THE Interest shown by the ,people of England in the affairs of India is most gratifying. I find abundant evideoce of it both in the attitude of the Press which frequently within recent months has devoted its front page, and its editorial column. to a review of the Indian palitical scene; as also from the frequent publication in England of hooks dealing with Indian problems. It is this attitude that urges me to write. If England is so interested in the welfare of India. English Catholics a fortiori will %Nish to know the
by Father S. Raymond
position of the Indian Catholic in the changing circumstances. I feel, therefore, that they will welcome the opinions of one who is both Indian as well as Catholic.
There can be no doubt that with the advent of the new Government, the Church in India, especially • in Northern India, is aoproaching a velar critical period in its existence. The Indian Catholic is facing adverse circumstances which will ultimately compel him to reform his whole mode of life; and till such time 4s that change is accomplished the Church must of necessity Sutler an eclipse. Yet, even though the immediate future looks bleak and dismal, I have no doubt that when the whole cycle is complete the effect will be a phenomenal furtherance of the cause of Christ in India. This is not mere wishful thinking. It is a conclusion based on an analysis of the facts which I shall now put before you.
Catholics Who Are Strangers It is a strange fact not generally known in the West that the middleclass Catholics of Northern India who form • the backbone of the Church in that part are a class of people who live like strangers in their own country. Not only have they nothing in common with the other communities, which is on the whole desirable, since mixed marriages with non-Christians are invariably 'disastrous; but, and this is monstrous, they have very little that iS specifically Indian in themselves. For this they are not entirely to blame. Most of them are people from the provinces of Goa and Mangalore who have migrated to the North. and have settled in the various towns. They are converts of a time when the principle cujus regio (las religio included not only religion, but customs and manners as well. In their conversion they were weaned away not merely from their paean practises, but also from the mode of life prevalent among their ancestors. Whether, absolutely speaking, this was a gain or not, it is difficult to say. Under the circumstances, however, and in vie* of the present trend in India, it is proving to be an unmitigated evil. It has produced a class of people entirely Western in habits and in outlook, whose mode of life is completely at variance with the average Indian, and whose standard of life has been set at a level abnormally high for people who live in a country which, though it has the potentialities for being one of the richest in the world, is in fact the poorest.
New this anomalous situation which should never have arisen was not only called into being, btit was also allowed to persist and grow. It was foreign domiliation that fostered it. The Indian Catholic picked out by his British master as the subject for special favour was enabled thereby to maintain his high standard of life. It is not difficult to understand the reasons which led to this favouritism. They were quite natural under the circumstances.
In the Indian Catholic the Englishman found someone very like himself. Someone who lived as he did; someone who understood his sense of humour; someonerwho had a lore of justice and a horror for lying (unlike the average pagan, who only speaks the truth occasionally and that by accident): but, above all, someone whom he could trust. Naturally in a foreign country, and amidst an orientalism which he did not understand, and which, to speak the truth, he seldom tried to understand, the Indian Catholic took on for him the appearance of an oasis in the desert of unintelligible customs and manners. For this reason the Indian Catholic often became the confidant and close friend of the English '' boss." In the various departments of the Government he would be the second in command, and it was on his advice that vacancies were filled, and further appointments made. Thus it was easy for Catholics to obtain employment, and quite as easy for them to obtain preferment.
Their Position Deteriorated
During the later half of the 19th century. and during the early years of the 20th, this state of affairs remained unaltered. but then it slowly
began to change: Discontent at foreign domination was growing in 'India, and with it came the agita
tion for independence. The Englishman saw that he would have to be more wary, and that partiality of any sort would be sure to provoke comment. Gradually Catholic young men began to find it more and more difficult to obtain the positions of importance which their fathers and grandfathers had held before them. It was still fairly easy to obtain Government employment, but the average youth had to be content with jobs that were considerably less remunerative.
One solution to this, of course, would have been for them to give up Government service and embark on prisate business, for which there is always scope in India. Some of them did. in fact, try it, but their Western habits were against them, and in the open market they were no match for their pagan competitor. The Indian merchant works 14 to 16 hours per day. He has no other occupation, no other interest. The Indian Catholic, accustomed to no more than an eightshour day, and in need of recreation and amusement, found it impossible to cornpete with him.
Meanwhile. the situation was steadily worsening. Employment was not given even on a competitive basis, for the odious system of denominational percentages had begun, and the Catholics, lumped with the Parsets, Jews, and Protestants, found
it difficult to get even the one per cent. due to them. Tenaciously they attempted, and are still attempting, to maintain their high standard, and that is easily understood, but, of course, it cannot continue. At present many Catholic young men and women are living beyond their means, and are doing so only because of the wealth they have inherited. which is disappearing rapidly, and will in a few years vanish completely.
The new Government, of course, will take us closer to the crash. Hindus and Muslims will inevitably he the heads of departments, and the Catholic, because of his foreign religion, and his ignorance very often of any Indian language, will find himself friendless and unprotected, and not unfrequently an object of hatred. This is the inevitable result of what has gone before. We have made our beds and must lie on them. As Indians we have no cause to grumble. It is the price we IlaVe pay for the freedom of our country. and it will make us do of necessity what we should have done long ago. namely. lower our standard of living and bring it on a level with our income. Needless to say, this end can hest be obtained by relinquishing the Western mode of life, and by reverting to, the Eastern.
It 'could he ideal both for the catholics of Northern India, as well as for the Church if this change could be swift and complete, but as a matter of fact It is and will continue to he slow and laborious, and while it lasts it causes a continual slow-up in the work of conversion.
It is true that all priests engaged upon conversion werk make it a point to see that their respective missions are self-supporting, and the work done in this line is remarkable, but in every mission at least 10 to IS years must elapse before this stage can be reached, and all work within that period has to be considered as pioneer work which requires money and lots of 'it. 'this money in great part has come from the middle-class Catholics of Northern India, but it has decreased and goes on decreasing,
Nor is this the only obstacle to conversion work which the Church will suffer under the new regime. There is another as well. All our majors conversion movements have always been in the villages and amongst the ryots and bans. These
down trodden, poverty stricken people, living perpetually at the mercy of unscrupulous zamindars, have come to us not primarily for the good of their souls, but for the good of their bodies. We have fought for their rights, freed them from debt, and established them on a firm basis; and they have, become Catholics snore to please us than because they have had any real convictions on the matter. Now it is fairly certain that under the new Government the condition of the farmer will improve, and with that improvement the incentive for him to come to us will vanish. The only approach left will be the one by reason and argument, and that approach has always been closed Because of illiteracy which it will take several generations to overcome.
The ChurchWill Arise the Stronger
These are the two problems which confront the Church in India to-day. They have come as additional obstacles to those which already exist, namely, the opposition of the orthodox Hindu . bloc in the villages, and 'the opposition of the Communists in the towns. It will not be easy to overcome them, and yet their overcoming will, I believe, be of immense value for the Church as well as for our country. What has the Church in Northern India been up till ncliv? A Church supported either directly or indirectly by the patronage of foreigners, and embracing a group of people who are Indian only in name.
A Church of this sort could make no impression on our pagan brothers, and it has in fact often produced in them feelings of antipathy and disgust.
But a Church purely Indian. fightins to survive amidst hardships and difficulties, will have to be judged solely by its intrinsic merits, and judged as such it cannot but win
admiration and respect. That is why I believe that when the Church rises again she will come much Dearer to the fulfilment of the stupendous task she has set herself, the conversion of the four hundred milltons of India.
In conclusion. I wish to remark that this article is built on the supposition that the new Government will remain faithful to its promises of religious tolerance, and bearing in mind the frequent protestations made by Pandit Nehru this is a legitimate supposition.