MARCH 25/26, 2013
Criticism of an article written by this ministry and of this writer by the “Fishwrap”, the National Catholic Reporter
John L. Allen, Jr., of the National Catholic Reporter [NCR] wrote the following article at NCR Online:
Papabile of the Day: The Men Who Could Be Pope – Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay (Mumbai)
By John L. Allen, Jr., March 10, 2013-03-25,
John Allen is offering a profile each day of one of the most frequently touted papabili, or men who could be pope. The old saying in Rome is that he who enters a conclave as pope exits as a cardinal, meaning there’s no guarantee one of these men actually will be chosen. They are, however, the leading names drawing buzz in Rome these days, ensuring they will be in the spotlight as the conclave draws near. The profiles of these men also suggest the issues and the qualities other cardinals see as desirable heading into the election.
Heading into the 2013 conclave, there’s a small set of candidates destined to get a serious look from the outset, such as Cardinals Angelo Scola of Milan, Marc Ouellet of Canada, and Odilo Pedro Scherer of Brazil. The buzz around those names ensures that most cardinals are thinking about them right now, three days before the balloting actually begins.
One could probably add two American names to that list, at least as measured by public clamor: Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Timothy Dolan of New York.
Then there’s a wider range of figures who may not have strong support in the early rounds of voting, but who could come into play if none of the initial candidates seem to have sufficient support to get across that magic two-thirds threshold, meaning 77 votes out of the 115 cardinal electors.
In that second cluster waiting in the wings, there’s an Asian possibility who hasn’t yet received much attention, but who could strike some cardinals as an attractive fallback solution: Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay (Mumbai) in India.
We’re talking about a man who clearly enjoys the respect of his fellow bishops. He’s the elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, which represents all three Catholic rites in India (Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara), and he also serves as the elected secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
Gracias is also somebody who knows Rome well. He studied at the Pontifical Urbanian University and speaks Italian comfortably, he’s a member of several Vatican departments, and he’s close to the ubiquitous Community of Sant’Egidio.
Gracias is a figure with proven diplomatic skills and an ability to break logjams. He’s been able to open channels of communication with Hindu leaders, including some radicals who stand on a platform of “India for the Hindus!”, and he helped resolve a standoff with a fractious church group in Bombay, a situation a bit like the tensions over the Lefebvrist movement in Europe.
Ideologically, Gracias profiles as a moderate. In a recent interview in India, he opposed same-sex marriage but insisted that “gay persons are not to be rejected, but accepted,” adding that he personally has no problem if priests with a same-sex orientation “come out,” provided they respect celibacy.
He was also asked about the controversial case of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman who died in October 2012 in Ireland from a protracted miscarriage because doctors could not remove the fetus under Ireland’s anti-abortion law. Gracias affirmed the church’s opposition to abortion, but added that “doctors have to do whatever can be done to protect the mother. Maybe the child may not survive, but those steps need to be taken.”
The streets of Rome may not be full of talk about Gracias, but his fellow Indians seem to be taking the prospect seriously. In the last few days, I’ve gotten feelers from media outlets in India asking about Gracias’ prospects, and I’ve also received write-ups on him from friends and foes alike.
Kevin Coelho, for instance, is a childhood friend of Gracias who now lives in Canada. He sent along an impassioned essay as to why Gracias would make a great pope (or, perhaps, Secretary of State), arguing that the future cardinal’s sharp mind was clear as a young seminarian: “You could often see our Spanish Jesuit professors become visibly nervous when he raised his hand to ask a question,” Coelho recalls.
On the other hand, self-described Catholic apologist Michael Prabhu from Chennai shared a lengthy reflection on why none of the current Indian cardinals should be elected pope, [Cardinal Oswald] Gracias very much included. In his view, they have all gone too far in accommodating India’s religious pluralism, thereby watering down Catholic doctrine and practice. In particular, Prabhu is appalled that in his former diocese of Agra, Gracias approved teaching yoga at Catholic schools.
At 68, Gracias had a scare with cancer five years ago, and is visibly thinner than he was before the illness. Today, however, he’s said to be cancer-free, and he keeps up a challenging work and travel schedule.
Gracias was born in 1944 in Mumbai, the child of parents who hailed from India’s Goa region on the west coast. Gracias is thus a “Goan Catholic,” referring to a fiercely proud group of Indian believers who trace their roots back to Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. He studied at a Jesuit-run seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1970, in the immediate post-Vatican II period. Gracias studied in Rome from 1976 to 1982, earning a doctorate in canon law, and then returned to India to do a mix of pastoral and administrative work, including serving on a number of church tribunals and as president of the Canon Law Society of India.
Gracias was made an auxiliary bishop of Bombay in 1997, taking over as Archbishop of Agra in 2000 and as Archbishop of Bombay in 2006. Benedict XVI made him a cardinal during the November 2007 consistory.
The case for Gracias as pope pivots on three points.
First and most obviously, he would symbolize the dramatic growth of Catholicism outside the West. He might be seen as a “safe” choice for a non-Western pope, since he comes from a community in India that has five centuries of Catholic tradition under its belt and deep ties to Europe, Portugal in particular.
Second, a key issue in this race is governance, and Gracias has a proven track record as an effective governor. He keeps getting elected to leadership positions in Asia precisely because of his reputation as someone who can broker consensus and get things done.
Though Gracias profiles as a reconciler, he’s no shrinking violet. In a recent interview with the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), Gracias said of the next pope, “His is a tough job that invites criticism, so he should be thick-skinned.”
Third, Gracias’ image as a theological and political moderate could make him an attractive candidate for those cardinals who represent the ecclesiastical center – those who come out of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, for instance, as well as some Europeans. At the same time, Gracias would probably draw strong support from the cardinals from Latin America, Africa, and, naturally, Asia, should he emerge as a serious contender. Some Italian cardinals, especially those who know him personally, would likely find him acceptable given his comfort level with the language and the culture. Start running those numbers, and it’s plausible that he could get to 77 votes.
Fourth, as Italian writer Vincenzo Faccioli Pintozzi has noted, Gracias could be the Karol Wojtyla of the 2013 conclave – an outsider from a linchpin nation with deep pastoral experience, who could resolve a deadlock. Certainly there’s a case to be made that India is destined to play at least as central a role in the history of the early 21st century as Poland did in the late 20th century, and having an Indian pope could dramatically boost the Vatican’s diplomatic capacity to engage rising Asian powers.
On the other hand, there are several strong reasons why Gracias has to be considered a serious longshot.
First, his bout with cancer raises questions about his long-term health. On the heels of a pope who just resigned citing age and exhaustion, the need for an “energetic” pope has become a buzzword among cardinals, which is often a sort of code for someone who doesn’t bring any obvious problems of illness or frailty into the job.
Second, Gracias is a more effective behind-the-scenes figure than a public performer. That may help him in terms of the concern for governance, but cardinals are also looking for a pope who can carry forward the “New Evangelization,” and may not see a canon lawyer with a reputation for quiet diplomacy as the best bet.
Third, precisely because Gracias has not figured prominently in the run-up to the conclave, many cardinals probably haven’t given him a lot of thought. Given the hesitance many cardinals feel about rolling the dice on an unknown quantity, they may simply conclude they don’t know enough about Gracias to take the chance.
Fourth, Gracias comes off more as a compromise possibility than someone with a natural base of support. Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines would be the preferred Asian candidate for those cardinals who want an evangelizing pope and a real breath of fresh air, while Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka represents the great Asian hope among the “Ratzingerian” cardinals. No one seems to be making a conscious push for Gracias; instead, the stars would have to align in such a way that he represents a solution to a political stalemate.
In a crowded field with no clear frontrunner, however, such a stalemate isn’t out of the question. If that’s what happens, all sorts of possibilities may be one the table, including the idea of an Indian Pope.
John Allen misleadingly and deceitfully writes as if I “shared” something with him. He has in fact referred to this article HABEMUS PAPAM INDIANUM-WE HAVE AN INDIAN PONTIFF
http://ephesians-511.net/docs/HABEMUS_PAPAM_INDIANUM-WE_HAVE_AN_INDIAN_PONTIFF.doc as well as to my report CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIAS ENDORSES YOGA FOR CATHOLICS
http://ephesians-511.net/docs/CARDINAL_OSWALD_GRACIAS_ENDORSES_YOGA_FOR_CATHOLICS.doc, both of which are in the public domain, in making his statements in the NCR online article.
Fr. Zuhlsdorf, the eminent Catholic blogger described the NCR as “fishwrap”, see
WOMEN PRIESTS-THE NCR-UCAN-EWA NEXUS
and John Allen‘s own Bishop, Robert Finn, as recently as January 25, declared that the NCR is simply NOT CATHOLIC!
A month later, Colorado Springs’ Bishop Michael Sheridan publicly seconded the condemnation of the NCR by Bishop Finn, see UCAN’S SLANTED QUESTIONNAIRE ON THE CATHOLIC’S CHOICE FOR POPE
John Allen is obviously peeved at my helping disseminate the truth about his liberal and heretic positions — he is all FOR yoga [and other New Age spirituality], he is all FOR religious pluralism, he is all FOR women’s ordination — so he loses control of his well-honed journalistic instincts which urge him to remain objective, and calls me a “self-described Catholic apologist“. This subjective, derogatory comment comes from a man who his own bishop says cannot licitly call himself or his fishwrap tabloid as Catholic!
My recent exposes have rattled John Allen so much that he had to invent a scenario for his present article, saying, “In the last few days, I’ve gotten feelers from media outlets in India asking about Gracias’ prospects, and I’ve also received write-ups on him from friends and foes alike“. He could only cite one Kevin Coelho, despite all those “write-ups” that he allegedly received. The only possibility of Cardinal Oswald Gracias’ being ‘papabile’ existed in John Allen‘s fertile imagination. Far from being a moderate, Oswald Cardinal Gracias is a closet liberal, and the likes of John Allen and the UCAN news agency would most profit by his ascendancy.
I took a long break from researching and writing during the run up to the conclave, and for a couple of days after that too, to watch the live coverage offered by Al Jazeera, the BBC, and CNN TV networks. John Allen happens to be the special Vatican correspondent — or something of that sort — of CNN. He was consulted for his opinions as well as for his repertoire of facts about the Holy See, the papabili, etc. He even pontificated on matters concerning the Faith of believers, he did, this man who is not a practising, believing Catholic who accepts the teachings of Rome! Such a man could be expected to weave fantasies such as the one cited above that considers Oswald Cardinal Gracias as a likely candidate for Pope.
John Allen is correct in quoting me on one thing: “none of the current Indian cardinals should be elected pope“. Well, those really are not my words, but that is the import of my article HABEMUS PAPAM INDIANUM.
And I go a step further, adding that I don’t see an Indian as Pope from the present list of archbishops and bishops, which means for many years into the future. If you want to know why I believe that, you want to read the HABEMUS PAPAM INDIANUM document or the shorter version of it, WHY INDIAN CATHOLICS DO NOT WANT AN INDIAN POPE
http://ephesians-511.net/docs/WHY_INDIAN_CATHOLICS_DO_NOT_WANT_AN_INDIAN_POPE.doc, the document that I sent to every Vatican email address that I have, and to the entire college of Cardinals, electors and non-electors [with the exception of the Indian Cardinals] prior to the conclave, and that includes Jorge Cardinal Mario Bergoglio who is now Pope Francis. I may add that, along with the WHY INDIAN CATHOLICS DO NOT WANT AN INDIAN POPE document, I also sent the Holy See and all the Cardinals a report titled PAPAL CANDIDATE OSWALD CARDINAL GRACIAS ENDORSES YOGA
One of the comments at John Allen‘s NCR article is from one Victor Rodrigues, who writes,
“I’m a Catholic from Cardinal Gracious’ diocese of Bombay. I congratulate John Allen for the excellent well researched article. Cardinal Gracious is a wonderful human being and much loved by the Catholic Community in Bombay“, to which another reader repartees, “You like and admire him but are not able to spell his name correctly, Vidkor Radriguess? Jeesh! Something seems odd here!”
Another uninformed, sycophantic post is from one Steffie who opines, “As a youth of the Bombay Diocese i would just like to say “His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay (Mumbai), India” would be an excellent Pope as he is respected and loved by all not only in India but various places as well and I have been blessed and honoured to meet him.”
Dig a little deeper Steffie. You want to check out this ministry’s web site or the blog of the Association of Concerned Catholics [AOCC], Mumbai or simply look at the contents of The Examiner, the archdiocesan weekly of Bombay. The archdiocese is the leading promoter of institutionalised New Age in the Indian church. The Cardinal, as head of — not one as wrongly stated by John Allen but — two episcopal bodies, the CBCI and the CCBI, as well as being the Secretary General of the FABC, is personally morally responsible for the New Age, theological and liturgical corruption that is today endemic in the Church, not forgetting its virtual Hinduisation. These are not unverifiable allegations but documented facts. If he is or was not directly responsible for the development of such a situation, he has been apprised of it through numerous letters.
He is therefore complicit in the spiritual errors that prevail and ensnare the faithful. Silence is complicity.
NOT TO OPPOSE ERROR IS TO APPROVE IT, AND NOT TO DEFEND TRUTH IS TO SUPPRESS IT. AND INDEED TO NEGLECT TO CONFOUND EVIL … WHEN WE CAN DO IT IS NO LESS A SIN THAN TO ENCOURAGE THEM: POPE ST. FELIX III
Read also the following two documents pertaining to the archdiocese of Bombay
THE SALESIANS, OSWALD CARDINAL GRACIAS AND NEW AGE PSYCHOLOGIST CARL ROGERS
THE ST PIUS X SEMINARY CELEBRATES HINDU DEITY GANESH
One Francis Lobo’s comment at the NCR article reproduces the AOCC’s March 11, 2013 blog, Should Cardinal Oswald Gracias have resigned from the conclave like Cardinal Keith O’Brien did?
which may also be accessed at this ministry’s web site: http://ephesians-511.net/docs/SHOULD_OSWALD_CARDINAL_GRACIAS_HAVE_RESIGNED_AS_CARDINAL_OBRIEN_DID.doc.
Not only is the Cardinal not papabile, Indian Catholics are of the opinion that he should not have attended the conclave in the first place.
CARDINAL GRACIAS AS POPE GANESH I!
Out of the 17 that were published in response to the NCR article, there is one last comment that I wish to reproduce here; it was posted by one Petrus Romanus. It goes:
Yoga is of course an ancient physical and spiritual discipline, antedating the birth of Jesus Christ and therefore the church he founded. As an infant, Jesus and his family received certain visitors “from the East” who were reportedly following a star. They brought along gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and may easily have introduced the Holy Family to yoga as well. The inspired texts of the scriptures record numerous details of postures which could easily pass for asanas, including a three-hour stint on a cross one Friday afternoon. […]
When Jesus headed the desert to pray, he may have included yoga in his daily routines, and taught his disciples to pray with more than words alone. The activity and the discipline enable the practitioner to discover connections among observations and ideas that might not otherwise emerge into consciousness — and yoga itself means, precisely, “connections.”
Yes, I am aware that Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) has spoken out against yoga. I am also aware that neither as cardinal nor as pope, Joseph Ratzinger appreciated what yoga is. I can say that had he been even a casual student and practitioner of any form of yoga, his physical and mental condition might have enabled him to continue his papacy rather than resign it.
Perhaps Cardinal Gracias, as
Pope Ganesh I, might authorize a set of recorded yoga exercises for the faithful of all ages and circumstances, and we’d have a better understanding of how health and Gospel are related. Or maybe he’ll just say, “Grab your cushion and meet me in the desert.” And if he does, I’ll be there.
It is difficult to figure out if this comment was written tongue-in-cheek or is in fact an apology for yoga.
But, the overall message of this brilliant piece of writing is crystal clear: elect Oswald Cardinal Gracias or any Indian and you have a Pope Ganesh I!!!!!
UPDATE JANUARY 26, 2013
This morning, I watched the last 15 minutes of a 30-minute Al Jazeera programme titled, “Rome in the Margins”, 9:00 am to 9:30 am IST. The subject was the emerging church of the global south in Africa and in Asia. The African interviewee might have been a priest but was not attired like one. He sounded off like a liberal who wanted to see changes in the Church’s policy on condoms, etc. You get the drift. The other person interviewed was Oswald Cardinal Gracias. He did not say anything that I can fault, and if he did, I must have missed it. However, the Al Jazeera commentator appeared to be examining the possibility of a future power shift away from Rome to local churches such as Asia and Africa. Now, that is the underground current that is sweeping the Indian church; in fact, there have been calls for an autonomous Indian church, which I have documented, and that is something Catholics like us do not want. With things as bad as they are under a hierarchy that is supposed to be subservient to the teachings of Rome, one can only imagine how openly heretical and New Age an autonomous or semi-autonomous Indian church will be.