Goa debates priest’s entry into poll politics

January 14th, 2012 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, Jan 14 (IANS) The buzz of party politics for once appears to have taken a back seat in Goa as the civil society and the Church argue with verve the plusses and minuses of a Roman Catholic priest’s maverick leap into electoral politics.

Fr. Bismarque Dias, who belongs to the lesser known order of Blessed Sacrament Fathers, earlier this week announced his decision to contest the March 3 state assembly polls, claiming to be disgusted by corruption and the anti-people policies of the Congress-led government.

Reacting to Bismarque’s decision, the spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Goa Fr. Francis Caldeira said that without permissions from the local bishop or the superiors of the Catholic order concerned, a priest could not contest elections.

“The priest who wishes to contest needs to take permission from the local bishop if he is a diocesan priest and from his religious superior. The stand of the Church is that it is against party politics and does not support any one party over another,” Caldeira told IANS.

“The bishop and religious superior will not easily give permission,” he said while a national daily Friday quoted Mumbai-based superiors of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers sect as saying that action would be initiated against Bismarque.

With nearly a quarter of the population in Goa being Catholic, the Church wields sizeable clout in the state.

Another clergyman requesting anonymity said Bismarque had violated Canonical law, which drives priestly conduct and decorum.

“Canonical procedures usually will involve trying a priest for disobedience. When a person becomes a priest, he vows to remain obedient to the bishop and religious superior. He can be tried for breaking his vow,” the priest said.

Civil society, however, has been vociferous in its support to the priest.

“Only politicians’ puppets, crooks, crumb eaters and the goondas (goons) will object to Fr. Bismarque’s stand against the evil that goes on in Goa,” said Mark Mascarenhas from Margao in south Goa who actively writes letters on various issues to newspaper editors.

“We support this angel of god to take on the evil, of course the devil will object,” he added.

Said D. Justin who runs a consultancy firm in south Goa: “Fr. Bismarque is treading on the right path as a priest. As a staunch Roman Catholic, I believe in the two great commandments: ‘Love your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour’. Fr. Bismarque is keeping both the commandments.”

Bismarque’s candidature for the assembly seat of Cumbarjua, near Panaji, is being backed by nearly 100 civil society groups. Apart from taking on the Goa government, Bismarque has also attacked the Church for selling off chunks of land to real estate promoters.

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