Thursday, 19 May 2011

CATHOLIC BISHOPS THREATEN TO SUE OVER LIBELOUS ATTACKS ON THE CHURCH

THE executive board of Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) has directed the Catholic Secretariat management to monitor the attacks on the church and consider engaging lawyers and begin legal proceedings against those who are making a habit of defaming and vilifying the Church, including the media houses that provide the platform.
In a Pastoral letter released in Lusaka today (May 19), ZEC president Rt. Rev. George Cosmas Zumaile Lungu  stated that the attacks on the Catholic Church were co-ordinated and planned by individuals, journalists and questionable organisations that were ready to parade themselves before the public media vilifying innocent citizens and the Catholic Church.

Below is the Pastoral letter in full:

WHERE THERE IS HATRED LET ME BRING YOUR LOVE
A letter to all Catholics in Zambia on constant attacks directed at Catholics in the public media
To be read in all Catholic Churches on Ascension Sunday
(5 June, 2011)


 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

1.      To All Catholics in Zambia!
2.      On behalf of my brother Catholic Bishops in Zambia, I greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus!
3.      In recent months, we have all witnessed a growing barrage of attacks in the public media against the Catholic Church in Zambia, its leadership, priests and even its doctrine. Many of you have made representation to us, your Bishops and spoken of your pain at these unwarranted attacks. At a recent Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) Executive Board meeting held in Lusaka on 3rd May, 2011, at Kapingila Guest House, this issue was one of the items on our agenda. It is for this reason that I write you this letter, on behalf of my brother Catholic Bishops, in Zambia.
4.      First and foremost, it has become clear that these attacks on our Church are co-ordinated and planned.  We know, for example, that the likes of Chanda Chimba III (a Catholic!) would never on their own accord have the operational and financial ability to carry on the kind of attacks being waged against Catholics. We also note the growing but steady stream of individuals, journalists and questionable organisations that are ready to parade themselves before the public media vilifying innocent citizens and the Catholic Church. These individuals and organisations are given such puzzling and unfettered access to the public media. They are allowed to despise, with such venomous passion and impunity, more than three million Catholics in Zambia (a third of the country’s entire population). How can this happen in a country where we, the Zambian people, as tax payers are supposed to be the owners of these public media? Since all public media are owned and
 controlled by Government, we can safely conclude that these attacks on our Church are sponsored by Government. Whatever the case, this is not the way of winning the Catholic vote in an election year.
5.      The gist of the attacks, clearly, is meant to discredit and cast aspersions against the leadership and general membership of the Catholic Church in Zambia. In the process, this is meant to create despondency, division and confusion among Catholics. Whoever is behind these attacks is working on the principle of divide and rule –trying to divide Catholics in Zambia.
6.      When these attacks distort the Catholic Church’s moral doctrine on celibacy or homosexuality, we all have cause for alarm.  With regard to homosexuality, let me re-state categorically that Catholic teaching does not promote homosexuality. The Catholic Church’s constant and firm teaching on homosexual acts is unequivocal: Homosexual acts are seriously wrong and sinful. Under no circumstances can homosexual acts be approved. The fact that the Catholic Church makes a distinction between the homosexual act and homosexual orientation or inclination is not promoting homosexuality. Homosexuals are human beings with their problems and their joys, that as human beings they deserve respect, even though they have this inclination, and must not be discriminated against because of it. Respect for man and woman is absolutely fundamental and decisive.
7.      Let me further reiterate the official position of the Zambian Catholic Bishops on politics. Our engagement in politics is only motivated by our divine obligation to speak on behalf of the voiceless in our country. In exercising this prophetic ministry, we will be neutral in so far as partisan politics are concerned.  When we speak, as Bishops, our message has nothing to do with any perceived dislike or preference for any particular sitting President or any political party. We therefore refuse to be intimidated, cowed into silence or to compromise or be silenced on national issues –important issues that affect poor people!
8.      Having said this and faced with endless attacks on our church (which we expect to grow as the election date draws near) let me urge all Catholics in Zambia to embrace a calm spirit and an attitude of forgiveness and reconciliation when provoked. It might help to remember that this public slandering of the Catholic leadership, its Catholic faithful and doctrine is nothing new –although this time around, the attacks are more vicious and aggressive. Catholics are an Easter people and we subscribe to Jesus’ teaching when he says “But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39) To turn the other cheek is neither humiliating nor a weakness. As your Bishops, we will not respond in shame nor resort to the language of anger that those attacking us use. We have dignity in Christ. Our dignity in Christ does not consist in hitting back. It is in forgiveness and
 reconciliation. This is not to say we will be quiet when there is need to speak out.
9.      In closing, let me hasten to say that forgiveness, reconciliation and justice go hand in hand. It is for this reason that the Executive Board of ZEC has directed the Catholic Secretariat management to monitor the situation and if the attacks continue, to consider engaging lawyers and begin legal proceedings against those who are making a habit of defaming and vilifying our Church, including if necessary, the media houses that enable them to do so.
10.     I commend you all to the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi which says: Make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred let me bring your love…
11.
United in prayer, for the unity of our beloved country, Zambia.

Given this 19 May 2011.

Rt. Rev. George Cosmas Zumaile Lungu
Bishop of Chipata and ZEC President

No comments:

Post a Comment