I HAVE JUST RETURNED from a visit to India, a visit which gave me much to think about. The most profound impression I received was that of the almost indescribable poverty I witnessed in Bombay. The worst slums in any British or American city would appear almost luxurious beside what I saw there. I have written a long article on this subject in The Remnant, and as I know many Angelus subscribers read both journals I won't repeat it here.
By an interesting coincidence, Father Schmidberger had been to Bombay a few days before me. Many of the people I met had also met him, and had been to one of the Masses he celebrated. The impression he had made could hardly have been more favorable, and traditional Catholics in India are now hoping that he will be able to send them a priest. There are no priests offering public Tridentine Masses anywhere in this vast sub-continent and there would certainly be difficulties in getting the Society established there. Finance would be a particular problem as few Church institutions in India are self-supporting. I assisted at a Syriac Rite Mass in Bangalore at a church set in a seminary complex so large that it is referred to as the "Indian Vatican." There was a large congregation, but when the collection was made I doubt whether more than ten per cent made any contribution at all. I inquired about this afterwards and was told that this particular seminary is financed entirely by money collected abroad. It is a Carmelite foundation, and there are Carmelite priests on a permanent circuit in Europe making mission appeals which bring in huge sums each Sunday. It would require a comparable effort by traditional Catholics in Europe and the U.S.A. to establish the Society in India, and as all our own foundations are in continual need of financial assistance this would certainly present a considerable problem.
The principal reason for my visit to Bangalore was to visit the chapel of the NBCLC in Bangalore (National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre). This centre was established under the auspices of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), but now, to all intents and purposes, appears to be autonomous and independent of any episcopal control. There are certainly bishops who disapprove of what is taking place there, but they appear unwilling or unable to take any steps to suppress it. The centre receives its funds from Europe and is thus financially independent. My visit to the centre with a group of Indian friends appeared to evoke a great deal of consternation; members of the staff emerged from various offices and evinced great interest in us. I had a somewhat heated discussion with a Dutch priest, heated on his part at least. His agitation was prompted by my pointing out to him that a nuber of points he had made to me in his explanation of the centre, including references to the Liturgy Constitution of Vatican II, were totally untrue. His response was to send a sister to get a camera and photograph us, and to inform me that as he saw that I had "difficulties" about the Council there was no point in trying to enlighten me. I replied by pointing out that simply making an accurate statement of what Vatican II actually taught hardly constituted having "difficulties" concerning the Council, and that, in fact, he appeared to be the person having difficulties. This did not seem to please him at all, which didn't really surprise me. One hears a lot about the new status of the laity since Vatican II, particularly their right to express their opinions on aspects of the faith which concern them, but it has been my experience that the priests most prone to propound this theory are the priests most likely to take umbrage if a layman so much as raises an eyebrow by a millimetre at any statement they might make.
What was it at Bangalore that made this priest and the rest of the staff so sensitive about visitors? I had been assured that if I made the long journey from Madras I would receive the greatest shock of my life. As a longstanding student of the antics of Archbishops Hunthausen and Weakland I considered myself unshockable, but, in the true spirit of Vatican II, I am always willing to enter into dialogue and revise my opinions. Thus, after such a dialogue with my very gracious Indian hosts in Madras, I took the night mail for Bangalore and arrived there at about 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I was to return the same way on Sunday night. What, I wondered, could be shocking enough to justify such a journey? I had been assured that I must absolutely see what was to be seen for myself so that I could inform Catholics in the West of what was happening from first-hand experience.
I don't quite know how to express my reaction to what I saw. To say that I was not disappointed does not seem the right phrase as it would imply that I was glad about what I discovered. All I can say is that my hosts had not come anywhere near to conveying the horror of what I found there. It was truly the most distressing experience of my entire life. In the NBCLC at Bangalore there has been constructed—with finance sent by European Catholics—a pagan Hindu temple which purports to be a Catholic Church. I can fully appreciate that many readers will feel that I am exaggerating in a most unbritish manner. I would have reacted in the same way had I not seen the temple for myself. Never before have I been so aware of the presence of Satan. I was told later that Father Gerard Hogan of the Society of St. Pius X had been taken there, but had insisted on leaving without entering the church, so greatly had the evil atmosphere affected him.
I have just mentioned my difference of opinion with a Dutch priest at the Centre on the teaching of Vatican II, but I would not like this incident to give the impression that I am an admirer or disciple of this disastrous Council. In my book, Pope John's Council, I have quoted Archbishop Lefebvre on the subject of "time-bombs" in the Council texts. These were apparently innocuous phrases which would not have alarmed the Council Fathers, but which could be exploited after the Council in a manner conducive to the destruction of Catholicism. It would be wrong of us to condemn the Council Fathers for approving these texts. Archbishop Dwyer of Portland, Oregon, admitted that if the Fathers who voted for the Liturgy Constitution had been told of the manner in which it would be interpreted they would have laughed—it just did not seem possible. Cardinal Heenan, Primate of England & Wales, has testified that Pope John XXIII had no idea of what the experts who drafted the texts were actually planning. I had better point out here, for those who have not read my book or Father Wiltgen's The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber, that the most influential men at the Council were not the bishops who voted for the documents but the expert advisers who drafted the documents—men like Charles Davis, Gregory Baum and Hans Kung. Pope John Paul II has declared that Kung can no longer be considered a Catholic theologian but the bishops at the Council were pressured into attending lectures given by him to "up-date" them. Among the time-bombs in the Council texts none could have wreaked greater devastation than Numbers 37 and 38 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Number 37 includes the following:
Anything in these people's way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error, she studies with sympathy, and, if possible, preserves intact. She sometimes even admits such things into the liturgy itself, provided they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.
This is the NBCLC Church in Bangalore. It is constructed in Hindu style with a typical "Gopuram"—tower. On top of the tower is an inverted POT called Kalasam. According to Hindu Agami rites, inside the POT the deity of the temple resides. NBCLC claims there is nectar inside the POT! While the bishops removed the idols inside the church they did not remove the POT on top, giving the excuse that there are many churches in the world without a cross on top! The bishops did not say if there is any Catholic church anywhere in the world with a POT on top! Thus Hindu signs and symbols get encouragement from the Bishops Conference of India!
Number 38 states:
Provided that the substantial unity of the Roman Rite is preserved, provision shall be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in the mission countries.
Well, if we interpret Number 38 strictly, the Council cannot be used as a justification for the pagan church in Bangalore—the "substantial unity of the Roman Rite" has certainly not been preserved. Not only does the so-called church appear to be a Hindu temple, but the rites conducted within its precincts appear to be Hindu ceremonies. The most profound Catholic writer of this century was probably Christopher Dawson. Unfortunately, he never achieved the popularity of Chesterton, Belloc or Ronald Knox. Dawson observed that culture and religion tend to be synonymous. This is certainly true in India, where the national culture is inextricably bound up with the religion of the overwhelming mass of the people—Hinduism.
This is Shiva in his cosmic dance which was installed in the NBCLC Church in Bangalore. It was finally removed because of Hindu agitation against its presence in a Catholic church!
As few readers of The Angelus will know anything about the Hindu religion I will just recount one aspect encountered during my visit—the Festival of Ganapati, which takes place at the end of August and is particularly popular in Bombay. While a young soldier in Malaya, in the late nineteen-fifties, I purchased a statue of a half-man, half-elephant god in an Indian bazaar. (There are many Indians in Malaya.) I had no idea of who or what this god represented. I now know that his name is Ganapati. His story is rather sad. His father is the god Shiva, the destroyer. Despite being a god, Shiva had the misfortune of being childless, which I find somewhat surprising for a person with divine power, but let us leave that aside. The god's wife was very disturbed by her failure to conceive, and, while her husband was away from home, made a clay model of a boy which came to life and was named Ganapati. Shiva arrived home eventually, just when his wife was in the house taking a bath. Ganapati, not knowing who Shiva was, informed him that he could not enter the house as his mother was bathing. Shiva, wondering who the handsome young man was, promptly beheaded him. Needless to say, Ganapati's mother was far from pleased, and made her views known in no uncertain terms. Shiva instructed his servants to bring him the head of the first creature they found facing north, which happened to be an elephant. The elephant's head was placed upon Ganapati who, like his mother, was none too pleased. He is now probably the most popular god in India, which, we may hope, provides him with a certain degree of consolation. I happened to be in Bombay this year in the midst of the Ganapati festival. More than one million Ganapati idols are sold in this city alone; none are cheap—some cost a fortune. During the festival those who have set up an idol in their home must provide refreshments for anyone who cares to call—a gesture which can impoverish a family. Then, after a few days, the idols are taken to the shore and thrown into the sea. This apparently provides great blessings. I had the misfortune of making several long journeys by car in the city during the festival when a ten minute drive could take up to two hours. The streets were packed with processions taking idols to be immersed in the sea.
The story of Ganapati is not without a certain folkloric charm. There are other aspects of Hinduism which simply could not be narrated in a Catholic magazine, but, as I have stated, Indian culture means Hindu culture; including Indian cultural practices in the liturgy means incorporation of pagan practices into the worship of the one, true God. Such a step would appear to be ruled out by Number 37 of the Liturgy Constitution which forbids practices bound up with superstition and error, but unfortunately, in India it seems to be the NCBLC which has the final say as to what is or is not tainted with superstition.
"Inculturation" is the watchword of the proponents of the Hinduization of the liturgy. What these cranks seem unaware of is that Catholics in India have their own culture. Some, converted by the Apostle Thomas, have a Christian culture going back 2,000 years; others, converted by Portugese missionaries, belong to Catholic families dating back almost five hundred years—few Catholic families in Britain can trace their faith back more than two or three generations. Proponents of inculturation point to the fact that some pagan ceremonies have been incorporated into Catholic worship—facing the east to pray provides an example. As I have shown in Chapter XIX of Pope Paul's New Mass, the practice of celebrating Mass facing the east, adopted by the early Church, was derived to a large extent from the cultural milieu in which the first Christians found themselves, though it was in no sense a direct borrowing from pagan worship.
There are other aspects of the traditional liturgy derived from the customs of different people. But such practices were absorbed in a gradual and natural manner. What the proponents of inculturation in India are proposing is something totally different and totally artificial. They are attempting to impose pagan customs by edict onto an existing and flourishing Christian culture. They claim that Indian Catholics must always be conscious of their Indianness, even while assisting at Mass. The same claim has been made by so-called liturgical experts in the U.S.A., i.e., that the way Mass is celebrated there must reflect the American way of life—whatever that might be.
I doubt whether even the proponents of Indianization would claim that their objectives represented any substantial grassroots opinion. Before Vatican II there is no doubt whatsoever that 99.99% of Indian Catholics were totally satisfied with their Church as it was; the same can be said of Catholics in the U.S.A., Great Britain, or any other country! Take the case of the vernacular as an example. How many Angelus readers can recollect any of their Catholic acquaintances or priests, nuns, or laymen, agitating for Mass in the vernacular before Vatican II? Such demands did come from the odd person, and most Catholics considered such people very odd, but I would stake a year's salary on the fact that they did not constitute 0.01% of the Catholic population. But after the Council the 0.01% of "odd" Catholics, "crazies" in the American vernacular, took over control of the Church from the bishops. My favorite Catholic novelist of this century is Evelyn Waugh. He has never been appreciated as widely as his writing deserves, though the television production of Brideshead Revisited seems to have given his popularity an extraordinary boost. As early as 1965 he was so alarmed at what was taking place in the liturgy that he felt it necessary to speak out in public "to warn the submissive laity of the dangers impending." He claimed (and rightly so) that those propagating the theories now being imposed upon Catholics throughout the world had been looked upon as "harmless cranks." He then made a statement which, while totally accurate, is still hard to accept, even though we know it to be true from our personal experience: "Suddenly we find the cranks in authority."
The figure of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the Hindu Thirumurthi, was prominently displayed in the Bishops National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre (NBCLC) Church in Bangalore. It was an object of veneration and meditation for all priests, nuns and laity who—in the hundreds—attend seminars held at the NBCLC throughout the year. They violated the First Commandment by venerating idols. The All India Laity Conference waged a continued agitation for the removal of these idols but in vain. Then the Hindu Asthika Sabha of Madras went to court against the bishops NBCLC Church, demanding the removal of the idols as they were disrespectful of the religious sentiments of the Hindus. India's Attorney General represented the Hindu cause. The action of the Hindus had the desired effect. The bishops had the idols removed—idols which had been there for over a decade. They saw the danger of serious confrontation with the Hindus. They, of course, never saw the spiritual danger to the Catholics who attended NBCLC!
My initial shock at what is happening in India modified gradually as I began to realize that it is identical in every aspect to what has taken place in English-speaking countries. It was precisely what Archbishop Lefebvre had warned would happen in a speech delivered to the Fathers of Vatican II in October of 1963. He warned the bishops that their belief that collegiality would strengthen their authority was an illusion. Whereas prior to Vatican II each bishop had been the absolute ruler in his diocese, subject only to the Pope, collegiality would mean that individual bishops would have to act in accordance with the decisions of national episcopal assemblies and that, in fact, it would not even be the episcopal assemblies but their commissions which would "hold the exercise of that authority."
This is precisely what happened. In the U.S.A., for example, the BCL (Bishops Committee on the Liturgy) is under the effective control of a group of clerical cranks served by a subservient clique of episcopal "yes-men." Whatever act of liturgical lunacy the cranks dream up, their episcopal stooges endorse, and what the episcopal stooges of the BCL endorse is eventually ratified by all the American bishops. Thus, as Mgr. Lefebvre warned, the faithful are being governed not by their bishops but by episcopal commissions, which, to all intents and purposes, means crank commissions. In India the cranks have a fixation on turning Catholics into Hindus. From what I have been able to discover, few if any bishops have any enthusiasm for this process; but few, if any, bishops will make a stand to resist it. This pattern is only too familiar to English-speaking Catholics. In the first chapter of his book, The Devastated Vineyard, Dietrich von Hildebrand castigated bishops who "make no use whatsoever of their authority when it comes to intervening against heretical theologians or priests, or against blasphemous performances of public worship. They either close their eyes and try, ostrich-style, to ignore the grievous abuses as well as appeals to their duty to intervene, or they fear to be attacked by the press or the mass media and defamed as reactionary, narrow-minded, or medieval. They fear men more than God."
"They fear men more than God"—this, alas, is the verdict that one must pass upon the Indian Bishops as one must pass it on the bishops of the U.S.A., Great Britain, France or almost every country in the West.
The only effective and co-ordinated resistance to the paganization of Indian Catholicism comes from the AILC—the All India Laity Commission. This lay organization is fighting a courageous and unceasing battle to keep the Church in India recognizably Catholic, in spite of the commissions and the bishops! Their campaign has not been without its successes, although, as a whole, the tide seems to be moving against them. During my visit to India I spent a great deal of time in the company of the officials of this fine body, and I can testify to their absolute orthodoxy and zeal for the Faith. The AILC, and the AILC alone, is fighting to preserve the Faith in India. The commissions which are destroying it have access to virtually unlimited funds; the AILC must depend upon its own members, most of whom are very poor. I am sure that many readers could afford, say, twenty dollars or more, to help them in their fight to uphold the Faith. I would urge those who could to send a donation to Mr. V. J. Kulanday, President Emeritus, AILC, "Galilee," 6 Nimmo Road, San Thome, Madras, 600-004 India. This organization is the only one working on a national level to stem the tide of Modernism and paganization sweeping through India. It deserves our support.
The photographs which accompany this article provide just little of the evidence available to prove the extent to which proponents of "inculturation" in India are prepared to introduce Hinduism into Catholic worship. The Indian bishops declined to order the removal of the Hindu idols in response to the protests of outraged Catholic laity, but did so only as a result of legal action taken by Hindus who considered the presence of images of their gods in a Christian church to be sacrilegious.
The NBCLC published a catechism in which Our Lady was depicted topless. The bishops declined to act and so a group of laymen took the matter to a civil court which ordered the Centre to remove this illustration which was so offensive to the religious feelings of Christians. Ironically, the judge who made the decision was a Hindu!