Do former religious deserve such discrimination?
Religious life is a bumpy road and both the 'successful' and the 'failures' need prayers, love and support.
Religious perform an action song at a gathering in Thai Ha Church in Hanoi. (Photo courtesy of tonggiaophanhanoi.org)
You surely have noticed the hint of sarcasm in the Vietnamese saying Nh?t qu? nhì ma, th? ba tu xu?t or first the devil, second ghosts, third ex-religious.
Do you see something wrong when people compare ex-religious with the devil and ghosts? There are many unfair prejudices and blatant discrimination against former religious in Vietnamese culture.
It is assumed that former religious and priests, even if they voluntarily leave or are dismissed from their monasteries or convents, have done something terribly wrong to be pushed back into secular life. They are considered bad losers by many people, especially their relatives who see their failure as a loss of face for their families and clans.
Religious who return to secular life are placed under intolerable pressure and are unable to fight widespread discrimination.
First of all, it is necessary to recognize the paradox here. The discrimination against former religious can stem from considerable respect for consecrated life and true love for religious. The more respect and expectations people have, the more the bitter disappointment.
When their expectations from religious are not satisfied, people will turn to despise and abominate them. Some people even call ex-religious rats and traitors who will be punished sooner or later.
Guilt weighs heavily on ex-religious largely due to the pressure of such discrimination and, consequently, in many cases, it becomes hard to rebuild lives
Most of the prejudice and slander against former monks and nuns come from “secular” people who have never undergone any real experience in consecrated life, never genuinely understood what the path of consecrated life is.
They only have in their heads beautiful models of religious life, expectations and ideals. When they see cases that go against their expectations and ideals, they are ready to stone and scorn them.
In reality, they never have enough experience to be able to sympathize with the difficulties, challenges, inner struggles, loneliness and temptations facing religious life. They argue in a delusional way. What is difficult about entering monasteries and being cared for by God?
We must realize that it’s never right to be discriminated against, no matter what kind of discrimination it is. All discrimination comes from prejudice.
Guilt weighs heavily on ex-religious largely due to the pressure of such discrimination and, consequently, in many cases, it becomes hard to rebuild lives.
There are a number of reasons why religious abandon their vocations.
Some people decide to enter religious life without maturity and freedom. They choose consecrated life simply because religious life seems so shimmering and attractive. Other people follow religious vocations only to please their families.
People who find themselves not wise and strong enough to wrestle with secular life enter religious life as an escape or a hiding place, while some turn to religious life for the naked ambition of being superiors.
All these are false motives and result in people entering religious life for themselves, not for God. They look at religious life with self-interest, seeking a secular objective, not spiritual development. With such motivation and perspective, it is extremely difficult for them to overcome the trials and tribulations of religious life.
People are not inflexible entities but can change themselves with time. There are positive changes, but there are also negative changes.
Some people begin their religious life with impure motives but are converted in their religious training journey. They allow themselves to be taught and changed. They know how to internalize the sacred and excellent values of religious life. They daily cooperate with God to become good religious.
Some blame superiors for shabbily treating their inferiors, and fellow members for not sympathizing with one another
Conversely, there are also those who start their religious life very well. Enthusiastic and full of energy after embracing religious life, they think they have achieved their goal. So they abandon further efforts and become indolent and negligent. The burning enthusiasm in them gradually wanes and wears off. Their consecrated life becomes tasteless and meaningless, and they leave.
People often think that religious abandon convents and monasteries for romantic relationships, and they also condemn those who love religious, calling them the devil seducing religious.
Some blame superiors for shabbily treating their inferiors, and fellow members for not sympathizing with one another.
For disputes in communities and temptations in relationships, it is important to note that internal causes are internal changes such as consolation and sorrow, conviction and doubt, love and boredom in the very soul of religious.
Every human being is a complex and mysterious world. It is easy to condemn other people harshly and wrongly by looking at them with a biased and prejudiced view instead of understanding and sympathizing with them.
Those who leave monasteries have various attitudes. Some are heartbroken and depressed, and it takes them a long time to get over it. They see their religious abandonment as a failure, so they live alone and stay clear of public activities.
But there are also people who truly find happiness and peace with the turn of their lives. After learning about religious life for a while, they are trained to be mature enough to realize that this path is not for them. They are absolutely true to their hearts and courageously find other ways to be able to live a prosperous and happy life.
Religious life is a precious vocation, a mysterious gift from God. Jesus said for many are called, but few are chosen
These people are not guilty; only those who discriminate and are intolerant of them are guilty.
However, it must be admitted that many cases end in complete failure. In fact, many people who have taken permanent vows still abandon their religious vocations. Others have even been ordained but later choose to laicize, since the path to follow God and to lead a life of dedication to service is never an easy one.
There may be people who are not mature and free enough even in the moment they are ordained or take vows. They may have fragments, dark patches, wounds and unexplained mysteries in their souls.
Only God knows and only he has the absolute right to judge them. Whoever feels it right to judge and discriminate against others will have to render account to God.
Religious life is a precious vocation, a mysterious gift from God. Jesus said for many are called, but few are chosen.
The religious path is a bumpy road. Therefore, both those who are considered "successful" and those who are considered "failures" strongly need prayers, love and support from all people.
This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published on hdgmvietnam.com here. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.