The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka and the Erosion of Trust

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Aftermath of the Easter attack [File Photo]

Editorial

“Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” ~ 1 Peter 3:16

Yes, keep your conscience clear. Are you truly doing that? In the aftermath of the devastating Easter Sunday bombings in April 2019, the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has become embroiled in a scandal over the management of funds designated for the victims. Former President Maithripala Sirisena, recently convicted by the Supreme Court for failing to prevent the attacks despite intelligence warnings, has accused the Church of mismanaging these crucial funds. While the Supreme Court invoked the Carltona principle, holding Sirisena accountable for his officials’ actions, the scrutiny over the Church’s financial conduct remains unresolved.

The Catholic Church’s response to these grave allegations has been alarmingly inadequate. Father Jude Krishantha, the National Director of Mass Communication, defended the Church’s actions, asserting that Rs. 500 million had been distributed to victims through ‘Seth Sarana’, their social service division. He cited a biblical principle of secrecy in charity, suggesting that the Church’s benevolent actions should not be publicly displayed. However, such reasoning falls short of the transparency demanded in such a critical situation.

His Eminence Cardinal Ranjith’s comments further muddy the waters. By dismissing Sirisena’s accusations as impulsive and politically driven, the Cardinal sidesteps the core issue: the urgent need for transparent and accountable management of funds received from international and local donors. The Church’s insistence on its righteousness, coupled with the absence of publicly available audited reports, severely undermines its credibility. The Cardinal’s assertion that approximately Rs. 460 million has been distributed, with Rs. 40 million remaining, raises more questions than it answers.

The Catholic Church’s role in this crisis transcends mere financial management. Its persistent claim that the bombings were part of a “grand political plot” fuels conspiracy theories, diverting attention from the critical need for justice and healing. Such narratives obscure the truth and deepen societal divisions, hindering the nation’s recovery.

In a democracy, institutions—whether secular or religious—must adhere to the same standards of accountability. The Church’s reluctance to provide transparent accounts of the funds and its dismissal of legitimate queries erode public trust. Clear, verifiable information is not just a bureaucratic necessity but a moral imperative, especially when the lives and well-being of victims are at stake.

The former President’s accusations, whether politically motivated or not, underscore a vital issue: the necessity for transparency in managing disaster relief funds. The Church’s defensive stance and the lack of detailed, publicly accessible financial records foster suspicion and mistrust. This handling of the situation not only reflects poorly on its internal management but also on its broader social and moral responsibilities.

It is crucial for the Catholic Church to reassess its approach. Transparency and accountability should be embraced as fundamental principles that align with its mission of serving humanity. Publicly disclosing detailed, audited financial reports would significantly restore trust. Additionally, the Church must actively counteract conspiracy theories, focusing instead on fostering unity and supporting the victims’ recovery.

The Catholic Church’s response to the financial allegations of misappropriation of funds intended for the victims of the suicide bombings underlines significant flaws in its approach to transparency and accountability. To uphold its moral authority and regain public trust, the Church must wholeheartedly embrace these principles. Only through clear, honest communication and a commitment to truth can it hope to fulfil its role as a beacon of hope and justice in these trying times. The Church now faces the ramifications of its own manufactured theories at the cost of victims of religious fanatics, having failed to take the facts on the ground into proper consideration.

As James 5:12, mentioned, “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Otherwise, you will be condemned.”

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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