A dangerous proposition?  Varghese Pamplanil.

Note: Shri. Varghese Pamplanil, through his very sharp and free flowing language, has given a very clear analysis of the post by Fr Cedric Prakash. Actually, I also did not expect such an article with split focus from Fr Cedric. CCV is open to distinct views but contributors kindly see that the theme and presentation should be acceptable and sensibly logical at the same time. dr. james also has expressed his frustrations on the points raised in the post. Kindly read the prologue from Shri Varghese Pamplanil. (Joseph Mattappally – asso. editor)


Prologue

Attempt to make sense of the meandering, rambling, disjointed article with the title “The Catholic Church is NOT Apolitical”, appeared in CCV of 17th instant, seems to be a futile enterprise. Even an Hercules may fail to clean up the mess in the Augean stable in question. The author jumps from one idea to another; India to Myanmar to Amazon to Kashmir to Timbuktu and then hops backs to farmers agitation, to protests against the Citizens Acts. The writer apparently is enamoured of some, not so relevant, observations of popes and bishops in the bygone era. He seem to be tethered to the past. For his kind information, the church does not posses the lever to control the world.

The reader is taken for a roller-coaster ride; may finds himself in “Alice in Wonderland”. The end of the road is not in sight. His ideas seems to lack consistency.

For a start, let me focus on the heading of the article “The Catholic Church is NOT apolitical”. He adds “the Catholic Church in India can no longer remain a silent spectator, stand on the side lines and pretend that it is apolitical”. He seems to have assumed the role of the Oracle of the Church in India. He urges all Catholics, bishops, clergy, nuns, alter boys, sacristans, widows, breast feeding mothers, the physically disabled, the pilots in the sky and all and sundry to be in perpetual turmoil, Mao style. By and large, the bishops of India, will continue curry favour with whichever dispensation is in power. They know jolly well which side of the bread is buttered or from where the “thirty pieces of silver” will come. Hardly anyone will jump into the swirling whirlpool of the divisive politics of India on the suggestions in the article.
In the present world, the diktats of the clerics are not taken as the “words of God’. No doubt it is the bounden duty of the Catholics of India, as citizens, to participate in India’s political process. But the type of brawls suggested by the writer need not be everyone’s cup of tea. One cannot be an agitator 24/7, all the 365 days of the year.

An assessment.

In my view, religion is primarily concerned with matters spiritual and moral. The aim: imparting values calibrated for improving human condition.

The first query I would like to pose: there are umpteen numbers of disparate groups and subgroups in the Indian Church — Zero-Malabar with its “North Block” (Vadakkumbhagam), “South block” (Thekkumbhagam), Malankara and Latin epharchy. The pot-poori includes Anglo-Indians as well as Goa and Mangalore Rodrigooses, D’Cunnahas, Norohnahs et al. (Many of the Hindu forefathers of the Christians in Goa were forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Portuguese with swords pointed menacingly at their throats). Each faction look at the others with snooty eyes. Can they pull together?

The larger issue, why so many divisions and subdivisions, subgroups and other ridiculous permutations and combinations in Christianity feuding among themselves and snarling at each other. The core message of Jesus is love and brotherhood among humans.

The writer may be aware of the reality; Catholics constitute just around hardly 2% of India’s population. Be pragmatic and refrain from hyperbole. Please don’t be a Don Quixote with sidekick Sancho Panza tilting a tin sword at imaginary wind mills. There is limit to the acrobatics by Lilliputians. The garden lizard perching on the trunk of the tree will not be able to shake it, however, it may strain.

In the wider context, Indians are a tolerant lot, some lunatics notwithstanding. The Nazarenees of Malabar coast, believed to be decedents of Jewish traders and refugees were welcomed with open mind. Until the Portuguese muddied the waters, the Nazarenees had melded well with their Hindu neighbours.

All citizens of the country ought to be 100% loyal to it. We shouldn’t be swayed by the diktats from Rome or Texas. They are not of any relevance to us. In a crunch situation, the pope will not come to our aid.

The columnist has written volumes on popes John XIII, Paul VI, “Panzer Cardinal Ratzinger — Pope Benedict —and Pope Francis. Why did he leave out the “actor turned zealot” John Paul II?
About this character, he may, for a change, read the book “God’s Politician — John Paul II and Vatican” by David Tully, long time BBC correspondent in Vatican. It may do a world of good to read the book “Absolute Truth” by Edward Stourten.

To put it bluntly. Jesus, the Galilean was hanged, from a pole — the crucifixion story could have been a later interpolation to hide the odium of his ignominious death. The death by hanging was the most demeaning. This punishment was meted out to slaves, criminals and other dregs of Roman occupied regions.

JESUS WAS HANGED BECAUSE HE WAS ACCUSED OF PLAYING POLITICS. The scheming Sadducees could convince their Roman masters that Jesus had “kingly ambitions”— I. N. R. I. The Romans were rather tolerant in matters religious affinities, but ruthless towards rebels especially to the politically ambitious types. Any rebellion against the Empire was put down without any mercy.

A bit of Church history. 

With the collapse of the Western part of the Roman Empire, in the 5th century, the pope became the de facto ruler of the western world. Power is a heady and deadly brew, when unearned wealth is in the kitty corruption and worldliness would rush in. In addition to the wealth and prime estates in Rome gifted by Constantine; the Church resorted to stealing by forgery — the “Constantine Donation”. The Ecclesiastes over a period of time became decadent. Too much wealth and power makes any institution to loose its original ethos. The church abandoned the teachings of Jesus.

The rustic ill-clad “glutton and wine-bibber” Jesus was transformed to an artificial persona, born of a Virgin, in the Mithraic mould, to pander the Romans. Zeus/Apollo type “Christ the King” was also added. He was wedged into the “three-in-one, one-in-three”, Osiris, Horus and Isis mode “Trinity”. The by and large illiterate faithfuls — 95% of the people of that time were illiterate —were taken for a ride with magic and surrealism.

During the early history of Christianity, Rome became an increasingly important centre of the faith, which gave the Pope more power over the entire Church, ushering in the era of papal supremacy. Catholicism became the official religion of the Roman Empire in CE 380 and the power of the pope increased. Nevertheless, he was still subordinate to the emperor.

While the pope was the sole authority in the erstwhile Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Emperor still maintained authority over the Church of the East. From the late 6th to the late 8th century, the power equation changed. The papacy of the West, free of the subordination to the Byzantine emperors, ruled the roost over Europe. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as Roman, Emperor setting up the precedent that no person in Europe could be an emperor unless crowned by the pope.

After the Investiture Controversy and the launching of Crusades, papacy enhanced its power vis-à-vis secular rulers of Europe. Throughout the Middle Ages, Popes struggled with monarchs over secular power., The “renaissance” popes were highly worldly, morally and financially corrupt which led to the Protestant revolt and the vertical splintering of the Church. But the Church continued in its old ways.

Erasmus of Rotterdam’s satire, Julius Exclusus (Julius Excluded) paints an imaginary picture thus: when Pope Julius II reaches the gates of heaven, he finds them locked.

“Julius: What the devil is going on here? Doors won’t open. Looks as if the lock has been changed, or tampered with any way. Open the door right away,

St. Peter: Immortal God, what a sewer smell here! Who are you? And what do you want?

Julius: I trust you recognise this key. And don’t you this triple crown, as well as this robe shining all over with jewels and gold? 

St. Peter : Why are you in armour? 

Julius: Do you expect me to wage war naked?
St. Peter: You are bristling with weapons. To say nothing of the fact you are all belches and smells of brothels, booze and gun powder. In fact, you appear to me to have just finished vomiting. 

Julius: Thanks to me the Christian church, once starving and poor, is flourishing now with all sorts of adornments. Royal palaces, beautiful houses, plenty of servants, well trained troops.

St. Peter: In poverty, sweat, fasting, thirst and hunger Christ passed His life and in the end He died the most humiliating of deaths.
Julius: Well, perhaps He will find someone to praise Him. Not these days, at any rate.”

The French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte clipped the powers of the Ecclesiastes. The Jesuits were shown the door. The “Iron Chancellor” Bismarck emasculated the Church in Germany. The game changer was the Italian Unification in 1871. The papacy was divested of its vast estates in Italy. The pope became the “prisoner of Vatican”. Pious IX retaliated by investing in himself “Papal Infallibility” by manipulation. Out comes Mary’s Immaculate Conception, indexing of books and other draconian measures. Afterwards, the papacy turned its face away from liberal values, modernity and democracy. There was a whiff of a fresh wind when John XIII, the son a poor socialist, became the pope. His efforts for reform in the Church could not be completed due to his untimely demise. Paul VI of weak character was made pliable by the all powerful Curia. The Church was dragged back by ages by the autocratic John Paul II.

The Lateran Treaty with Facist Mussolini gave the Pope suzerainty over 102 acres of land along with a population around 1000 people. The monetary compensation in lieu of the papal estates given by the “war criminal”was invested clandestinely without trace, some say in upmarket London. The opinions of popes, including the “good pope Francis”, have only curiosity value now-a- days. “The world won’t catch a cold when Rome sneezes”

Pope Francis trying his best to get rid of the shenanigans of the Vatican: laundering of mafia drug/prostitution generated slush funds and illegal activities of the Vatican bank etc. He has also to deal with the homosexual/kinky sex prone clerics of the “Holy” Vatican. It would be a miracle if Francis could achieve any thing to restore even a semblance of sanity in the Church. Francis is ineffective. Either he may resign or made to abdicate. Pope, if any, who follows is likely to be an obscurantist judging from the track record of the church.

The worst example of religion meddling in politics is seen in U.S. where Evangelicals and Bible thumbing Christians had rooted for Trump. A British parliamentarian told a member of the opposition: “If I embrace your wife, I will catch an incurable decease; if I embrace you ideas, I will be hanged.”

A definition of abortion: “Love’s labours lost”. Sorry, the gibberish of the is a sheer waste of time and a pain in the ass.

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