Friday, January 27, 2006

Cardinal Telesphore on Catholic Education in India

Not for conversion (in India this is always understood as proselytism).
NEW DELHI, India, JAN. 26, 2006 ( Cardinal Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi has indicated that Catholic education in India isn't about proselytism.

"The Catholic Church believes in empowering people and in nation-building through education," said the cardinal during a recent press conference.

The cardinal, who is president of the bishops' conference of India, was addressing the topic on which the episcopate's next General Assembly will focus: "Catholic Education and the Church's Concern for the Marginalized."

On that occasion, Bangalore will be host to the biannual meeting, scheduled for Feb. 8-15.

During the press conference last Saturday, Cardinal Toppo, 66, was asked to respond to the allegation that, from the religious point of view, the Church converts people through education.

"If that were true, the BJP leader, St. Patrick's School alumnus Mr. L.K. Advani, would have been converted," he noted. BJP, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is India's Hindu nationalist opposition party.

The Catholic Church in India runs some 20,000 educational institutions, 66% of which are in rural areas. Of the 6.3 million who study in Catholic institutions, 77% are non-Catholics, according to the bishops' conference.

Catholic institutions have also contributed greatly to the education of girls in India, "which is also a national priority," said a bishops' conference communiqué. Fifty-five percent of girls, as contrasted with 45% of boys, study in Catholic schools and colleges in the country.
Well obviously, not everyone who goes through the portals of a Catholic school ends up Catholic. Some do. Such as yours truly. Not because anyone consciously tried or forced me to, I should add. Besides, the Archdiocese required that I make a notarized affidavit that I was becoming Catholic of my own free will, and had not been offered any incentives or enticements. "Conversion" is quite an incendiary topic in India. Literally.

Brings to mind something that the Holy Father just wrote:
A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak. He knows that God is love (cf. 1 Jn4:8) and that God's presence is felt at the very time when the only thing we do is to love. He knows—to return to the questions raised earlier—that disdain for love is disdain for God and man alike; it is an attempt to do without God. Consequently, the best defence of God and man consists precisely in love. It is the responsibility of the Church's charitable organizations to reinforce this awareness in their members, so that by their activity—as well as their words, their silence, their example—they may be credible witnesses to Christ.
One of those many "wow" moments in this encyclical. The best defence of God and man consists precisely in love. This brings such richness and light on that ancient maxim (from St. Augustine, wasn't it?), ama et fac quod vis?!


assiniboine said...

It was. Of course what St Augustine really meant is somewhat open to question, oft-quoted though his maxim is. "Love and do what you will"? Hmmm... "Love [God] and you may do as you please"? Well perhaps not...

What I always wonder is just how the powers that be in India justify their militant disapproval of proselytism. They make rather a hoo-haw about how they are a secular state as opposed to the nasty Islamic theocracy over 'tother side of Sir Cyril Radcliffe's line, and one might have thought that if that were the case it would be no business of the state at all. Is it all about not letting the Scheduled Castes get uppity by opting out of the caste system altogether and turning Xian? Impossible to resist the inference that yes, that's what it is....

Not, of course, that Christian Indians are very sweetness-and-light about that issue; I will forbear to report on the seriously creepy things that staunchly Christian Indian (or ethnically South Asian) friends (well Muslims too for that matter) have said about low-[Hindu]caste co-religionists; the Rev'd Chloë Breyer, an Anglican clergywoman (and the daughter of Mr Justice Stephen Breyer, a puisne justice of the United States Supreme Court) has written compellingly and entertainingly anecdotally along just the lines I would do:

"Caste Aspersions: Is prejudice in India about religion or social standing?" By The Rev. Chloe Breyer
Posted Friday, May 14, 2004, at 8:41 AM ET

Gashwin said...

Interesting --- today's Office of Readings for the feast of St. Angela Merici has the saint quoting St. Augustine's very same maxim.

"Only if the responsibilities committed to you are rooted firmly in this twofold charity will they bear beneficial and saving fruit. As our Saviour says: A good tree is not able to produce bad fruit.
He says: A good tree, that is, a good heart as well as a soul inflamed with charity, can do nothing but good and holy works. For this reason Saint Augustine said: Love, and do what you will, namely, possess love and charity and then do what you will. It is as if he had said: Charity is not able to sin."

Of course, this is easily open to a completely libertine and antinomian interpretation, though I doubt that either Saint meant it that way.

Chloe Breyer's article was most interesting. Oh yes, this is very much about caste as much as it is about religion, not letting those Dalits get too uppity. Intra-religious casteism is still so entrenched.

Her latest book on her year in seminary has been received rather coldly, at least from the conservative side in the US. Her thinking rapidly seems to be heading in the direction of John Spong. Albert Mohler takes her to task here. Anyway, glad to have you back on the blog ... :)