Church's mission to increase, cure

Michael
Burke

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston Kenneth Richards celebrates 60 years of his birth today. Apart from giving thanks to God for his life so far, turning 60 means that he has another 15 years to send in his resignation to the pope. True, the pope can always extend his tenure if he deems it fit — as is many times the case with retiring bishops — but unless he is transferred, or there are unforeseen circumstances, Archbishop Richards has 15 years left out of 17 to carry out his task of leading the archdiocese. He assumed the Metropolitan See of Kingston two years ago.

Born in Linstead, St Catherine, on August 16, 1958, he attended the Anglican Church until the age of 10 when he converted to the Roman Catholic Church. He attended St Catherine High School before entering St James Minor Seminary in Reading, near Montego Bay, before entering St Michael's Major Seminary in Papine in St Andrew. He was ordained on the feast of the archangels, September 29, 1985.

Richards served as associate pastor of Holy Cross, Half-Way-Tree; pastor of St Benedict's, Harbour View; and St Patrick's Church, Waterhouse, before being appointed rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral. Elevated to Monsignor in 2009, in November 2011 he was appointed Bishop of St John's, Antigua. He was subsequently appointed the seventh archbishop of Kingston in 2016.

Since being transferred to Kingston, Archbishop Richards has re-established St Michael's Theological College as a seminary for training candidates for the priesthood rather than sending them overseas. The archbishop hopes to increase the number of Roman Catholics over the next decade.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that it is the church that Jesus Christ founded on Earth and that Jesus Christ appointed Peter the first pope, although the word 'pope' came into usage much later. Also, it teaches that the entire teaching of Jesus Christ subsists in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

The Roman Catholic Church further teaches that the apostolic authority given by Jesus to his apostles was passed on to the succeeding popes and bishops. The deposit of faith is the term the church gives for what has come down to us from Jesus Christ, through the apostles and their successors (the bishops), and is the basis for the teachings of the church.

This is the root of the doctrine of the holy trinity, real presence of Christ when the bread and wine is consecrated in holy mass, the seven sacraments, and so on. With this in mind, we look at implementing the set goals of Archbishop Richards over the next 15 years of his episcopacy — barring unforeseen circumstances.

Christopher Columbus's first visit to Jamaica was in 1494 and the Spanish settlers came in 1509. During the Spanish era the residents in Jamaica were Roman Catholic. With the coming of the English, the Roman Catholic Church was banned for 136 years. In 1534, King Henry XIII established the Church of England (or Anglican Church) after being excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

But hatred for the Roman Catholic Church remained and the laws of England were put in force on the arrival of the English in 1655. The Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica was restored in 1791, but a Roman Catholic priest did not arrive here until 1792. So the effect of the ban was really 137 years. Psalm 137 ('By the rivers of Babylon') comes to mind here.

However, during the time of the ban there was a priest-less underground Roman Catholic worship gathering in Castle Mines, St Mary. This community later moved to Preston Hill in St Mary, when an Irish Roman Catholic person living in Jamaica donated land for a church. The underground church came about when slaves who were Roman Catholic from a Spanish-occupied territory in Africa were stolen by pirates from a slave boat en route to Cuba and brought to Jamaica.

Since the return of the Roman Catholic Church to Jamaica its work in education, health care, social work, housing, and people development projects, such as the credit unions, is legendary. But far more work really needs to be done in the area of promoting proper values, including proper family life.

It happens that Jamaica has always had a shortfall of local vocations to the priesthood. But the bright side is that all of the current students for the diocesan priesthood for the archdiocese of Kingston are native Africans from different parts of the continent. The fastest-growing Roman Catholic churches in the world are all over Africa, where there has been no known paedophilia scandal.

Indeed, my suggestion to Pope Francis is to replace the episcopacy in the United States of America (that is, the US bishops) and wherever else the paedophilia scandal exists by appointing Africans as Roman Catholic bishops. This could well be the start of the internal church cure that is greatly needed to rid the priesthood of paedophiles.

It was only last week that I mentioned the paedophilia scandals in my article headlined 'St John Paul II in Jamaica 25 years ago'. The paedophilia scandal is a grave one, but we should not 'throw out the baby with the bathwater'. As Jason pointed out in a Jamaica Observer online comment last week: It is a very serious issue because of the damaging impact it has on the victims, especially when this has been done by individuals whom the youngsters trusted.

Indeed, it is so serious that I further suggested an investigation in all church denominations. I am not fooled by married clergy, or married men for that matter, since most homosexual paedophile cases I know about involve married men who are fathers of children. Thanking the media for their investigative work, as Jason has done, is one thing, but the scandals have, in fact, been blown out of all proportion by the international media who themselves need to be investigated.

Michael Burke is a research consultant, historian and current affairs analyst. Send comments to the Observer or ekrubm765@yahoo.com.

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