Paisley's pathetic piece of prejudice
AT A little chapel in Eyerton recently, Ian Paisley issued his challenge to Protestant Liverpool.
His challenge consisted of an .attack on the Pope: an invitation to Archbishop Derek Worlock to a public "debate": and a rallying call to all Liverpool Protestants to Oppose the Pope's visit.
The Antrim MP told about 6(X) members of the Loyal Orange Lodge (Covenant Number One), in an address which lasted about an hour and a half. that Pope John Paul "is an Anti-Christ and has no right to come to this country."
Mr Paisley even brandished a letter from the chairman of the Football Association. Rumour had it, he claimed. that the Pope wanted to see the FA Cup Final: Mr Paisley had of course written to the FA to protest.
Their reply denied any such rumour. but, concluded Mr Paisley: "He's had disappointing letter from the chairman of the crowds on all his tours. That's one more crowd he'll miss out on." To say that such statements are • facile: pathetic or even downright offensive is to entirely miss the point. Mr Paisley's jibes should not be elevated to the point where the Catholics feel they must retaliate nor should they be dismissed with such disdain and contempt that we underestimate the effect which such statements can have on an unthinking public.
Do not underestimate him: the Antrim MP is quite capable of stirring up the dormant prejudices of the past — and the one and a half hour diatribe in which he indulged at Everton was designed to do just that.
His jibes can be scoffed at by those who know better. but never forget that some people do believe him. are taken in by him. and feed off his vitriol.
The.only adequate response to his bigotry is to facilitate the unification of Christian Churches and for the Churches to provide a united front.
If only the Church institutions and establishment could match the great strides taken by individual Christians and local churches along that road. That would be the most convincing answer to. those who want to perpetuate division and sectarianism.
And in case you think that Mr Paisley doesn't mean what he says — or has any intention of mellowing, be warned by his closing words in Liverpool: "I shall be quiet only when the wife picks up the burial inoney". TIIE TEPID night air wafting cow dung odours is the first hint of Bombay: then people sleeping on pavements, thin flannel their only bedding. Bombay is tropical smells, and poverty (it has Asia's biggest single slum. Dharavi, with an estimated 250,((X) inhabitants) but also skyscrapers being built chockahlock at hectic pace hich give the waterbound city a Manhattan-like serrated skyline. It is a megacity of eight million. a magnet for all West India, the subcontinent's commercial. industrial and film (5(X) features made yearly) capital with nuclear reactors at work on its outskirts.
The local Catholic Church reflects Bombay's complexity. It is the most Catholic of India's three major cities: in the capital Delhi there are 26.000 Catholics. and in Calcutta only 6,000.
In Bombay diocese (15 million inhabitants) there are 500.000 Catholics. the great majority in the city itself. Bombay is one of the zones of major coneentraton of Catholics. Still more important are Kerala Lnd the Malabar coast int the south-west: Madras and the south-east. These two areas between them account for about 70 per cent of Indian Catholics.
01' course Bombay Catholics comprise only a small proportion of the total population (about 6 per cent). But they are far from being an insignificant minority.
Basically.. the Bombay Catholic community is an English language group who have prided
themselves on their ditlerences from the majority culture. (An enquiry centre seems the only ostensible activity aimed at conversion). Many do not even know the local Marathi language well which is one reason that the community has little political clout.
The Vatican Council's reassessment of non-Christian religions was not particularly welcomed by this community nor has it embraced the idea of inculturation. of embodying the faith in the local culture.
Its own culture is Englishbased, Western. Adaption to local habits is seen by many as a sell-out to Hindu rather than to Indian forms. There was resistance to substitution of genuflection by a deep bow with hands joined in front of the forehead. And when Archbishop Simon Pimenta tried to make Maranthi the third language to English and Hindu, the national language, in Catholic high schools, he had to retract before the protests of parents who, instead. want more commercially useful French.
The situation is different among the tribal Catholics in the north of the 16,000 square kilometres diocese. Here there has been a significant and successful adaption to local uses such as removal of shoes before entry to church, squatting during Mass, use of petals to surround the consecrated hosts as well as incorporation of local songs and dances.
In Bombay itself. there has been a backlash against inculturation. The Laity, a publication of a non-official group, has deplored what it considers excesses and the former nuncio in India. Cardinal Jame Knox. prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship. has knocked back some Indian bishops' inculturation proposals in the liturgy and in marriage ceremonies It might seem that the Vatican Council has had little impact on Bombay Catholicism which has a strong structure of 110 parishes with as many secondary schools. These arc handsomely subsidised thettate.
However the Council's effect is seen in the younger clergy's criticism of this apparently flourishing Church. They claim it is complacent. that its school system serves the middle class. while the Church ignores the needs of the poor majority.
The Church should leave its comfortable ghetto, is the motto of the new breed clergy. to identify with the oppressed. The new breed predomOnated when the first ever priests synod was held for five days last November.
More than 400 of the Bombay diocese's 500 priests are indigenous — almost 200 of the 500 are religious. three-quarters of' them Jesuits. Three-quarters of the g00 nuns are Indians. The high proportion of indigenous personnel points to the strength of the Bombay church but foreigners often find it easier to engage in innovative pastoral work and make contact with nonChristians. It is worth nothing also that the diocesan seminary, built for 300 in 1962. now has only a hundred seminarians. mostly from the rural Bassein zone north of Bombay.
The priest's synod decided that the primary priestly task was building Christian community. As this cannot be done with dehumanised people, it concluded that there should be greater commitment to social justice. When I met Archbishop Simon Pimenta, he seemed prepared to face the likely consequences of the Synod's orientation: conflict with civil authorities over the poor's rights. "If it haS to be conflict" he acknowledged calmly._ In the past the Church in Bombay has contradicted civil authorities on certain issues: for instance. opposing.. with the rest of the Indian Church. compulsory sterilisation proposals but it has not challenged authorities on behalf of the economically oporessed.
Ntox a liberation-theology mentalik is catching on in an area shere social contrasts are even more stark than in Latin America. There has been diocesan social involvement (from traditional activities such as that of the St Vincent de Paul society to nuns working — but not living — in slums as well as ecumenical social endeavour in the slums through a group called BUILD). However only now is a diocesan social justice secretariat being established.
Father Joseph Pereira, a young diocesan priest, said: "1 'or many --of us. Mother Teresa has been an eyeopener. She showed just how paternalistic were older-style charitable efforts for the poor."
Other clerics. consider Mother Teresa's efforts "bandaids applied to a cancer". Many such clerics are influenced by structural social analysis introduced by Louvain-based sociologist Father Francois Houtart who lectured in Bangalore some years ago. The more radical claim that the only useful social apostolate is designed to induce structural change in an unjust society. They tend to be intolerant of Catholics helping Bombay's thousands of lepers or TB victims or giving family planning advice.
Outstanding representatives of this new desire to line-up with the poor are two Jesuits, Nicky Cardoso and Peter de Melho, who in 1979 took part in tribesmen's strikes against extortionate money lenders and exploitive landlords. Cardoso has since been asked to leave the Jesuits because he does not live in a Jesuit community.
Church willingness to fight for the .downtrodden and powerless could give it a new relevance in the massive human beehive \‘11101 is Bombay.
It is a noble aim but the Bombay clergy runs the risk of being too far ahead of its flock: lay organisations seem weak. The .
Young Christian Workers Movement, for instance, folded up some years ago and an attempt is being made to revive it only now. The Synod acknowledged that, with a few exceptions, lay leadership is wanting and made it Z1 priority task to encourage it.
Moreover the Catholic high schools are performing an appreciated social function even if it is for the middle-class (over 50 per cent of pupils are nonCatholics). There are only two Catholic colleges. St Xavier's and Sophia. at Bombay university which has about 2(X),(X)0 students..
Keen discernment is needed in the redistribution of Church resources and energy. But at least there k the feeling that the Church is no longer complacent: rather it is bracing itself for a series of formidable challenges.