The charade and lies ever and always told
(Note: The article “The greatest story never told” in CCV has prompted this submission by shree Vargese Mathew. Those who would like to read the article mentioned, kindly use this link: http://almayasabdam.com/greatest-story-never-told/. Shri Verghese Mathew Pamplani (75), originally from Kerala, is an enthusiastic reader and a gifted writer, who lives in UK now. He graduated in economics with politics and world history, the last being the favourite subject, from St. Thomas College Pala in 1961. He began his career as a teacher and ended up as Deputy General Manager in Reserve Bank of India – Trivandrum. By temperament, he is agnostic; his extensive reading has helped him to reinforce his thinking and beliefs. Zach Nedunkanal – asso. editor, CCV)
The Catholic Church projects itself as divinely ordained and incarnate God established. Their God came to the world by birth through a uterus unsullied and uncontaminated by any male seed through a vaginal canal of pristine purity; after the birth process the hymen of the virgin maiden still remained intact for all the ages to come. Further the Jewish woman concerned did not allow any more birth and remained pure on the ground that the uterus that bore the God will not allow any normal human being to take birth. In one go, the Church condemned all human beings born out of normal sexual unions between males and females with the odium of “original Sin” that can be removed by “what dunking” by a Catholic priest. What a dumb story!
The Church also tells us that its Popes are selected by the Holy Spirit. But the reality is quite different. The Holy Spirit has nothing to in the matter, the track record of election of popes would show. For instance, Pope Martin I who refused to obtain the approval of Emperor Constans, on the orders of the latter was dragged out of his bed and ferried to Constantinople where he was publicly flogged and sentenced to death; later reduced to exile in Crimea. The Church ignored his plight, he died five months after his return due to the extreme cold he had to suffer and the maltreatment at the hands of his captors. It was only much later the clergy assumed the right to elect the popes. It was Nicholas II , in an attempt to counter the increasing politicisation of papal elections, decreed that only cardinals would bear responsibility for choosing the pontifical candidate. For this purpose, he convened a ceremonial conclave in 1059. Till 1139, the election required the consent of the clergy and the laity. It was Pope Gregory X who decreed the constitution of the formal Conclave in 1272. The first formal conclave was held in 1274. How can the Holy Spirit visit Vatican ruled by Popes of unsavoury notoriety like Pope Boniface VII (984- 985) who locked the previous Pope John XIV in the Castel Sant’ Angelo and let him starve to death. Boniface had his just deserts as he was swiftly murdered by the outraged Romans who dragged his naked corpse through the streets and mutilated it. He was no worse than Stephen VI (896-97) who became pope thanks to his sponsors, the powerful Spoleto family. In order to please them, he exhumed the remains of Pope Formosus, donned them in papal garments and tied them to a chair before putting them on to a trial –“ the Cadaver Synod.”
The Christian churches of all hues had been competing with each other to bring all the peoples under their exclusive domain on the pretext of the alleged extortion “go and spread the good news to the whole world“ attributed to their founder Jesus.
The Christian empire began inauspiciously in Rome. The Romans and their Emperors condemned this bizarrely monotheistic Eastern cult as heathers and aberrants deserving the most savage deaths, usually in the arena. Things began to get easier from 313 CE with the Edict of Milan by Emperor Constantine allowing Christians to practice their religion openly without fear of prosecution. The privileges accorded to the newly legitimised religion by the Emperor attracted the upper crust of the Roman society to it. The soldiers in the Roman army joined the religion to avoid excruciating daily drills at least on Sundays earmarked for worship. The lumpen proletariat followers of Christianity mainly consisting of slaves, maid servants and concubines who were lured to it on its claims of possessing superior magic and the promise of universal salvation, was left on the wayside to wallow in the margins of the Roman society.
The administrative centre of the Roman Empire was shifted to the newly constructed Constantinople ( now Istanbul in Turkey) in 327 CE. The Bishop of Rome eagerly stepped into the power vacuum created by the collapse of the Western half of the Empire in the fifth century. During the next 200 years the Church consolidated its temporal power and the rest of the first millennium was one of expansion.
In 799 CE Leo III accused of perjury, adultery and selling of papal pardons (known as “indulgences”) was dragged into the street, beaten by a crowd and threatened with having his tongue cut out. He was afterwards formally deposed and sent to a monastery, where from he escaped to France. With the aid of Frankish King Charlemagne, he returned to Rome and on Christmas Day 800 CE and crowned Charlemagne as the Emperor of the new Holy Roman Empire in gratitude. . Charlemagne expanded the Christian Empire across most of Europe. But the attempt of the Church to acquire absolute political power was short-lived . The Great Schism of 1054 ruptured the communion between Eastern Orthodox wing and the Western Latin wing permanently.
In 1009 CE the Fatimid Caliph Al Hakim bi Amr Allah sacked the pilgrimage hospice in Jerusalem and partially destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built on the site considered to be the place of crucifixion of Jesus. In 1095 the Byzantine Emperor Alexis sought the assistance Rome against the marauding Turks. The First Crusade army launched by Urban II, on reaching Constantinople, instead of helping the beleaguered people there, resorted to pillage, plunder loot and rape and murder of the defenceless inhabitants leaving a trail of blood and mayhem before commencing their bloody mission to liberate Jerusalem. The Crusaders retook Jerusalem with horrifying brutality – knee-deep blood had accumulated in certain streets of the city. In less than a century later the Holy Land was recaptured by the Arab Saladin resulting in no fewer than eight subsequent Crusades, including the Children’s Crusade, all in vain. The foolhardy enterprise was exorbitantly costly in terms of the innocent lives lost and hardship caused.
By the thirteenth century with the impotence of the Crusades becoming painfully apparent, the blood thirsty papacy decided to turn its ire to its own people in the guise of rooting out hearsay closer to home. In 1209, Pope Innocent III instigated the Albigensian Crusade against the gentle,vegetarian, peace loving, simple living and deeply spiritual Cathars in Southern France. On 22 July 1209, the entire population of Bezier, a coastal town in Southern France, was slaughtered – up to 20,000 men, women and children – though the Cathars among them were a mere 500. When asked by a concerned crusader how they would know their enemies from ordinary French citizens, the papal legate Anrude-Amaury is said to have responded “ kill them all, for the Lord knows which are his own”. . Apart from appropriating the vast lands and immense wealth of this community, the Church wanted to annihilate the Cathars for their alleged knowledge of the marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene based on the documents discovered in 1099 by the Knight Templars .
In 1214 Pope Innocent III summoned the Fourth Lateran Council which prescribed special badges for Jews and Muslims to distinguish them from Christians for harsh treatment and special levies. He also instituted auricular confession to ferret out the inner most secrets of persons that would aid the hunting down of people suspected of heresy. In 1232 Pope Gregory IX set up Inquisition to hunt down unbelievers and heretics across Christendom.
Despite all the desperate attempts, papacy’s foothold in the world was spiralling out of its control. All subsequent attempts to align with the European kingdoms politicised and weakened the Church. The Avignon Captivity (1305-1378) further eroded the influence of the papacy. The increasing corruption of the papacy led to deep seated animosity and hostility to it. The Black Death (1347-51) and the fall of Constantinople to the Turks (1453) was seen by many as divine retribution.
The Church require its members to address the Pope “ Holy Father” and “ His Holiness” etc. A good number of the Popes were criminals and unsavoury characters. The worst was the murderous, lecherous and probably incestuous Rodrigo Borgia who assumed the papal throne as Alexander VI through manipulation and bribe in 1492. The papacy hit the nadir of decadence with this Pope. Borgia was reported to have committed his first murder at the age of 12. After becoming the Pope, he fathered no fewer than 10 illegitimate children with various mistresses, Ceasare his son and Lucrezia his daughter were the favourites. Prostitutes had a free run in Vatican in his time. Alexander’s passing when it finally came was slow and excruciatingly painful; his face taking the colour of wine, his stomach swelling and turning to liquid and his skin peeling of; his tongue was grotesquely gorged and his frozen mouth was foaming. His corpse was so swollen that attendants had to force it into the coffin by jumping on it, at which point it began to emit sulphurous gases from every orifice. Then there was John XII (963-64 CE) who became Pope when just 18 at the behest of his mother, the mistress of Pope John X. He gambled openly, worshipped pagan gods and had his opponents either castrated or murdered and turned Vatican into a veritable whore house . He was either murdered by a jealous husband who caught him committing adultery with his wife or died of stroke during the act itself. The notorious Borgia was followed by the ferocious, warmonger, drunkard womaniser Julius II whose main preoccupation was leading his army to recapture the territories lost during the reign of earlier popes. Some of the other “Holy Popes” too were notorious womanisers, sexual perverts, or otherwise degenerate characters, e.g. Benedict IX, Urban VI, Leo X and Clement VII.
In 1510, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk on a visit to Rome witnessed the horribly decadent Vatican. In 1517 Luther penned his indignant Ninety-five Theses – a bitter indictment of the papacy’s rampant corruption and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg and set in motion the Reformation and its offshoot Protestantism vertically splitting asunder Christianity. To make matters worse for the Church, scientific advances expanded the frontiers of knowledge all over Europe ripping apart the world view in the Bible particularly the contents of the Book of Genesis. The attempts of the Inquisition to put down new ideas met with utter failure. The Age of Reason (17th century) and the Age of Enlightenment (18th century) produced such thinkers as Descartes, Voltaire, Hume and Locke; they all condemned the authoritarian attitude of the papacy. Simultaneously, Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions encouraged European powers to opt for progress vis-à-vis religious diktats. The emergence of a vibrant middle class of merchants and artisans eclipsed the importance of feudal landed gentry, the rentier class. Social concourse went beyond the confines of church centred activities.
The French Revolution and Napoleon ripped apart the powers of papacy. Napoleon put to an end the rump of the Holy Roman Empire. The Revolution also truncated age old embedded privileges and powers of feudal lords and ecclesiastics –Cardinals, Archbishops and the like. The Unification of Italy and installation of Victor Emmanuel as the King of Italy in 1871 clipped the power of the Pope. The Papal States had already been dissolved in 1848 forcing Pope Pius IX to flee Vatican in disguise. His attempt to bolster his position with the help of the French troops ended in disaster making him the self-proclaimed “ prisoner in Vatican”. Hardly anyone took note of his claim of “ infallibility “, his embittered reaction to the loss of political clout.
Prior to the emergence of the Modern Age, Ecclesiastes headed by the bishops hailing from ruling feudal families had ruled the roost as depots in dictatorial manner. They, by and large , were more worldly than spiritual. The ordinary people who had the temerity to stray from the doted line were hounded, isolated, persecuted, tortured and even put to death in the most horrible manner.
The Popes have been mostly temporal rulers giving scant respect to the messages purported to be that of Jesus. Many became popes by resorting to bribery, skulduggery , backstabbing, intrigue, cronyism and manipulation. A number of them such as Borgia Pope Alexander VI and Leo X assiduously promoted the interests of their illegitimate children born to concubines by making them Archbishops of lucrative bishoprics like Milan. They also set about annexing lands and amassing wealth and in the process slaughtered and plundered, pillaged and conquered and raped, sexually exploited and enslaved hapless females of all ages of the territories annexed .They converted the defeated population at the point of sword and those refused were killed mercilessly; all in the name of their God .
The overview above is to show the absurdity of the pretence of the Church of its “holier than holy” attitude and it's claim that it never err. Its annals are full of tortures, wanton killings and other inhuman atrocities. The cruelties of Caligula and Nero pale into insignificance in front of Tomas de Torquemada, Konrad von Marburg and Bernardo Gui. Innocent III, Gregory IX, Lucius III are the popes who either initiated or sustained the inhuman and cruel Inquisition which made its bloody entry in the 12th century in France against the Cathars and the Waldensians at the behest of Innocent III. Gregory IX , Lucius III and others sustained this inhuman and utterly cruel practice. Inquisitions were also directed against Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites, Beguines . Inquisitions did their devilish dance of death and cruelty in Spain, Portugal, Peru, Mexico, Goa etc The Church thus carry with it more scum and dirt and congealed blood than any other religious institution.
History has unraveled that that two religions of Semitic origin have turned out be the harbingers of dissension, disquiet, hate, violence, cruelty and massacre of innocents and wars. If one dispassionately probe the genesis of conflicts, wanton killings, displacement whole populations, creation of vast numbers of refugees seeking foothold somewhere and somehow, the feeling of abject uncertainty and fear for life and property among the general population, destruction of heritages painstakingly built over the years, the blame will squarely rest on these two religions.
These religions claim that their holy books are “revealed and dictated” by their particular deity “and every word in it is sacrosanct, immutable and revealed truth, eternally true, universally valid and unchanging.” They pour over each and every syllable, comma, hyphen and punctuation of the books for ages nitpicking their hidden meanings and come out with ludicrous claims. They don’t brook any doubts about what is written in their holy book, any adverse comment thereon will provoke insane and violent protests, rampage and slaughter. They wage battles against people of other views and persuasions. They by and large fulminate against progressive thinking, intellectual enterprises and scientific discoveries. The God “revealed” book of the Christians is the Bible, the rudiments of which could have been written in the later half of the first century of the Common Era or thereabouts by non-contemporaries decades after the crucifixion of a person stated to be Jesus. The four books of the Bible known as the Gospels officially approved by the Church towards the end of the fourth century has been over the years edited, re edited, redrafted, padded, added, mutilated and what not with the result they contain obvious inconsistencies, contradictions and inaccuracies.
The Christian religion, especially the Catholic variety has nothing to offer on intellectual or moral terms. It's foundation is myth, miracle, magic and fairy tales. It's theology rests on impossibilities such the “Virgin Birth” of their God in human form and the “Bodily Resurrection” of his dead body after three days of burial; his bodily ascension to the heaven above after wandering for forty days . It's spiritual world is inhabited by apparitions such as angels of varied types and demons. It's theology is an absurd concoction of now discarded Greek philosophy, theology and worldview. It's moral precepts are concentrated on one part of the human anatomy to the the exclusion of all other aspects of human life. It asks its members to believe “transubstantiation of the consecrated wafer made of wheat flour”. The Church stands bewildered before the new frontiers of knowledge in science, medicine and human behaviour. Can any religion be more absurd than Catholicism which continues to venerate body parts of its deceased members as relics and decide the worthiness of its saints on non-substantiated miracles and not on deeds done for the benefit of other human beings or the world at large. It's comic opera style rituals adorning the vestments of the fool in a circus invite only derision and contempt. Nothing more to say about its discourses on guilt, gore and hell, sin and damnation. In what way the teaching of the church ennoble the human mind and improve the human condition?
The Kerala scene
When the Portuguese reached the shores of Malabar in the late fifteenth century, they found the followers of Jesus who maintained intimate links with the Hindu society. Their churches were modelled on Hindu temples and Vasco da Gama himself worshiped in a shrine to the goddess Bhagavathi mistaking it for a chapel to the Madonna. The Nazranis of Kerala had developed a unique way of life of their own and followed quite a different version of their faith from the one practised in far away Europe. Hindus and Nazranis were interacting freely and “there was no distinction either in their habits or in their hair or in anything else” between the Nazranis and Hindus. “ As late as the closing years of the sixteenth century there was tolerance of intermarriage between those two communities. In the Krishna temple in Ambalapuzha an image of St Thomas used to be carried in procession alongside those of Hindu divinities on festive occasions.” “ There was a fascinating intermingling of faith and culture throughout Kerala, and Christians were integral constituents of this rich social fabric, arguably more cosmopolitan and certainly less fanatic than in contemporary Europe.”
" It was hence that neither the Portuguese nor their pontifical enterprise to unite Christians into one integral bloc against Islam (and Arab competition) mer any great enthusiasm in Kerala. After all, these Malayalis had been Christians long before Christianity had even reached the outskirts of Europe. They were heirs of a tradition more ancient than the Roman Catholicism of the Portuguese and never, for instance, heard of the Pope; when the Portuguese presumed to claim that the Kerala churches ‘ belonged’ to the Pope, quick came the retort, ‘ Who is the Pope?’. The Malayali Christians, as it turned out to the great mortification of the Portuguese, adhered not to the Vatican but to the Nestorian Church headed by the Patriarch of Antioch in the modern day Turkey. Their liturgical language, similarly was not Latin but Syriac, by virtue of which they were known as Syrian Christians. In other words, the celebrated Father of Roman Catholicism held little consequence to them, and besides the common tag of being all ‘Christians’ they could not be more unlike the Portuguese. Thus the local Christians whom the Europeans ‘ rediscovered’ observed a branch of the faith that Roman Catholicism neither approved of nor upheld.” “ When the Portuguese could not find what they sought in the local Christians, they abandoned all fraternal pretensions and went on to diligently prosecute the latter.” “ The Portuguese also set out to purge Hindu elements from their rites and ruthlessly applied themselves to rid local Christianity of what they derided as ‘Pagan’ influences. They may have reconciled to not finding the fabled Prester John and his legendary treasures, but the zealous Portuguese could never come to terms with a flock of ‘corrupted’, non-Catholic Christians.” Eventually they rammed the throats of the Nazranis with their Catholicism by devious means.
The issue to ponder is whether the enforced cohabitation with the Church of Rome is advantageous to the ordinary Kerala Christian.
No doubt for the Excellencies, Beatitudes, Princes and Lords ( Mars) disassociation with Rome will deprive them of their junkets and holidays in Italy under various pretexts. They may have conveniently forgotten that the Holy Roman Empire has vanished and that Italy is the “ sick man of Europe”. The country is a den of cheats, pickpockets and the dreaded Mafia like the Cosa Nostra of Toto Riina, murderer of 150 people and the mafia Curia of the Vatican.
We are Indians, inheritors of an ancient and hoary heritage, heirs to peaceful and humane religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, where “religion is hardly a dogma, but a working hypothesis of human conduct adapted to different stages of spiritual development and different conditions of life”; where “ an individual is free to roam in the matter of opinion and where reason freely questions and criticises the creeds in which men are born”, the hot headed RSS notwithstanding. If the aim is to make life harmonious and livable, the best course could be to opt for synthesis of different thoughts, ideas and philosophies.