms he undertook and still does are due to the fact that the Catholic Church has begun to lose part of its power and leverage. When he was elected, he began looking for new ways to attract and rally people. The Church today is looking for sovereignty. The Church faces many problems. Recently I heard about a priest in the Holy Land who used to sexually harass women, choosing his victims in a smart way. People cannot slander him because his victims are drug users, divorced, and poor women, it is his strong word against theirs. Twenty years later, we discover what happened, just like what happened with Thomas Philippe and Jean Vanier, as their victims started to disclose what happened to them. The same thing will happen here.
Why does this evil exist? Because a person cannot serve two masters, either I serve the mammon or serve God. And when I choose God I choose poverty because God is in the poor. If a priest is not capable of making a vow of chastity, why does he become a priest? Because he is hungry for power and at the same time thinks that through power he can do many things without questioning. If a priest sexually harasses a young girl somewhere, from where does he derive this power? Doesn't that derive from his authority? Look at the victims of this priest, who are weak and unable to defend themselves.We all heard about the scandals of priests who sexually abused children in the US, and the missionaries that go to Africa under the pretext of preaching the Word of God while exploiting children, does the church not know about them? Yes, the Church knows very well what they are doing. Today there are movements that support pedophilia. After how many years will this become acceptable because there are religious frameworks involved in it? under the pretext that the world evolves, the Church must also evolve. We have to evolve, but how? And in what contexts?
What about debate and discussion? Does everyone have an open space to do this? When I discuss with some priests or nuns a subject that they deemed out of my concern, I am accused of atheism. Why? I am not a sheep, I am a person with an opinion and I have the right to express my opinion and you have no right to restrict me because of it. The Church of today wants everyone to speak its language, they want one narrative. That is not right. Accordingly, a lot of young people will not continue their path with the Church because they cannot follow one discourse. Today most people shake their heads and agree to what the church requires of them because they have an interest. If this interest disappears, they will not go to Church again, but they will go to other Churches that meet these interests.
Interview by Saher Kawas
The opinions and ideas expressed in this interview only reflect those of the interviewee.
According to the preparatory document for the 2023 Synod, the Synodal Journey aims to give people “the opportunity to express themselves, to be heard in order to contribute to the building of the people of God.”
If you would like to contribute to the Synodal Journey and express your views and ideas, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org:
Lina is not her real name, she wanted to remain anonymous
Job: Social Worker
Denomination: Roman Catholic