Marxist Jesuits are not for tribal welfare. India and Indian Catholics both need to understand that
TThe purpose of this article is not to go into the tragic circumstances surrounding the recent death of Father Stan Swamy. While there have been many columns written about the tribal rights activist, including one by retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro in ThePrint, I think we should try to examine the broader issues surrounding the Roman Catholic Church and the Jesuit Order in the context of their extensive and intensive engagement with the Adivasis communities in India.
Missionaries and Christian schools are generally viewed positively by Indian society. In most Bollywood films, the Christian (usually Catholic) chaplain is portrayed as a benign, helpful and healing figure. I certainly hope that the image will stay that way and will not be altered or tarnished. For this it is important to examine the political ideology of Christian / Catholic Marxism.
It is a common belief in India that the Roman Catholic Church in general and the Jesuit order in particular are anti-Marxist. This belief is completely wrong. So-called “liberation theology” is largely a Roman Catholic product, absent from most Protestant Christian theological outpourings. Liberation theology is deeply anti-capitalist, anti-markets and justifies violence, using selective quotations from the Gospels. They like to talk about the reference in the gospels to Jesus throwing money changers out of the temple; there is little or no reference to the parable of the talents. The leaders of liberation theology have been the Latin American Jesuits who are completely opposed to a conservative tendency in philosophical, theological and political matters. The influence of Latin American Marxist liberation theologians deeply permeated the Roman Church in India and had a fairly profound impact on the Jesuit order in recent decades.
It is this ideological orientation among the Jesuits that makes many of them well disposed to Maoist insurgents, while publicly donning the robes of the supporters, assistants and padrones of the so-called powerless tribal people. This is pretty much what Catholic Marxists have endorsed in Central and South America as well, and it is a classic “practice” of liberation theology.
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Unlike peaceful theology
My father and I are both from a large Jesuit college in South India. I am personally a big supporter of my alma mater. Whenever I interact with older, nicer, more sober, more sensitive Jesuits, they find it hard to let their guard down. But directly or indirectly, they admit to me their frustration with the fact that the loudest and most active elements of their order today are the Marxists. These Marxist Jesuits reject the previous accommodating position of Church and Order. They also enthusiastically embraced “cultural Marxism,” which in the West attacks white male domination and in India has chosen to attack Hindu male domination.
It is part of liberation theology that such domination cannot be addressed through peaceful, constitutional parliamentary channels. Violent and revolutionary change is therefore considered necessary and desirable. They want to overthrow Indian society and in particular Hindu society, which in the vocabulary of cultural Marxism is seen as hegemonic, patriarchal, misogynistic and casteist – a society with which Marxist Jesuits cannot and will not come to a commitment peaceful. This is in stark contrast to the Jesuits of my college days who respected Hindu traditions and were fervent of an empathetic society.
Unfortunately, too many Catholic and Jesuit priests today do not draw inspiration from Roberto de Nobili (a Sanskrit and Tamil scholar), Thomas Stephens (a Marathi scholar), Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi (a Tamil scholar) and Anthony de Mello. (a scholar of Vedanta, Buddhism and Sufism) but of Gustavo Gutierrez and Jon Sobrino (radical Latin American Catholic scholars, even revolutionaries).
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who served as Pope Benedict XVI, was usually stuck between a rock and a hard place as he headed the Vatican doctrinal office. He had to condemn de Mello’s penchant for Vedanta, Buddhism and Sufism as theologically not entirely appropriate. At the same time, he was to categorically oppose Gutierrez’s attempt to implant revolutionary Marxism into Catholic dogma. As early as 1984, Ratzinger’s office published a critical analysis in which it was specifically mentioned that “Marxism and Catholic theology are incompatible”. From my perspective, Ratzinger would have done better to support de Mello, who, after all, engaged in traditions steeped in the sacred and spiritual, which the founder of Christianity would have approved of.
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Non-Christian double talk
Only the most convoluted arguments can stretch the message of the Christian gospels to support violent materialism. Theologians like Gutierrez and Sobrino seek an alternative to market capitalism and reject the position that this economic system has in fact done the best job of reducing poverty. They call for the dismantling of the “bourgeois state”, an old Marxist demand. Their influence extends far beyond Latin America and has found fertile soil in India. Marxist Catholic priests in India are no longer happy to focus on the spiritual needs of loved ones and focus on old-fashioned parish work. Instead, they want to move away from their home states and show up in tribal tracts, in order to work on the political consciousness of the people there and guide them to the new Christian theology that resembles revolutionary Marxism. , while emphasizing certain phrases from the Gospels. and ignoring others.
The idea that the Indian bourgeois state is an oppressor of the tribes and that it needs a radical transformation is frequently interspersed with positive references to the Indian Constitution. This kind of double talk is taken directly from the principles of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong and in its lack of respect for truthfulness it is clearly un-Christian. Ideas derived from more recent theories of cultural Marxism are even more aggressive and confusing. These theories postulate the existence of an endless and irreconcilable set of contradictions between Hindu society and the tribes. Of course, these scholars don’t bother to address that if there really is a chasm between Hindus and tribals, why wouldn’t there be a bigger chasm between Indian tribals and Christianity, admittedly now channeled through a 19th century German philosopher?
Srisailam, Srikalahasti, Puri, Pandharpur, Jejuri, Dharmasthala, Dantewada, Sabarimala and so many other Hindu pilgrimage centers are closely linked with Adivasi traditions. Within the vast Indian tent, there seems to be more engagement, closeness and, may I suggest, unity in diversity. But, of course, this account is anathema to cultural Marxists. They must postulate the existence of a wicked Hindu, male, hegemonic order that should be overthrown in the fast approaching revolution. In the meantime, at a minimum, it is important to keep the Adivasis at work with real and imagined grievances and to challenge the Indian state as well as Hindu society.
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Need for introspection
The involvement of Roman Catholics and Jesuits with the tribal population of India is not religious or spiritual. He transformed, under the influence of Gutierrez and Sobrino, into politics. Oddly enough, tribals are denied subjective agency. They “need” the help of outside Marxist ideologues and we have to ask ourselves if this so-called help is in fact a euphemism for manipulation. Manipulating the tribals and pitting them against a powerful state and against immediate neighbors can end up being the most cynical, sordid and dangerous of approaches.
As an external admirer of the conservative traditions of the Catholic Church (the Latin Mass and Gregorian chants spring to mind), I am deeply troubled that a new generation of Catholic Marxists is willing to endanger centuries. of peaceful and cordial engagement between Indian society and Christianity of the Chaldean, Syriac, Roman or Anglican varieties. Opposing the Indian state and declaring war on Hindu society is, at the very least, not smart. This, of course, certainly does not respond to how Christianity, one of the most spiritually informed religious traditions in the world, can befriend violent, atheistic, and materialistic worship.
I have already made a passing reference to my personal relationships. Let me add. My brother is a product of a Christian Brothers school; my sister from Loretto and Presentation Convent schools. I am a strong supporter of my old Jesuit college. It is therefore with great sadness and great concern that I regard the unnecessary and destructive Marxist orientation of so many Roman Catholic priests, especially members of the Jesuit order.
I call for serious soul-searching among my Indian Catholic friends. They are the ones who can best tackle this thorny issue. Any non-Catholic speaking out will be accused of being non-secular and sectarian. Lay Catholics engaging in self-examination and confronted with imported Marxist rhetoric among their clergy are best placed to reintroduce spirituality and mutual accommodation into their faith and ensure that incursions into the political and materialist realms do not take a destructive turn.
The author is an entrepreneur and a writer. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Prashant Dixit)
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