Catholic bishops have come under fire for issuing what many Catholics describe as a partisan and shallow pastoral letter which reveals their anger against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party(DPP).
Many Catholics on various social media groups have expressed their discontent over the pastoral letter and faulted the bishops for continuing taking Catholics for granted.
They say the bishops’ pastoral letters have now lost their significance because the bishops have openly exposed themselves to favoring the opposition in the country.
The pastoral letter titled “A Further Call for a New Era in Malawi” was read in catholic churches on Sunday May 24, 2020.
In the letter, the bishops are calling on Malawians to vote for a president who will rescue the country from what they call deterioration.
Some Catholics described the letter as having been authored by “Archbishop Saulos Chilima” because of the vocabulary which they said was not “Episcopal”.
Chilima is Malawi’s vice president who was openly supported by some Catholic bishops led by Archbishop Thomas Msusa in the May 21, 2020 elections. He is a Catholic and close to the bishops.
Other Catholics remembered and admired the late Archbishop James Chiona for the objective pastoral letters that were issued during his time as Head of the Catholic Church in Malawi citing the famous 1992 Living Our Faith letter which led to attainment of democracy in Malawi.
The Catholics writing on social media think Chilima has poisoned the leadership of the Catholic church to the extent that objectivity has evaporated from their pastoral letters.
One writes: “Kaya Saulosi anaupanga chani mpingowu? Chiona et al erred. ECM ndendende Supreme Court 2020 anakonza.”
Another writes: “My only worry are the platitudes in it. And they have no right to endorse the interests of one individual member of the church.
The letter fails to offer universal and permanent wisdom. And the English is very bad. Don’t they have editors? Or they wrote in a hurry?”
“Is the same spirit who inspired them to campaign for Gwanda Chakuamba in 2004? Is it the same Spirit who inspired them to influence the formation of UTM and campaign for Saulosi in 2019? The Spirit of God is righteous and does not err. Where did these Men of the Cloth get it wrong in 2004, 2009 and 2019?”
Another says: “The problem with the pastoral letter is that amene alimo ambiriwo their ideas prevail. Reading this you would know it was written out of pressure and the decision was arrived at by voting.
“About this pastoral letter I would say: They just ride on public sentiments and what Saulosi tells them to say. It’s a shame really. They have bashed one side and presented the other side is necessarily good.
It’s not balanced at all. It is the most otiose pastoral letter in our history. I wonder where this puerile seeking for relevance is coming from.”
Another Catholic writes: “The bishops could also be prevailed upon to take a less patently partisan stance in these matters. They could achieve the same purposes without using emotive language like “rescue the country from further deterioration.”
That presupposes that the current government is responsible for the deterioration and only the opposition can reverse that. And the supporters of government may justifiably be disappointed. If the bishops seek respect, they must protect themselves from perceived political bias.
But now they are openly campaigning for the interests of one individual member of the church and those members whose interests lie elsewhere will not spare them. They will see them as legitimate targets for political attack.”
But others defended Chilima saying he had nothing to do with the pastoral letter. They said the bishops issue pastoral letters whenever they see it fit and it is up to the people to accept or ignore the message.
They also called for respect for the bishops as they are spiritual leaders of the church.
The bishops’ support for the opposition is contrary to their own statement issued on May 17, 2019 in which they categorically distanced themselves from supporting a particular candidate or political party.
“We shall continue to remind priests, religious men and women, catechists, heads of our institutions to refrain from making utterances or doing things that can justifiably be perceived as advancing partisan politics,” reads the statement.
“We, the Catholic bishops in Malawi cannot and shall not support or endorsee any particular politician or political party.”