COMMUNISTS VS CATHOLICS
The faultline between the Church and the CPM in Kerala resurfaces after a bishop claims a party MLA received the sacrament before his death.
COMMUNISTS across the globe say religion is the antithesis of Marxism and believers have no place in the movement. The Church reciprocates the sentiment labelling Communists as agents of Satan and their rationalism as the “main threat” to the world. In Kerala, too, the relationship between the Church and the Communists is typically antagonistic.
In 2007, however, the ghosts of a bygone era of spiritual and religious warring have come to haunt Kerala. The controversy arose over the Church’s statement that CPM MLA Mathai Chacko, who died in October 2006, was given the last sacrament by a priest on his deathbed. The statement, issued by Bishop Paul Chittilappilly, was furiously disputed by Pinarayi Vijayan,secretary, Kerala State Committee of the CPM. Vijayan called Chittilappilly “a wretched creature and a drunkard” who tried to help the Congressled opposition by questioning the “Communist morality” of Mathai Chacko. Chittilappilly, later,changed his earlier statement saying Chacko was unconscious at the time of the last sacrament.
Meanwhile, the Congress was quick to take its cue. “In a democratic set-up, everyone can voice his opinion. But Pinarayi, who insulted Bishop Thamarasseri, should apologise,” said KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala. The situation, now, is turning murkier. The Church authorities have distributed documents apparently showing that Chacko married his wife Mercy in a church at Kochi. The signature in the issued documents, however, does not match with the signature of Chacko as found in the state Assembly register. This latest revelation prompted CPM party workers across the state to accuse the Church of fabricating documents to defame the leader. “The bishop had visited my husband at the hospital. He said he would send a priest to pray for him. A priest came to the hospital but he didn’t give the last sacrament,” said Mercy when contacted.
Nevertheless, the issue has provided a sense of unity in the faction-ridden party. Even Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan came out in support of his bête noire in the party. The CPM is also planning to “expose” the church through public meetings and marches.
LAST YEAR, the party allowed two of its legislators to take their oaths in God’s name. For Aisha Potti, CPM area committee member in Kollam, and MM Monayi, member of the party’s Ernakulam district committee, the swearing-in was also a chance to proclaim their faith. Potti is a Brahmin; Monayi a Syrian Christian. Potti said, “We’ve been committed to Communism and the party. But we’d never given up our faith while being in the revolutionary movement”.