LETTER FROM THIS MINISTRY TO THE CAMALDOLI BENEDICTINES
REGARDING THE FORTHCOMING REPORT ON ‘CATHOLIC ASHRAMS’
To, The Father-General
Camaldolese Benedictine Congregation
Monastero di San Gregorio al Celio
Piazza San Gregorio al Celio, 1
00184 ROMA, ITALIA 1st January 2005
Dear Reverend Father-General,
Subject : The Camaldolese Benedictines at SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM, SHANTIVANAM, Thannirpalli, India
At the request of the late Fr. Bede Griffiths OSB [also known as Swami Dayananda] in 1980, this Catholic ashram was affiliated with the Benedictines of Camaldoli in Italy, and hence comes under your jurisdiction.
I therefore address this letter to you. From the 15th to the 21st of December 2004 I was a resident of this ashram.
As a Catholic lay evangelist who has, since 1999, been creating greater awareness of the infiltration of New Age in the Catholic Church in India, my many articles and reports are sent to all the Bishops of India [and to the various commissions of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India] as well as to over 15 Dicasteries of the Holy See.
They are also received by a fair number of priests and several hundred lay leaders in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal both in India and abroad. This ministry has received encouraging replies from 2 Cardinals [the third Cardinal’s office has acknowledged receipt of my letters] and from around 60 Bishops till date.
To some extent, I was already aware of what I would expect to see and experience, even before my visit to Shantivanam. The purpose of my visit there was to obtain first-hand information about what I had already read in books or heard from others who had visited this place. Despite this, I was completely shocked at what is going on in the ashram.
I am enclosing here a copy of my Letter to the Vatican* dated 5th May, 2004 on the subject of ‘New Age’ in the Catholic Church in India. This was sent to all concerned persons as indicated above. In response to the report, this ministry received appreciatory letters from the two Cardinals and from around 30 Bishops, as well as one letter from Rome. May I draw your kind attention to the first three paragraphs on page 4 which deal with Ashrams and the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre [NBCLC].
My visit to Saccidananda Ashram confirmed my apprehensions as stated in my report. But it is yet far worse than that.
In the simplest analysis, there is only a semblance of the sannyasin-priests at Shantivanam adhering to what I believe is the Benedictine dictum of ora et labora [prayer and work].
The entire setup seems to be geared to luring Western foreigners and to making money. There is open condemnation of all organized religion and the teachings of the Church, and a liberal interpretation of the Bible that suits the ends of the sannyasins as well as the sadhakas [seekers] who visit the ashram.
What I witnessed and heard there can be termed nothing else but heresy, blasphemy and sacrilege.
Enquiries made by me reveal that during infrequent visits by officials from regulatory Church bodies or other authorities there is a careful cover-up of the actual goings-on. There is also the possibility that these visiting officials do not look beyond the trappings laid out during their visits, that they are satisfied with simplistic explanations against their queries, and that certain activities are dropped or curtailed. Or that the orthodoxy of these officials is itself questionable. It may be required that the Congregation and/or the Church depute an undercover priest who is theologically sound and faithful to orthodoxy and orthopraxis to make a thorough assessment of the situation.
In the referred Letter to the Vatican I have also mentioned an organization called Dharma Bharathi*, its founder [now known as Swami Sachidananda Bharathi]’s connection with Fr. Bede and their links with the New Age Movement. During my visit I have found further evidence to confirm these links. I am enclosing my report on Dharma Bharathi in which I have written about, or quoted other Catholic authors on, Shantivanam’s New Age connection.
I am obliged to send copies of this letter to the concerned Bishops and CBCI Commissions and to the Vatican.
I am presently preparing a detailed report on my findings at Saccidananda ashram and it will be sent to you in due course. Meanwhile, I look forward to receiving your kind response to this letter.
REMINDERS, FOLLOW UP:
Sent: Friday, January 21, 2005 9:51 AM Subject: YOUR SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM AT SHANTIVANAM, INDIA
Dear Fr. General,
A few days ago I had separately posted in Rome to you two originals of a letter concerning the ashram.
I had sent individualized copies by email and by post to selected Indian Bishops as also to 12 Pontifical Councils in Rome. The Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI [Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India] has immediately asked me for my detailed report which is presently under preparation.
The report will reach Church leaders worldwide as do all the others that are produced by this ministry.
May I receive your comments with respect to the referred letter to you which is again attached herewith for your study? Yours obediently, Michael Prabhu
Metamorphose Catholic Ministries to create awareness of the New Age infiltration in the Indian Church.
Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2005 2:29 AM Subject: Fw: YOUR SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM AT SHANTIVANAM, INDIA
Sent: Monday, October 10, 2005 6:57 PM Subject: FROM INDIA – YOUR SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM AT SHANTIVANAM, INDIA : REPORT TO THE BISHOPS
DEAR REVEREND FATHERS,
IT IS A MATTER OF REGRET THAT YOU DID NOT RESPOND TO MY EMAILS AS WELL AS TO MY LETTER POSTED TO YOU. NOW, PLEASE FIND ATTACHED MY REPORT TO THE BISHOPS OF INDIA ON YOUR ASHRAMS
MICHAEL PRABHU, INDIA
[NO RESPONSE RECEIVED]
Individualised letters on the lines of the above were sent both by email, as well as by post on this ministry letterhead, to the Prefects/Presidents of 15 Dicasteries/Congregations/Pontifical Councils in Rome/at the Vatican, to the concerned Bishops and Commissions of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India [CBCI] and to national and international leaders in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Here are selected responses to my January 2005 letter:
Subject: Re: FROM INDIA : A VISIT TO A ‘CATHOLIC’ INDIAN ASHRAM : PRAYERS NEEDED
Many thanks for your attachments, and I will certainly keep you in prayer for your work in this most important ministry. I recall some years ago being asked by a Bishop “….what do you consider to be the greatest threat at this time to the Church”? I replied that I considered the “New Age” to be such a threat – to which the Bishop responded “…what is the New Age”? May 2005 be a year of blessing and grace for you.
Your brother in Christ,
DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL SERVICES. AUSTRALIA
Greetings of Peace and Joy! Trust you are well. I share your anxiety about the Catholic faith in SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM, SHANTIVANAM. Now, please let me know clearly the points which you feel need corrections. It is very important to note clear errors and abuses. Then, I will take the matter up with the people concerned. Yours Sincerely,
Bishop Thomas Dabre, BISHOP OF VASAI, CHAIRMAN, DOCTRINAL COMMISSION, CBCI
Thank you for replying. I intend to make the report out in 2 phases. In the first one, I will try my utmost to be as precise as possible, though that may be quite difficult as I have to support my statements with evidence.
I shall try my best to keep as much peripheral and additional information as possible to the second phase of the report. Separating the two and making a proper presentation will also be not an easy task for a layperson like me.
Yours obediently, Michael
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2005 7:42 PM Subject: Re: From India
Thanks for keeping me informed. You’re waging a difficult but very important battle. Your brother in Jesus,
[CO-FOUNDER OF THE CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL, USA]
4. Dear Mr. Michael Prabu,
Thank you very much for your letter of 1st January regarding Shanthivanam Ashram.
Kindly give me more specific information regarding the heresies, blasphemous and sacrilegous activities that are taking place over there. I shall make my enquiry on receiving this information from you.
With kind regards, Yours in Christ,
+ANTONY DEVOTTA, BISHOP OF TIRUCHIRAPPALLI Letter dated 21 January 2005
NOTE: ONE OF THE LEADING ASHRAMS, SACCIDANANDA ASHRAM or SHANTIVANAM was visited by this writer for the preparation of the report. The said Ashram is located in the diocese of the above Bishop.
5. From, The Apostolic Nunciature in India, New Delhi N. 5561/05
Dear Mr. Michael Prabhu,
I acknowledge receipt of your kind letter dated January 1st 2005.
I wish to assure you that its contents have awaked interest and have been the cause of concern. I have been noted and I am waiting for your detailed report about Saccidananda Ashram.
With cordial regards and prayerful good wishes, I remain, Yours sincerely in Christ,
+Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana,
APOSTOLIC NUNCIO Letter dated 25 January 2005
When the Ashrams report* was finally released in October 2005, the response from the CBCI Commissions and individual Bishops was fairly encouraging. These responses are recorded in a separate Document, see
‘LETTERS FROM BISHOPS IN RESPONSE TO THE CATHOLIC ASHRAMS REPORT’.**
The Vatican’s acknowledgement is reproduced below.
RESPONSE FROM ROME:
Sent: Friday, November 04, 2005 11:02 PM Subject: R: NEW AGE IN THE CATHOLIC ASHRAMS IN INDIA
Dear Mr. Prabhu
After a preliminary investigation of the subject of your email, we have come to find out that Ashram movement is a national movement, and as such, not within our competency as this Pontifical Council deals with International Movements. The Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity ask that your redirect your inquiry to the local bishop where the movement is active.
If, after this inquiry is made, and still no satisfactory response is offered, we suggest as a last extreme, that you direct your inquiry to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Pontifical Council for the Laity
[For my response of November 5, 2005 to
Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, President,
Pontifical Council for the Laity, Vatican, see Document with title
‘CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE VATICAN’.***]