Bishop Agnelo Gracias, Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay’s “rebuttal” of my Critique on the New Community Bible and our response to it
He who has undertaken the pastoring of souls must prepare himself to render to God an account of them.
–St. Benedict of Nursia
Bishop Agnelo Gracias
HINDU RELIGIOUS MARK ON THE FOREHEAD 08-BISHOP WEARS
There are already 21 reports on the 2008 St Pauls New Community Bible (NCB) on this ministry’s web site, this present report is overdue by exactly six years, and St Pauls, supported by the Indian Church has brought out the “First Revised Edition” at the end of 2011, around two years after the original edition was unofficially “withdrawn”. But, before I assess (in the report number 23, following this one) the “revision” that is claimed to have taken place, I must present Bishop Agnelo Gracias‘ rebuttal of this ministry critique that was widely acclaimed by lay Catholics and clergy — including a few Canon Lawyers and theologians — alike, during our year-long crusade to have the NCB taken off the shelves of Catholic bookstores.
I had originally intended to re-rebut the Bishop’s response in detail, point by point, but I now deem it unnecessary seeing that the NCB was pulled and “revised”. If revision was necessary for a Bible that had the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat and the support of a powerful liberal lobby in the Church, there had to have been some serious problems with its commentaries and illustrations as we had pointed out. So, in this report, I will simply confine myself to reproducing email exchanges with and concerning the Bishop, and to addressing a few selected points in his rebuttal of my critique (that is available at http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_01-A_CRITIQUE.doc). The list of 21 earlier files is at the end of this report.
Letters to, from and concerning Bishop Agnelo Gracias, the Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay excerpted from NCB reports 10 and 13:
Response from Bishop Agnelo Gracias to our July 8, 2009 letter with the critique:
My dear Michael Prabhu,
I am back in India. Right now I am in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, since the Holy See has given me an assignment to look after a missionary Society of priests which is having problems. I am in Andhra for at least 3 weeks every month and only return to Mumbai for a few days to attend to work there.
I checked the Inbox, but there was no e-mail from you on July 8. But that does not matter. Let me reply to your query immediately.
I form part of the Censor Board of the archdiocese – but I am not the head. The head of the Censor Board is the Archbishop. You realize that the Community Bible would not be a venture of the archdiocese as such. Yet, I feel that, as bishops, it is our duty to check and “supervise” what is being circulated in the archdiocese. If you can send me the analysis the group has made, indicating the points on which there seems to be a divergence from Christian doctrine, I would bring this to the notice of the Archbishop. He might ask me to study the matter and I would be willing to do so – or he might ask anyone else. He has the final say on this matter.
I will await a further communication from you sending me the results of the study of the group. In the meanwhile, let me commend you for the trouble you have taken in this matter. It shows your eagerness to safeguard the purity of Christian doctrine. In Christ,
+ Agnelo Gracias [Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay]
Subject: Re: Fw: THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE
My dear Bishop Agnelo,
I thank you very much for your kind response. It is encouraging for our team as some Bishops and Archbishops whom we contacted by telephone and email were quite indifferent and did not even want to see our study.
It appears that every other email from me to you is bouncing, as I have written to you several times. You have replied to my letter of July 16. However, if you read your Secretary Ms. Ditoza’s email to you dated July 17, which I have reproduced below, you will see that she has forwarded you the referred report. Will you please confirm that you have now received it?
I am confident that you will share our concern about the sections of the commentaries that we have only briefly analysed.
Could you please respond after you have receive/read the report? In Jesus’ Name. Michael
Subject: From Michal Prabhu
Dear Bp. Agnelo, I am forwarding the document sent by Michael Prabhu … it’s a Word Document. Regards, Ditoza]
Subject: REMINDER: NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE
Dear Bishop Agnelo,
I trust that you received our analysis of the NCB sent to you as a Word attachment by email from Ms Ditoza against the following correspondence starting July 8. I await your kind confirmation of the same. Regards, Michael
Your message cannot be delivered to the following recipients: Recipient address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reason: Remote SMTP server has rejected address
Subject: Fw: REMINDER: NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE
Dear Ditoza, Your assistance requested once again in getting Bishop Agnelo’s acknowledgement for the following reason, Regards, Mike
Yes, I have received the attachment you sent. I have spoken to Cardinal Oswald Gracias. A two member Commission has been appointed by him to study the New Community Bible. I am sure he will reply to you. With every good wish, I remain
Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay
Subject: MY ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF YOUR THREE LETTERS OF OCTOBER 20
Dear Bishop Thomas,
1. I thank you for your three letters of October 20. Except for a brief interval during which I could access some email, I experienced a series of problems with my computer for about a week and hence I could not respond to you immediately, which kindly excuse.
I am confused as to why you combined your response to my correspondence with that of Fr. Conrad Saldanha. If he wrote to you, it was in his individual capacity as he is just one of around 30 priests who have written to me that they do not accept the NCB as a Bible. I am sure that there are many more such priests in the Indian Church but few who would take the prophetic role seriously as he has, and write to their Bishops. A few priests who did write against the NCB to my ministry later wrote asking me not to disclose their identities as they fear retribution from the Superiors of their Congregations or their Bishops. To tell you the truth, it took a fair amount of letter writing on my part to make some of the priests come out in the open and give their written comments.
Why must our priests be so afraid of sharing their convictions on issues of faith?
You must seriously consider the fact that if I received 30 letters from priests, there will be dozens more who share our view.
2. Over 250 laity, many of them ministers of the Word, senior preachers, prayer group leaders, evangelists, directors of Catholic missions and Schools of Evangelization, leaders of ministries, regional chairpersons of the Service Teams of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, apologists with internet ministries from India and overseas have rejected the NCB and want it withdrawn.
I admit that I wrote letters to about 5,000 email addresses to get the “just” 300 or so responses that have come in.
But, I probably have at least another 5,000 addresses that I have not yet written to. In fact, proceeding alphabetically, I have not got beyond the letter “P” in my general correspondence file because of the heavy load of work I face since the publication of the NCB. Most Catholics are apathetic and not inclined to speak up whatever the provocation. So, I believe that each letter represents hundreds of Catholics who might object to the NCB if they examined one or saw our report on it. Therefore, they are not just 300 letters but representative of the voice of the faithful that the Bishops are called upon to heed.
3. Predictably, an issue as controversial as this has “separated the boys from the men”. Many laity in ministry who have otherwise supported us in writing on other issues have now chosen to ignore my alerts and reminders. They have simply not replied. The reason is obvious.
They are in popular ministries which depend on the goodwill of the Bishops and Catholic centres where they hold their programmes. Accordingly, they do not want to be cited. I admit that I have now parted ways with most or all of them because of their non-response, despite the requests of some of them to not delete their names from my mailing list.
The NCB issue strikes at the heart of our Catholic faith, and this ministry would gain nothing from association with those who prefer to compromise or remain silent when it is the time to speak and defend the correct interpretation of the Word of God which they otherwise so eloquently preach. Still, I am sure that all of them without exception would orally agree with the report filed by our team. Only, they are happy to let someone else stand publicly in the line of fire. One lay Catholic site which otherwise reports every single hiccup and general newsworthy issues in the Indian Church has imposed a total blackout on the NCB. It is no surprise when one finds out that the concerned moderator is studying theology at a seminary and cannot afford to antagonize any of his professors. Ministry has become a career for him and some others.
4. I am also very sad that you used the term “your sympathizers” to describe those, including Fr. Conrad Saldanha who wrote to you on the NCB issue. I had not individually requested a single person to do so. Maybe you inadvertently used that word.
I am in a ministry that I take very seriously and that has cost me in expenses over one hundred thousand rupees a year over the last five years since I went on the internet, apart from which I had given up my highly successful professional career and the directorship of two small companies to come into fulltime ministry since January 1993 with not even a thousand rupees in savings or investments, and with a family to maintain. People who support me are impressed by my dedication, integrity and sincerity but mostly by my fidelity to the teaching of Rome. I hail from a rich, business family and I could have left a different life if not for this ministry that the Lord has called me to. My wife and children have had to do without many comforts and good things, and share in the sacrifices that I have had to make. I continue to suffer from a debilitating disease that crippled me a few years ago for two years till Jesus healed me of the pain and the paralysis, and I have lost 90% of the vision in my right eye in May this year.
I am obliged to share some of these details with you because though we have corresponded much, there is little that you know about me personally. None of those of my friends who know these things “sympathize” with me. If they associate with me, there is nothing that they can gain from me except to be included in the same category as me by my detractors.
5. I am privileged to have given talks and seminars to groups of Catholics from New Delhi to Nagercoil, from Kolkata to Mumbai.
Last year I gave a two-day seminar on Catholic apologetics to the core group and service team leaders of the Bangalore Renewal.
There were two senior priests with us. Not then or ever, in 27 years of my ministry, has anyone ever found my teaching to be anything but Catholic. On the contrary, I have always been felicitated by the organizers.
Naturally, I have many enemies who promote the New Age in the Church, which I fight, but no one has been able to fault me.
My articles have been published in Catholic magazines including The New Leader and The Examiner.
I have attended a number of reputed Catholic Bible “Colleges” and Schools of Evangelization and trained under priests and lay leaders who have national-level and international ministries.
The only people who disagree with me are those who differ with me on my conclusions on New Age issues and those who do not believe in evangelization (by which I mean a proclamation of the Good News of Jesus as Lord and Saviour) but in a “gospel” of “liberation” purely through social action and in an interfaith dialogue that precludes the said evangelization and proclamation.
6. I am happy to know that the Bishops are reviewing the NCB. However, I have always written to your Lordship not so much in your capacity as the Bishop of Vasai but in your position as the Chairman of the Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI. Even if you were not, I would be obliged to write to you as a Bishop who is the representative of the teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium.
Many of the Bishops who wrote to me asked me to write to your Lordship. Also, the publishers of the NCB did not reply to around 25 letters that I wrote them.
So, I must continue to write to you and I trust that you will find the time to respond to me as you are bound to by virtue of your Holy Office. I must send you the collated letters of the priests and laity who wrote to this ministry. When you read those letters you will find that many of them have reached their conclusions on the NCB based on their own studies and not after reading our report.
Then, there is the 38-page follow-up report that I have prepared on the NCB. It is attached to the email following this one.
I must also send you about 20 letters that the faithful have written to The Examiner. Apparently, none of them have been published.
On the other hand, The Examiner, whose editor Fr. Antony Charanghat is the spokesperson of the Bombay Archdiocese on behalf of the NCB has published at least three letters defending the NCB. Does this not indicate that there is a control by the Church on what the faithful are reading? What does it have to say about the Church being a democratic institution? We can only conclude that the inculturation (Brahminisation) lobby is so powerful that it controls the Catholic media. The priest-editor of a reputed Catholic magazine wrote to me “one of my confreres brought to me an interview with a bishop to be published in xxx. I am not publishing it.“
A Bombay Bishop, apparently favouring the NCB, wrote to me advising me to read the pro-NCB article by “Chhotebhai” in The Secular Citizen. I know Chhotebhai Noronha as a man who trained under the New Ager Fr. Bede Griffiths at Saccidananda Ashram.
Is it right for a Bishop to respond to my letter to him by referring me to the writings of a layman who is himself compromised?
Which brings me to the conclusion of this letter:
I came to know about 10 days ago that Bishop Agnelo Gracias has released an undated 14-page response to my 8-page critique on the NCB. As I would like to study it, respond to it, etc. may I request you to please send me a copy of the same?
Thanking you, Michael Prabhu
Subject: FOLLOW-UP REPORT ON THE NCB
Dear Bishops Thomas Dabre and Agnelo Gracias,
I trust that you have read my earlier email.
As I had written there, please find enclosed our follow-up report to our first NCB report.
This is of 38 pages. It will be hosted on our website in a day or two. Yours obediently, Michael Prabhu
Neither Bishop Agnelo Gracias nor Bishop Thomas Dabre responded or sent me the former’s “undated 14-page response to my 8-page critique on the NCB” that I had requested for.
Subject: XXI CCBI Plenary Assembly at Mysore – Feb 12-18, 2009 / THE ST. PAULS’ NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE
CC (BOMBAY CARDINAL, BISHOPS AND VASAI BISHOP):
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KIND ATTENTION: Most Rev. Pedro López Quintana
Apostolic Nuncio to India
COPY TO ALL BISHOPS OF THE CBCI AND CCBI, AND TO ALL COMMISSIONS OF THE CBCI
Your Eminence, all the reverend Bishops of the Indian Church, and reverend Fathers [of the Executive Commissions],
We are glad to learn about the XXI CCBI Plenary Assembly to be held at Mysore from February 12-18, 2009.
We pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all the participants during their deliberations and on their decisions that will guide and affect the future course of the Indian Church.
We are also greatly encouraged to learn that the theme of the Assembly is
‘Word of God, Source of Life for People in India’.
In this connection, we would like to draw your kind attention to our several letters to each of you, commencing July 2008, on the serious problems with the some of the commentaries in the New Community Bible (NCB) published by St Pauls, and to which we received dozens of responses at a personal level from many of you who were then sent our eight-page critique on the NCB. The critique is readable at www.ephesians-511.net , this ministry’s website:
We understand that the Western Region Bishops’ Council and the
Bishops’ Standing Committee discussed our critique and have ordered a revision of the commentaries. We greatly appreciate and thank you for that.
However, we have not received any official communication from the Bishops as to what exactly these revisions would be.
In the meantime, we had prepared a lengthy thirty-eight page report in which we have given evidence of the connection of some theologians/commentators with the ‘Catholic’ Ashrams movement which is inimical to the spiritual welfare of the Catholic Church.
In the referred report, we have also examined some of these theologians/commentators who serve at the Papal Seminary, Pune, concluding that several of the NCB commentaries written by these theologians are influenced by New Age, modernism, liberalism and religious pluralism.
The Bishops are requested to also examine the detailed research and analysis of the ‘Catholic’ Ashrams movement at:
We have received a couple of hundred letters from lay Catholics and priests who do not accept the spirit of the commentaries of the NCB which is only a symptom of a deeper malaise that afflicts the Indian Church. We ask for a serious examination of the issue.
These compiled letters, more than one hundred pages of them, will also be posted shortly on this ministry’s website.
We fervently hope that the Plenary Assembly will fulfill our expectations, considering that the theme of the Plenary Assembly agrees that the Word of God is the “Source of Life for People in India”, and ensure that the NCB in its second edition does not continue to be an apology to other religions, or an inter-faith book, endangering the faith of our children and future generations of Catholics.
Priests and laity alike are skeptical about the nature and extent of the revision ordered in the NCB commentaries. About 20 letters (copies received by this ministry) from laity and a priest to The Examiner, the Archdiocesan weekly of Bombay, were not published. There may have been many more sent directly to the Examiner, whose editor Fr. Anthony Charanghat, a spokesperson for the NCB, however published three letters which condemned our critique and supported the NCB.
Does that reflect Fr. Charanghat’s personal prejudice or the control of the Catholic press by the Archdiocese of Bombay?
The copies of these twenty letters will also be available shortly on our website.
Bishop Percival Fernandez, who gave the Imprimatur for the NCB, bluntly told the undersigned who contacted him soon after the NCB release that he did not want to discuss the issue! A senior Bishop has requested not to be contacted again about the NCB.
We have received, from our sources, a copy of Bishop Agnelo Gracias‘ response to our critique. Much of it belittles or dismisses our concerns with sarcasm and comments that are not befitting the office of a Bishop who is supposed to encourage the laity who love their Church, teach orthodoxy and defend the Church against error, not promote it.
We have prepared a detailed answer to Bishop Agnelo’s response and it will also be available shortly on our website.
In it we quote extensively from the recently concluded Synod on the Word of God in Rome, and other Catholic sources.
From the correspondence of the Bishops with us, we are aware that individual Bishops share our concerns about the dangerous trend in the Church reflected by the commentaries in the NCB. We are however concerned that the Bishops may collectively decide to continue with retaining the disputed issues in the second edition, thus requiring us, having failed through proper recourse, to widen the scope of our protest by a specific public action, or a series of them, to draw the attention of a wider audience. We hope and pray that this will not be necessary.
Yours obediently, Michael Prabhu
This ministry finally received a copy of Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ rebuttal of our critique from a Bishop who did not want his identity to be disclosed.
Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2009 10:37 PM REPEAT,
Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2009 10:42 PM
Subject: ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF FR. GEORGE PLATHOTAM’S LETTER
[COPIED TO THE CARDINAL, BOMBAY, JUST AS SALESIAN FR. GEORGE PLATHOTAM DID IN HIS LETTER TO ME. THE CARDINAL RESPONDED* TO ANOTHER LETTER OUT OF THREE LETTERS SENT TOGETHER BY ME, AMONG WHICH THIS WAS ONE] *see further below
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Dear Fr. George Plathotam,
I thank you very much for your kind response and I view it as an opportunity to answer some of your questions and thoughts.
1. You had kindly written to me on July 30, 2008 requesting me to send you my critique on the NCB which I did the very same day, but I did not hear from you after that. It was similarly the case with several Bishops who requested for the critique.
As a matter of fact, though I have never made any ‘intimidations’ at any time, some Bishops have blocked my letters, for example:
CANON LAW 212.3
“RIGHTS OF THE FAITHFUL”
They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred pastors their view on matters which concern the good of the Church.
They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the pastors, and take into account both the common good and the dignity of the individuals.
I have been writing to the Bishops on the NCB issue since the NCB was released end June 2008, and on other serious issues concerning the Catholic Faith for nearly 10 years. I have followed the procedures Scripturally, I believe, first going to my Archbishop, then writing to other Church authorities concerned, next getting other Catholics to write to the Bishops, and finally going public to a wider audience when there has been no response or action at each stage.
2. I have no intentions, except to bring certain errors to the attention of the Bishops who are the teaching authority of the Church. They have also the obligation to correct error to safeguard the Faith.
The reason I do it is because of a calling I have received from God, as a lay apostle. I am Catholic-trained at several institutions in understanding the Bible, in pastoral counseling and in evangelisation. I have also studied the rudiments of philosophy, theology and world religions when I prepared for two Master of Arts degrees from recognized universities.
I have given talks, retreats, and seminars to Catholic communities and groups, including seminarians, all over India since 1982.
I would very much like to continue to teach catechism, the Catholic Faith, and to evangelise, as recommended by you. The reason is that I am first of all a Catholic apologist. My last two-day seminar was on Catholic apologetics in Bangalore in December 2007.
However, over the years I found that there are dozens of charismatic ministries and retreat centres all over India who are doing an excellent job renewing Catholics, but there was not a single ministry willing — and possibly not knowledgeable or courageous enough — to identify error in the form of New Age etc., and as I started speaking out and writing, this ministry developed.
My intensively-researched and unique articles from a Catholic perspective have been published in several magazines including The Examiner [Mumbai], The New Leader [Chennai], Shalom Tidings [Kerala] and Streams of Living Water [Kolkata], etc. I have just received a request to write for another magazine, but I am not able to find the time for that or for existing commitments.
Last year I was to publish a book, my first, on Catholic apologetics [and NOT New Age]! It was shelved because from July onwards, I was involved continuously for almost four months only with the NCB issue. After that I was quite ill for two months.
Maybe if there were fewer unaddressed errors (I have a number of partially-completed reports) in the Indian Church, I could turn back to my first love: catechizing, apologetics and evangelisation.
Because of my ministry against the New Age and my campaign against Hinduisation in the name of inculturation, I do not receive invitations to give programs on apologetics. I have received hundreds of letters against the NCB; yet there are dozens of my friends who declined to put down their opposition in writing. Some did not like my taking the issue to the public arena; but mostly they are laity in popular ministry who do not want to jeopardise their security by associating with this ministry and the possibility of having prayer groups or parishes closed to them as has gradually happened to me.
There are priests who strongly support this ministry from the background but do not want their letters published by me or identities revealed because they apprehend that they might face victimization from their Superiors or their Bishops.
3. You are in Delhi. The following can vouch for me:
Fr. Victor D’Souza, former Vicar General, my former parish priest and confessor.
Fr. Susai Sebastian, with whom I helped established the first Service Team of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Delhi.
Bishop Anil Couto of Jullundur, my former asst. parish priest.
There are many others, including the saintly late Fr. Irenaeus dos Santos who told me on January 4, 1992 as I left for Chennai that God had a prophetic ministry for me here, and Archbishop Angelo Fernandes.
I served the Church in Delhi faithfully from 1982 after my conversion. I have nothing to gain from this ministry, having given up service as well as directorship of two firms in Delhi to follow God’s calling. So, I have no ulterior motive in doing what I do.
Father George, since the NCB already had received a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from two Bishops, are you maintaining that if someone had not raised objections to the commentaries, the Bishops would have still ordered a revision of the NCB?
5. Surely, bringing problematic issues of Faith to the attention of the Bishops is not a bad thing?
There have been cases of priests agitating against their Bishops during the last few months, in full glare of the media [Trichy, Bp. Anthony Devotta; you should have seen the Tamil dailies and weeklies! Cochin, Bp. John Thattumkal] and those were on personal/financial/moral issues. The secular press had a field day when the priests went public with their grievances.
This ministry is crusading on matters concerning the CATHOLIC FAITH.
When lay people are forced to fight institutionalized error by exposing it (Ephesians 5:11), why is it suddenly a bad thing?
I remember when Ralph Martin’s book The Catholic Church at the End of an Age, What is the Spirit Saying? 1994, was released, he was trashed in The Examiner, Letters to the Editor, for “exposing the Church’s dirty linen in public”, particularly the pedophilia issue among the clergy.
The Bishops, it is common knowledge, and Rome, ignored the issue. When it became a public scandal through exposure in the secular media a decade later, Ralph Martin was vindicated. But by then, lives and souls had been damaged and it has cost the Church credibility and millions of dollars, resulting in moral and financial bankruptcy in many dioceses.
His latest book, personally autographed and couriered to me is The Fulfillment of All Desire, 2006. This work draws on the writings of seven Doctors of the Church! So, Ralph Martin is not just another rabble-rouser or sensationalist. He loves his Church. So do I.
Ralph Martin is a modern-day prophet. In a Church assailed by liberalism and post-modernism, who wants a prophet?
It was the Church who condemned both St Jean de Arc and Galileo, and who put severe restrictions on St Padre Pio, and I believe, St. Faustina as well before reinstating them. I am neither surprised nor offended that my intentions and motivation are questioned.
Ralph Martin has also been a constant supporter of this ministry. He wrote in my copy, “Michael, the journey continues, keep on!”
6. Today, I read in The New Indian Express that the New York Times exposé of Tom Daschle’s tax-evasion caused his nomination as Health Secretary to be withdrawn. President Obama could apologize to the nation and the world that he “screwed up”.
Can Catholics not expect more from our Bishops who are not infallible? Can we expect the Church, the Body of Christ, to be more democratic than a government?
Yes, I agree with you that Fr. Anthony Charanghat, as editor of The Examiner, has every right to publish what he wants and to reject what he wants. But you still did not answer my charge which was in the form of a question, not an accusation:
“Does that reflect Fr. Charanghat’s personal prejudice or the control of the Catholic press by the Archdiocese of Bombay?“
The fact remains that with no prior reference to my critique on the NCB, The Examiner published a letter criticising it, followed by two more, all eulogizing the NCB. Then he does not publish twenty letters against it. I doubt if a single criticism of the NCB as having problematic commentaries was published in The Examiner or anywhere in the Catholic press except by UCAN who did an interview with me. The Church’s arm is long and powerful, and I expressed to UCAN my apprehension that if the powers-that-be in the Church came to know about it, they would see that a critical report was not published. Please forgive me for my lack of confidence in my Bishops, something that has accrued from personal experience.
7. To return to The Examiner, when I publish my report of New Age (especially) and other errors in The Examiner, documented over several years of collecting the material, you will be the very first to receive a copy.
I can safely say that there is hardly a SINGLE issue of The Examiner that does not promote New Age or have some information or news that does not belong in a Catholic Christian newspaper. In fact, most issues have multiple problems, promoting acupuncture, enneagrams, homoeopathy, magnet therapy, martial arts, vipassana, yoga, Zen, centering prayer, the list is endless, by way of advertisements or articles, even as official diocesan level programmes, conducted by priests, on Catholic premises. There are sometimes such lapses in The New Leader too, but not anywhere as numerous and regular. And, to be fair, one can write to Fr. M.A. Joe Antony, the editor of The New Leader and be assured of a response. Even though he personally disagrees with some of my opinions, he has had the grace to publish all of my letters. That cannot be said of The Examiner.
The redoubtable crusader against New Age error, Errol Fernandes of Bandra, Mumbai, who was awarded the highest archdiocesan lay recognition — almost posthumously — when he was in his last stages of cancer five years ago, used to mark copies to me of his prophetic letters to The Examiner so that I would see that they were not being published. However, the liberal lobby and the anti-charismatic lobby always escaped the editorial scissors on those particular issues.
Errol also gave me the lowdown on some of the Bombay Bishops who were permitting error. I can reproduce these letters for you before I upload them on my website. They remind me of Ralph Martin’s writings in which he too named the Bishops. That did not make either of them less honorable Catholics. In my opinion, they are true Catholics who were ready to face criticism and ostracism because ‘when good men keep silent, evil triumphs’.
8. Dear Father George, you are a Salesian priest. I did my schooling under Salesian missionaries. Today, my alma mater has demolished the historic chapel and is constructing in its place an air-conditioned community hall and an inter-faith prayer hall or meditation room. The Blessed Sacrament, the beautiful Italian icons and all the pews with the boarders’ prayer books, relics, holy pictures and rosaries will be gone. It was proposed that they will be replaced with the Bhagavad Gita, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Quran, and of course the most suitable companion to them would be the inter-religious book, the New Community Bible, because a Bible is one of the many holy books. Confessions will be replaced by counseling, and the Salesians today are as much deeply into secular non-biblical psychological counseling (largely New Age) as the Jesuits are into dissent and liberation theology (both congregations and issues are the subjects of articles that will be published during the course of this year, God-willing).
I am the ONLY dissenting voice. Most other old students, including Catholics, find no problem with all that. They come for their annual get-together for drinking alcohol in the parking lot and even rioting (damage to school property) because of which the school locked its gates on them the following year. I have two grandchildren and would not want any of my family to study in that school.
Another Salesian school has yoga classes as part of the curriculum, and my godson and his brother were obliged to chant OM and ‘meditate’. What will be the future of these young men?
Yesterday, I read the report quoting your Salesian Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chavez on the occasion of their platinum jubilee, in The Hindu. He said that the slogan of the Salesians was “To educate, empower and transform”.
On the face of it, it is an excellent objective. But, as always, I beg to differ from what everyone else, or almost everyone else — because I am certain that there are many who will agree with me, if I voice my criticism in case they have not already realised for themselves — thinks.
I have read the life of Don Bosco and that of his pupil St Dominic Savio whose motto was “Death rather than Sin”. As an adolescent, these two saints were my role models. The NCB substitutes such model saints and the Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church with Hindu deities and mythical figures. And, why do we need saints and even Biblical heroes? The NCB takes great pains to emphasize that there are equivalents and parallels in Hinduism for many Biblical characters and event.
THE ANGEL GABRIEL DID NOT APPEAR TO MARY
Don Bosco promoted the cult of the rosary and Mary, Help of Christians. The commentary on Luke 1 in the NCB virtually explains the appearance of the messenger angel to Mary as a figment of her imagination!
The commentary Luke 1 (page1796 of the NCB, right hand column) denies that the angel Gabriel literally appeared and spoke to Mary. The commentator, the late Fr. George Soares Prabhu SJ now teaches Catholics that “The story of the annunciation is not to be read as a literal report of what happened, but as a dramatization of the inner experience of Mary’s call to be the mother of the Messiah.” In effect, he is saying, “The angel Gabriel did not appear to Mary. It was not a real, historical, external event. The Annunciation is just a story explaining how Mary experienced internally the call of God and responded to it.”
Frankly, to me that sounds like heresy. A theologian who is faithful to tradition and Church teaching might be able to explain better the wider implications of such liberal theology as the above. He would also be able to find many more such errors in the other NCB commentaries, subtle untruths that have earlier escaped my team and me (I have not included this point in my original critique).
If the Bishops have given the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat for the NCB, it means that they have endorsed the new teaching that the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary was not an actual historical event. It also means that all the Bishops who have released the NCB, the priest-editor of The Examiner and all others who defend the NCB, print and publish it and promote its sale are in agreement with this teaching that is not in any catechism or other Catholic study Bible. Or else, they did not see it.
Bishop Agnelo Gracias took so much of pains to study the commentaries of the NCB to write a long rebuttal (please expect my response to it) of my critique of the NCB. May I point out to him that he has completely missed this error?
But, this is not an isolated error. It is typical of the problem that Catholics are finding with the entire NCB. Right from the Book of Genesis, the commentators keep stating that certain events/narratives are ‘stories’, ‘myths’, ‘dramatizations’, etc. While a person like me who has made a scholarly study of the Bible from a Catholic perspective can understand what the commentator means, for example when he explains the Creation story or the Flood, the average Catholic ends up confused over what to believe anymore.
10. Just a few days ago, a Salesian Bishop sent me a book, and its title is 40 Dreams of St John Bosco. I did not find anywhere in the book that Don Bosco shepherded his boys into the Oratory or preached to them or shared his dreams with them or founded the Salesian Order to look after future generations of youth in order “To educate, empower and transform” the young boys whom he loved.
These might be laudable additional goals as the Order spread into non-Christian lands and ventured into new fields of service and knowledge impartation. Don Bosco was almost exclusively concerned about the SPIRITUAL welfare of his Catholic wards. His main concern was to save them from hell. He incessantly preached to them about the evil of sin, and the devil as a real entity whose only goal was to keep the youth from repentance, confession of sin and eternal salvation.
That is the Catholic Faith that I have transferred to our two sons and wish for our grandchildren, not the faith of the NCB.
These values and truths are permanent. They do not change with the times, and certainly have not changed in the less than 150 years since the saint’s death. But it has taken less than two generations for most of the Salesians in India to get secularised.
The NCB will only give further impetus to this downhill slide. So, I am compelled to speak, to act, to protest, if no one else will.
The same Bishop wrote to me:
16th January 2009
Dear Mike, I do hope that this book reaches you before the feast of Don Bosco. I really had to make a search in the region to find this. Thank God I got it. How are you? I do hope that both of you are doing well and enjoying your days. Though I am not regular with my correspondences for the sole reason of not having time, I do think of you and pray for you.
I read whatever you sent. Congratulations for being so alert and alive to the situation of today. Be sure of my prayers.
Please do pray for me and my people. +signed
So, there are several good Bishops in the Indian Church, who love, trust and respect me, reading the reports and articles that I send them, the very same that others find objectionable and threatening. They pray for my mission, send me material, information and even money on occasion, as I live by faith since 1993 and I can say the same for many priests. It is how I received a copy of Bishop Agnelo’s response to my critique on the NCB.
Should not the Bishops listen to these voices that speak along with my ministry?
The Bishops have been receiving my reports and articles since 1999 by postal mail. From mid-2003 by email.
February 9-11, 2002, I gave hard copies of them personally by hand to several Cardinals and Bishops at the 10th World Day of the Sick at Velankanni.
In the presence of the Papal delegate and Pro Nuncio and 3000 delegates, I also took the microphone and challenged them about their permitting the occult exhibition, promotion of Human Universal Energy (HUE) and Reiki and Pranic Healing and Tai Chi martial arts and sale of New Age and Freemasonry books being conducted under the auspices of the CBCI by individual priests, nuns and Catholic organisations.
I have written with full documentation exposing the New Age error (meditations and alternative therapies), blasphemy, sacrilege, heresy and rebellion against Rome propagated by the Catholic Ashram movement, the CBCI-funded Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI), the different Dharma Bharathis [one founded by a lay disciple of New Ager Fr. Bede
Griffiths and two by priests], the Bandra, Mumbai-based KRIPA foundation, New Age Holistic Health Centres run by mostly MMS and ICM nuns in Pune, Chennai and Kerala, the production at a cost of Rs. 1.5 crores (Rs 15 million / 300,000 USD) of a CD in praise of the Hindu deity Shiva by a Catholic priest using the Santhome Communications Centre,
Chennai, which is under the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council [TNBC]’s Office for Social Communications [of which you are the Executive Secretary at the (CBCI) national level], and so many others.
Several of these articles
and reports are already on my website. Others have been taken down for updating (addition of new information), while still others have been transferred from hardcopy to my computer by my painfully slow one-finger typing.
All will be complete in a few months, God-willing, and will be emailed to all the Bishops while being placed on my website.
11. I am confident that at least some of the Bishops must have actually read some of my reports. (I have dozens of letters from Bishops who have congratulated me on my diligence, research, correctness of doctrine, and love for the Faith.)
I have also sent a large number of these reports both by postal mail as also by email to the President/Prefect of every Congregation and Pontifical Council in Rome, including the then Cardinal Ratzinger, since March 2002.
So, I have three questions:
Where is the (Church’s) corrective action if my conclusions are right?
Where is the disciplinary action against me or a re-education of me if I am wrong? [Rome issued the Document on the New Age in February 2003. I first wrote to Rome about the New Age in the Indian Church in March 2002]
And, if I am wrong and in error, since I started my writing in 1999 and internet ministry in mid-2003, why is it that…????
i) I have received no official letter from Rome or the CBCI, analysing and detailing such errors as being detrimental to the Catholic Faith, in contradiction with the teaching of Rome, prejudicial to the interests of the Church, etc.
ii) I have written support and agreement both by email as well as on letterheads, on my stand on these issues, from the founders/ leaders and members of almost every single Catholic retreat centre, ministry and Catholic lay community in the country; I also have the moral encouragement of some non-Indian overseas Catholic lay ministries.
iii) A large number of priests, diocesan as well as from almost every major religious congregation (some are theologians, some Canon Law experts) write me regularly firmly supporting my ministry from India and overseas (some are non-Indians).
iv) Hundreds of lay Catholics, many of whom are have been to Catholic Bible College, trained in Catholic schools of evangelisation or attended courses in Word of God ministry agree with this ministry.
I do hope and pray that you now have a clearer appreciation of me and my ministry. God bless you,
Copies of this correspondence were sent to a number of priests and lay leaders in ministry, who wrote to me strongly supporting the response that I wrote to Fr. George. All of them are firm in their insistence that the Bishops MUST withdraw the NCB. The letters are
published in a separate report which is titled
“LETTERS CALLING FOR WITHDRAWAL OF THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE” – Michael Prabhu
*THE CARDINAL’S RESPONSE
Subject: Re: THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE TEACHES THAT THE ANGEL GABRIEL DID NOT APPEAR TO MARY
Dear Mr. Prabhu,
We are having the commentary studied. You have mentioned Bishop Agnelo‘s report. I have also seen that.
I am conscious of our serious responsibility to ensure that the correct doctrine is taught. God bless.
[Archbishop of Bombay]
Subject: Re: THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE TEACHES THAT THE ANGEL GABRIEL DID NOT APPEAR TO MARY
Dear Cardinal Oswald Gracias,
I sincerely thank you for your letter acknowledging mine.
While I have received dozens of acknowledgment letters from individual Bishops since we brought the problems with the NCB to their kind attention from July 2008, your letter is one of the very few from a senior Church leader which reassures us that you are aware of the seriousness of the issue and the Bishops’ responsibility to study the commentaries thoroughly.
As I emphasized in my recent letters to you all, just as the Annunciation issue was overlooked by Bishop Agnelo when he studied the commentaries in order to write his long response to our critique, there are many more such in the NCB, and there needs to be a thorough examination of the entire NCB especially in the places where similar comments are to be found throughout the footnotes.
The other broad issue is the inclusion of references to Hindu deities, and the unnecessary and often contrived parallels of Biblical characters and events to mythical figures and fables of Hinduism.
There are also the references to yoga and to prana that must not be legitimized by their being included in the pages of a book that is supposed to be the Holy Bible for Indian Catholics. Those references must be expunged. The Hindu philosophy behind the use of prana and yoga is contradictory to Biblical revelation of the nature of God, man, sin, redemption, salvation and genuine Christian prayer.
We are also greatly disturbed by the references to the Gayatri Mantra and OM mantra.
May I request you to once again study my original eight-page critique on the NCB?
My website www.ephesians-511.net has a number of intensively-researched articles, probably the most comprehensive in the Catholic world, on the subjects of yoga, prana, pranayama, surya namaskar, Gayatri mantra.
Individual Cardinals, Bishops and priests, Bishops Conferences, Theological Commissions and two Vatican Documents have made pronouncements on these issues, rejecting them as incompatible with and inimical to Christianity.
They are quoted in my articles, giving the authoritative sources of the information.
One cannot comprehend how our Bishops have permitted their inclusion in the commentaries of a Bible and endorsed them by giving their Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat.
May I request you to read our follow-up report on the NCB at http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_02-THE_PAPAL_SEMINARY_PUNE_INDIAN_THEOLOGIANS_AND_THE_CATHOLIC_ASHRAMS.doc
and the earlier but related report on the Catholic Ashrams at
I am completing a few more articles/reports on the NCB issue and will send them to you by this month’s end:
1. Compiled letters [a few hundred of them] from priests and laity rejecting the NCB [commentaries] and calling for its withdrawal
2. Our answer to
Bishop Agnelo Gracias‘ response to our critique on the NCB. In it we will quote from the recently concluded Synod on the Word of God in Rome, and other Catholic sources.
Meanwhile, please find in the attachment herewith some of the twenty letters to The Examiner, that we believe were not published by the editor because they protested against the NCB whereas he published at least three letters– one of which even denigrated my critique — that eulogized the NCB.
Yours obediently, Michael Prabhu
Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ analysis of my July 2008 critique was written probably in October 2008. It was reached to me by a Bishop through an organization, the Federation of Catholic Faithful that opposed the NCB.
All emphases the Bishop’s; red colour is mine -Michael
BISHOP AGNELO GRACIAS’ UNDATED RESPONSE TO MY JULY 14, 2008 CRITIQUE
RESPONSE TO MR. MICHAEL PRABHU’S CRITIQUE ON THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE
This response will have two parts: First, a very brief response to the General Remarks made by Mr. Michael Prabhu and then Part II, an examination of the Specific Points he makes against the New Community Bible (NCB)
I RESPONSE TO THE GENERAL REMARKS OF MR. MICHAEL PRABHU:
I do not know whether it is worth answering the critical general remarks made by Mr. Michael Prabhu. Allow me only to advert to a few of his remarks:
Page 6 of Mr. Prabhu’s critique: Speaking of St Paul and Evangelization, Mr. Prabhu affirms: “We can reproduce hundreds of passages from the communication of the Popes, all of which call for the evangelization of Asia. India theologians conveniently ignore these exhortations from Rome. Why can we not be honest with ourselves and admit that there is virtually NO evangelization in India as far as the structural and hierarchical Church is concerned?
One wonders how Mr. Prabhu can make such a statement. Has he gone round the dioceses to see the evangelizing effort being carried out in many of them – work which is being carried out silently without much publicity? It is ironical that at this very moment while writing this rebuttal to his criticism, the Church in Orissa is being attacked for ‘converting’ tribals!
Referring to the NCB’s commentary on the massacre of the Innocents (Mt. 2:16-18), on page 4 of his critique, Mr. Prabhu asks: “While pointing a finger at people like Herod, are other fingers pointing back at the Church? Where was the Church when abortion was legalized in the 1970’s? Where will the Church be when euthanasia is legalized?”
To the best of my knowledge, the hierarchy, within its limitations of a lack of political clout, did its best to prevent the passing of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill. I could ask as a rejoinder: What is Mr. Prabhu’s ministry, METAMORPHOSE, doing about euthanasia since there is currently a move to legalize it? Or to the Law Ministry’s move to raise the time when abortion will be permitted from 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy?
There are so many unwarranted statements – and inconsistencies too – in the long 9-page closely typed critique of Mr. Prabhu. He speaks of SCC’s and BCC’s in disparaging terms – he says they ‘largely are as different from the early New Testament Church of the Acts as chalk is from cheese” (page 4 of Critique). He inveighs against the commentary for not speaking against the caste system in commenting on the passage on the resurrection of the dead as opposed to the Hindu view of transmigration (Critique, page 3). And he affirms that poor dalits were mentioned just once in the Beatitudes. (Critique, page 4)
The caste system, Dalits and untouchability is mentioned in a number of places in the commentary: 1652, 1653, 1656, 1689, 1700, 1701 – and perhaps in many more places! (The Bishop is right. I regret the error –Michael) In fact, there is even a reference to forgiveness of “caste antagonists”. Mr. Prabhu accuses the commentary of focusing too much on “liberation”. The liberation refers precisely to freedom from oppression and exploitation – and, in India, one of the biggest structures of exploitation has been the caste system.
Perhaps Mr. Prabhu is expecting too much from a Scripture commentary. He asks: “….can someone explain why contraception, the murder of unborn babies, female infanticide, honour killings, usury, same sex marriages, stem cell research, euthanasia, the death penalty and a dozen similar issues were not discussed in the commentary of this Indian ‘Bible’? Surely, they are issues concerned with social justice and liberation? …”
Perhaps, Mr. Prabhu was expecting a Scripture commentary to be a compendium of Moral Theology!
Finally, I do not enter into the question of the compatibility of Yoga with the Christian faith, nor the question of whether homeopathy, acupuncture etc. are “New Age” therapies. These are complicated issues which would need much more study than has been done till now. I realize that a study of these topics would need to be done but it goes beyond the scope of the present Response and, perhaps, that could be a task undertaken by the CBCI Doctrinal Commission to study and give guidelines to the Church in India.
II RESPONSE TO SPECIFIC POINTS RAISED BY MR. MICHAEL PRABHU
Strewn in the long Critique of Mr. Michael Prabhu, there are some specific charges. I could group these under three headings:
Reference to Indian scriptures/practices
Explanations of certain passages
The Illustrations in the NCB
We will look at each of the three headings.
References to Indian Scriptures/Practices:
Let us examine each of the references to Hindu scriptures in the Commentary of the NCB referred to by Mr. Michael Prabhu. The number in the left hand column refers to the page number in the NCB. To make it easy, I will give the whole quote from the text of the Commentary and then make my observations in bold. I have indicated with an asterisk
those references in the NCB which, to my mind, are not appropriate or can cause misunderstanding.
8: Commenting on the Priestly Account of Creation (Gen. Chapter 1), NCB says: Even in the Upanishad, e.g. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.2.1; 1.4 ff. Aitareya Upanishad 1.1. ff. Tattiya Upanishad 2.7, some creation accounts open with the word agre, (that is, at the beginning). But, in the Bible creation is never understood as an emanation from the Divine Reality as in Indian Scriptures”.
This is a very apt reference to Hindu scriptures. In any Scripture commentary, the Biblical creation account is compared to the Babylonian and other myths. It is fitting that in a commentary meant for India, we ask whether there are any creation accounts in India. Very appropriately, the NCB commentary has drawn out the difference between the Biblical account of creation and its Hindu counterparts.
The Babylonian myths pertain to extinct religions that thrived in the region where Judaism later developed; referring to them is proper historical exegesis. The Hindu myths are of India’s majority religion. By constantly drawing Biblical parallels with them, aren’t we saying to them that we are not unique and no different, “Your religion is as good as mine”? I can argue at length on this -Michael
11: Commenting on the creation of man and woman (Gen. 1:26-27), NCB affirms: “The Bible does not hold with the Hindu thinking that the creation/creature is identical with or an emanation from the creator bimbapratibimba or atman is brahman. However, the Vedas testify to the divine origin of man and woman. Manush (man) is a being with manas (mind) and hence the human is a “thinker”. He/she partakes of the divine intelligence and free will (cf. Rig Veda 1.104.9; 8.21.14). But, the Bible holds that human beings, were created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26).
A good explanation showing again the difference between the Biblical and Hindu view of man and woman. Surely, no one can object to this!
12: NCB’s comment on the words “God rested on the seventh day” (Gen 2:2-3): “This does not mean that God was tired, nor that he from now on would withdraw from his creation. But “rest” here denotes a celebrative joy at the complete realization of a person’s creative potentiality. One may perhaps compare it to the Indian Samadhi, which is the eight and the last stage of Yoga and denotes a state of peace, tranquility, equanimity, self-absorption, concentration, contemplation, and emancipation. It can also mean completion, accomplishment and fulfillment. After having accomplished the act of creation, God ‘rested’ with a sense of fulfillment”.
The idea of rest as denoting a celebrative joy expressing a sense of fulfillment is a beautiful one. The comparison to the Indian Samadhi is in order, though few may understand it. (I leave aside Mr. Prabhu’s strong reservations with regard to Yoga).
13: Commenting on the Yahwist account of creation (Gen 2), NCB says: “The creation account begins with the mention of an arid earth waiting expectantly for the human touch to transform it (2:15). The concept of Adamah seems to be similar to that of the Indian Bhumidevi. (Goddess Earth). There exists an intimate bond of affection and veneration between an Indian farmer and his land. Man is of the Earth and earthly. The earth is so close to him that it is called a mother. It is the basis of life and it is considered a divine being (bhumidevi, prithividevi); and occupies a special place among the gods. The earth is indeed an object of worship and not of exploitation, an object of awe and veneration and not of domination and subjugation”.
*I feel this is not a very appropriate reference to Indian scriptures, and may be open to an understanding that the earth is divine. The emphasis of Genesis is the opposite: to make the Earth and everything in it (sun, moon, etc) creatures. This was affirmed already in the NCB commentary on p.8 when it says that the earth is not an emanation of God. But the comment here weakens that and I suggest it be eliminated.
20: A comment on the Biblical account of the flood (Gen 6: 5-8:22): “There exist myths of the flood in almost every religion, and the Biblical account shows some striking parallels to the Mesopotamian flood story. Satapath Brahamana (18.104.22.168-10) offers the earliest Indian version. The Mahabarata (3.187) also narrates a similar story.”
The story of the flood has parallels in, for example, the Gilgamesh story – this is pointed out in any Scripture commentary. It is fitting that in an Indian commentary, at least a reference is made to Indian parallels.
59: Commentating on Jacob’s wrestling with God (Gen 32:22-32): “Non-biblical folklore speak of such divine-human combats. The Mahabarata epic recounts the fight of Arjuna with God Shiva who has assumed the form of the despised Kirata (III: 163). The theological meaning of the Jacob-Yahweh struggle is clear….”
*Not a very illuminating comparison, and though the NCB commentary points out that the fight between Arjuna and Shiva is “folklore” it may be misunderstood, I suggest omitting it. The theological significance of the encounter between Jacob and God is well explained in the NCB commentary and hence there is no need of referring to Arjuna and Krishna.
88-89: Referring to the act of the Hebrew midwives who disobeyed Pharaoh’s orders, the NCB commentator says: “Out of fear of God (vv. 17, 21) they practiced their own brand of civil disobedience. Mahatma Gandhi would term this satyagraha…..Truth and non-violence become the most powerful weapons in the hands of a satyagrahi, the one who clings to truth and uses it as a force to resist evil. Satyam eva jayete ‘truth alone conquers’ (Mandaka Upanishad 3.1.6)”
This seems to be an apt reference to Hindu scripture. The words “Satyam eva jayete” are well known – they form part of India’s National Emblem. (Many may not know that the words are from a Hindu scripture!)
101: NCB’s comment with regard to the Plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:14-11:10): “….Pharaoh persists in his stubbornness and arrogance. …Perhaps, one may compare the narrative with the Mahabarata epic: the Kauravas under the leadership of Duryodhana symbolize the forces of evil and the stubbornness of the evil-doer, leading to total defeat”.
*As a comparison, it is OK, though it seems a bit far-fetched. I suggest omitting it.
112-113: NCB comment on crossing the Sea of Reeds: the idea of crossing has deep echoes in the Indian spiritual tradition. Salvation is described as a crossing (tarati) of the sea of falsehood or maya “to cross over” (from this false world) and carry the world across” (cf. Narada Bkahta Sutra, 50). During one’s earthly existence, one is plunged into the ocean of re-birth and delusion (samsara-sagaram, moharnavam) which has to be crossed to reach the safe shore of salvation. The great Indian thinker Shankara in his Atmabodha (v.50) speaks of this crossing of the ocean of delusion (teertva moharnavam). The Sanskrit word for the incarnation of the gods, ava-tara, comes from the same root and denotes the crossing of the incarnated god down into our world for the purpose of salvation. Mukti or moksha which is the final emancipation or liberation is a state of supreme bliss and freedom from bondage. It is the highest goal of human life.”
“Our ancient sages prayed: ‘Lead me from the unreal to the real, lead me from darkness to the light, lead me from death to immorality’ (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.3.28). We have to leave behind our alienated lives, our fettered existence, and move over to a life of true awareness”.
*I think this is an apt allusion to explain in the Indian context the idea of “crossing”. The words from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: “Lead me from the unreal….” were quoted by Pope Paul VI during his 1964 visit to Bombay on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress. The reference to ‘ava-tara’ may confuse people and does not add anything to the previous references and I suggest it be omitted.
117: Speaking of the manna, NCB says: “Gandhiji once said: ‘To the hungry millions God dare not appear except as food’. The Taittiriya Upanishad (III.1) understands food as a symbol of Brahman”.
An apt reference to both Gandhiji and to the Taittiriya Upanishad
121/122: NCB’s comment on the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17): “The Ten Commandments (the Decalogue) are not like other ancient modern systems of legislation – cold and impersonal. They are addressed personally to every individual ….The Indian Scriptures speak of ten basic precepts (sila): ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), brahmacharya (chastity), asteya (non-stealing (honesty), aparigraha (voluntary destitution, poverty), saucham (purity), samthosha (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhaya (study of sacred texts) and Ishwarapranidhana (devotion to God). (cf. Yoga Sutra, II, 30, 32)”.
The NCB’s commentary gives us this comparison by way of information. Though comparison may not help to enlighten very much the personal nature of the biblical 10 commandments, no open minded person could find fault with the comparison to the 10 basic precepts of Hinduism.
122: Commenting on Exodus 20:2 – ‘I am the Lord you God….’: “Yahweh must be their ONLY God (v.3). Lest they be tempted to follow the pagan cultures around them, with their ritual prostitution and immorality, the Israelites were strictly prohibited to make carved images similar to their deities (vv. 4-5). Yahweh would not be reduced to such a lowly status. According to the Indian texts, the Ultimate Reality or Brahman is arupa, agrahya, adrsya, acintya, that is beyond all senses and imagination”.
Good – a good meeting point between classical Hinduism and Biblical thought
260: Comment on the First Discourse of Moses (Deuteronomy 1:6 – 4:49): “The recital of historical events stresses the experiential dimension (anubhava) of the call of Israel. By contrast, ancient Indian law books (the Manusmriti, for instance) validate law by relating it to the inherent order or dharma of the universe”.
Quite in order – in fact, the emphasis is on contrast between the Bible and the Manusmriti.
275: Comment on Deuteronomy’s command on Love and service to God (10:12 – 11:4): “Here we have the two commandments which Jesus combined into one. ….Once again the author emphasizes Deuteronomy’s religion of love. The Bhagvata Purana (7.5.23) summarizes the religion of love in the following ten “limbs”: darshan (seeing), shravanam (listening), smaranam (remembering), kirtanam (praising), vandanam (prostration), padasevanam (worship), arcanam (cult), atmanivedanam (self-dedication), dasyam (slave service), and sakhyam (friendship).”
*The comparison to the Bhagvata Purana does not throw any light on Deuteronomy’s command of love and service. Seems out of place and I suggest it be dropped.
317: Referring to God’s command to Joshua, the NCB commentary says: “God gives us his blessings, but expects us to put in our effort, too. Similarly in the Gita although the deity is shown to control all things, yet Krishna orders Arjuna to fight the battle of righteousness – yudhyasva bharata (Bhagavad Gita 2:18). Sometimes religious people can concentrate exclusively on the spiritual and the otherworldly and be unconcerned about social problems and human development in this world. But biblical history is interwoven with the efforts of God’s people to conquer a land, forge their own identity, and shape their own culture. We cannot separate the spiritual from the truly human concerns in this world”.
*The reflection on blending the spiritual with the social dimension of life is a good one – but the reference to Krishna’s advice to Arjuna hardly seems to be in place. It gives the impression of being a bit far-fetched and could be dropped.
397-398: Referring to Hannah’s Magnificat (2:1-11), the NCB commentator says: “The hymn is a warning to those who cling to possessions solely for personal or familial security, as well as to those who enrich themselves at the expense of others. But God, who is daridranarayan, the Lord of the poor, and dainyapriyatvat; the lover of the lowly – to borrow the vocabulary of Hindu Bhakti literature (Narada Bhakti Sutras, 27) – will never tolerate such a situation. He will come to their help, as he did in the case of Israel and of Hannah, and create a world for them which is worthy of his holy name”.
An apt reference to the Lord of the poor, the lover of the lowly.
422: Comment on David and Jonathan’s friendship (I Samuel 18:1-4): “The deep friendship between David and Jonathan (the son of Saul) is one of the most heartwarming episodes in this book. Even his father’s jealousy towards David cannot affect it. It reminds us of the most famous friendship in Indian literature – that between Ram and Lakshman”.
A good comparison which even children will be familiar with since it forms part of what they learn in school.
456: Commenting on David’s repentance, the NCB observes: “Psalm 51, the moving prayer of a repentant sinner, is popularly attributed to this repentant David. As the Narada Bhakti Sutra says, one of the characteristics of true devotion is deep sorrow over one’s forgetfulness of the Lord”.
Could any sensible person find fault with this reference to the Narada Bhakti Sutra?
462: Speaking of David accepting the cursing of Shimei, the NCB commentator remarks: “We may find in him (David) the traits of samatva, i.e., being even-tempered in pleasure or suffering, in success or failure before friend or foe (Gita, chapters 2 and 12). David puts his trust totally in Yahweh, and refuses to defend himself or to take revenge (vv. 10 -12)”.
This is a passing reference to the Bhagavad Gita – in fact, it is really a reference to the word ‘samatva’. Hardly anyone could find fault with this!
755–56: Comment on the praise of Judas Maccabeus in I Maccabees 3:1-9: “The atmosphere is reminiscent of the time of the Judges. One may qualify their warfare as darmayuddha (a battle to establish righteousness). The Maccabean resistance and warfare has a parallel in the great war of the Mahabarata Epic. Krishna, the incarnate god, who motivated a dejected and despondent Arjuna to fight a just war describes his (Krishna’s) mission as the establishment of righteousness (dharma samsthapanartham) by protecting the good and by destroying the wicked (cf. Bhagavad Gita IV, 7).
*The war may be described as ‘darmayuddha’ but the comparison to Arjuna and Krishna does not seem to be at all an apt comparison. I would suggest it be dropped.
876-877: Comment on Psalm 5: “Early morning is considered a favourable time to meet God in various religious traditions: Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, etc. In Hinduism, the dawn is personified as a deity by the name Ushas. The traditional morning prayer of a Hindu consists in the reciting of the famous Gayatri-mantra (Rig Veda 3.62.10) at daybreak, Bhargo devasya dhimani/ Dhiyo yo nah pracodayat. (May we meditate on the most excellent luster of the sun-god that he may illumine our intellect). During the day we have to find the straight path of the Lord amidst the crookedness and temptation of life (v.9)”.
The NCB commentary refers to the morning prayer of thousands, perhaps millions, of Hindus; but contrary to what Mr. Prabhu claims, it does not in any way oblige us to read the Gayatri Mantra. One is made aware of the traditional prayer of the Hindu if one chooses to read the NCB commentary.
It is unfortunate that the commentary has capitalized the word ‘sun’, though it did not do so when it referred to the ‘sun god’. The capital in ‘Sun’, apparently a typing error, should be dropped.
1301: NCB comment on Isaiah 50:4-11, the Obedience of the Servant: “One cannot speak God’s Word meaningfully to others without first listening to that Word himself. Jesus was a classic example of this (Mk 1:35). Listening is shravana which comes from the Sanskrit root shru which means “to hear, listen”. It is the attentive and devout hearing of the Word in the Scriptures as well as that of the words of a teacher (guru). The liberative knowledge of the spirit (atman) is to be attained through “seeing, listening, reflecting and meditating” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.6).
I think this is a good example of explaining something in Indian categories and terms.
1508-09: Comment on Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:1-49): “God is the Lord of History. The devotees of God (bhaktas) should place their trust in him; and devotedness to God is the true source of wisdom, (Isabhaktiparamjnanam: the love of God is the highest wisdom), as it was for Daniel (2:20-23). The Mundaka Upanishad (1.1.1.) declares: brahmavidya
sarva–idyapratishthah (the knowledge of God is the foundation of all wisdom). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7)”.
An apt allusion to Indian scripture – fits in well with the comment on the dream.
1652: Comment on the Beatitudes: “Such happiness is not to be confused with ‘contentment’. For where contentment is often the outcome of mere sense gratification (pleasure) and material achievement, the happiness promised by the beatitudes is the joy and satisfaction that come from true human fulfillment. As the Upanishads say: the good is not to be identified with the pleasant (Katopanishad 2:1).”
A good reference to the Upanishad!
1661: Comment on Jesus’ teaching on Fasting: “All religions know fasting. Hinduism has a long tradition of fasting as a means to self-discipline or as a way to acquire supernatural powers, and Hindus still fast with varying degrees of severity on prescribed occasions. Islam has the greatest collective fast in the world. During Ramzan, Muslims neither eat nor drink from dawn to sunset for a whole month, as an act of filial submission to the will of God”.
A beautiful way of “contextualizing” Christian fasting!
1662: Commenting on Jesus’ teaching regarding “Treasure in Heaven” (Mt. 6:19-21), NCB says: “It is in line with the ideal of perfect detachment which, in the Indian tradition, is the hallmark of genuine spirituality. This concept has found a classical expression in the Bhagvad Gita’s call to disinterested action: Work alone is your proper business, never the fruits it may produce” (2:47)
To my mind, an apt allusion!
1680: Commenting on Our Lord’s words on “The Return of the Unclean Spirit” (Mt. 12:43-45), NCB observes: “The best way to avoid sin is not to try desperately to get rid of it, but to deepen our experience of God’s love. Vinoba Bhave, the disciple of Gandhiji, expressed it beautifully in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. If you try to pluck out the stars at night, he says, you will labour for years without getting anywhere. But wait till the sun rises and the stars will disappear for themselves”.
An apt reference, to my mind.
1718-1720: Commenting on the Last Judgement scene (Mt. 25:31-46), NCB observes: “Some scholars have identified these ‘least of my brothers and sisters’ with members of the Christian community… ..Such interpretation would turn Jesus into a narrow sectarian preacher. ….This would be far inferior to the generous ‘mission command’ of the Buddha who sends his disciples ‘for the profit of many, for the happiness of many, out of compassion of the world, for the good and profit and happiness of gods and men’ (Samyutta Nikaya 1:105); or to the marvelous ideal of the Bhagvad Gita, in which the person who has attained enlightenment is one who has ‘a passionate desire for the welfare of all beings (sarva bhuta hite ratah) (BG 5:25) or for ‘the integral well- being of the people’ (lokasamgraham) (BG 3:20)”
To my mind, a good comparison bringing out the true significance of Jesus’ teaching.
1861-1862: Comment on Jesus’ words of the Resurrection of the Dead (Luke 20: 27-40): “Belief in the resurrection contrasts with the Hindu understanding of transmigration, according to which the soul after death is re-born to a new life whose condition is determined by the karma (merit or demerit) one has accumulated during one’s life. A person remains bound within the cycle of rebirth till one has completely worked out all the consequences of one’s actions and freed oneself from all attachment. Only then does a person achieve final liberation (moksha).
This is a powerful theory and seemingly a consistent explanation for the problem of evil. But it may lead to a diminished sense of the seriousness of life – since one who believes there are other lives after death will (in theory) be less likely to be as serious about the quality of the life he or she leads than the one who knows that this is the only chance available. However, the desire to diminish one’s karma and the thirst for moksha is also a strong element in Hindu life and can undergird a sense of moral responsibility.
Ultimately the difference between transmigration and resurrection is rooted in the difference between two different understandings of the human person. For the Hindus, the human person is essentially a soul imprisoned in the body. The body is a sort of container for the soul, not essentially linked to it. Salvation consists in liberation from the body through a series of rebirths in which different bodies are assumed and discarded.
In biblical thinking the human person is an animated body. Body and soul form an invisible whole. …Salvation does not consist in the liberation of the soul from the body, but in the liberation of the whole human person”
A good comparison between the Hindu and Christian concept of salvation, highlighting the difference between the two.
1900: Commenting on Jesus’ claim as having the Words of Eternal Life (Jn.6:60-71), NCB observes: “It seems that Jesus instituted the Eucharist also as a testing stone of our faith and discipleship. Here we come across the divine Lord who demands total self-surrender and a single-minded devotion to him through a life of faith. Similarly, we read in the Bhagavad Gita: “Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, adore Me and made obeisance to Me; thus uniting yourself to Me and entirely depending on me, you shall come to Me” (IX: 34)
*A somewhat far-fetched comparison of the words of Jesus in the Eucharistic discourse to that of Krishna in a totally different context – should be dropped.
Conclusion to Section A: As can be seen from the above, the references to Indian scriptures are few – 30 odd in a commentary of 2272 pages. The real question is: Does the commentary “water down” the Christian faith? This the NCB does not do, to my mind. See, for example, NCB’s comment on Jesus as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6, page 1920):
“Jesus’ return to the Father is not just an individual achievement, but the opening of a path to God for all of us. He is the way because he is the only mediator between God and human beings (v.6). He reveals to us the Father. He became human precisely that we might see the Father in him. In him we truly know God. He is the ‘Truth’ and the ‘Life'”.
This is just one of the many examples!
The root problem underlying Mr. Prabhu’s critique is that he regards religious pluralism as an “error” and hence he is against inculturation which he regards as a “Hindu-isation” of the Church. Religious pluralism is not an “error” – it is a reality in this world. The error lies in relativism, regarding all religions as equally good, all paths to the divine. This, I think, the NCB commentary has avoided. See for example, NCB, page 91:
“Who is God for me? Through the centuries numerous people have tried to define the deity. The Indian sages named God – Brahma, Atman, Saccidananda, etc. But, we need a special grace from God to fathom the divine mystery. This grace is provided for us in the Bible: God reveals himself gradually to his people. Here, God reveals the divine name to Moses: Yahweh.”
Mr. Prabhu’s objections to the Scriptural interpretation of certain texts
We take each of the interpretations objected to by Mr. Prabhu:
13: Commenting on Gen. 2:7, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, NCB says: “God infused into the human body an immortal soul, the atman (derived from the root and meaning ‘to breathe’), the principle of life (prana) which vivifies and pervades the human being. Every person’s life is a gift from God”…
Mr. Prabhu objects to this interpretation on the grounds that prana is a pagan concept, an essential component of yoga, the same as chi, qi, or ki in Taoism-Buddhism-Chinese-Japanese. As I mentioned above, I have no desire to enter into a controversy over Yoga or New Age.
14: Again, Mr. Michael Prabhu finds fault with NCB’s comment on Gen. 2:8, God planted a garden in Eden: “Eden means pleasure, delight. This mythical garden signifies that God created human beings for a life of happiness. ….Therefore, the author pictures the small river of Eden as the source that feeds the four great rivers in that region, specially the Euphrates and Gihon, which his readers would know are thousands of kilometers apart”.
Mr. Prabhu objects to describing creation as a story (page 8, 13) and Eden a ‘mythical’ garden. We cannot call the Creation account ‘history’. It is not to be taken literally as God creating in six days and resting on the seventh! The sun is created on the 4th day. The author surely would have known there cannot be day and night without the sun and moon! The creation account is certainly a ‘story’, the story of God’s love for human beings and it brings out certain theological truths: that there is only one God who creates everything, that everything created by him is good, that human beings are his special creation, etc.
15: “….the temptation is brought out in simple but fanciful language of a story-teller. Some claim that the first sin was a sexual one, but the Bible says nothing to support this view. What is clear is that the sin was an act of disobedience that marred the friendly relationship between human beings and God, and destroyed the simple harmony between human beings themselves.”
One can only be amazed that Mr. Prabhu objects to this comment. Does he want us to hold that the sin of Adam and Eve was a sexual one? (I did NOT even consider that; read my critique- Michael) The commentary explains so beautifully the true significance of their sin – any sin, for that matter – an act of disobedience of God.
101: With regard to the plagues (Exod. 7:14-11:10), the NCB commentary states: “….the priestly author underlines the belief that all that happened in the liberation process was according to the word of God and by the power of God (7:1-7). The author has composed this narrative of the plagues from three separate accounts; hence the repetitions and inconsistencies. Modern readers often ask if these things actually happened. The narrative of the plagues is not a scientific report of what actually happened. Rather, the events which led to the dramatic liberation of the Israelites from the power of the stubborn Pharaoh, were told and retold for centuries in the changing circumstances and vicissitudes of Israelite life. In this process, the stories were crafted anew, and were finally given a stylistic expression for liturgical recital. Hence, they have similarity of structure”.
This again is commonly accepted by Scripture scholars and is taught in any basic course on the Bible. I am amazed that Michael Prabhu should object to it.
112: “The Parting of Waters: Motion pictures have used this narrative for box–office effect. The narrative, however, is not a factual, historical account. It was written much later, as the Israelites in faith recalled these saving events. This account was used for liturgical purposes, hence the language is magnificently celebrative of God’s mighty deeds.”
What is there to object in this NCB comment? Isn’t it stating the obvious?
121-122: Commenting on the 10 Commandments (Exod. 20:1-17), NCB affirms: “The Ten Commandments (the Decalogue) are not like other ancient modern systems of legislation – cold and impersonal. They are addressed personally to every individual. In fact, it is not correct to speak here about laws. ‘Torah’, the Hebrew name for the first 5 books of the Bible, does not mean ‘law’. It is an instruction on how to live in the presence of a loving and faithful God. It may be better described as ‘the Way’ which leads to God. The Ten Commandments are the charter of freedom of the children of God. Christianity, too, in its earliest stage, was known as ‘the Way’ (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:23; 22:4; 24:22)”.
Mr. Prabhu objects very strongly to the commentary saying that the 10 commandments are not “laws”. But he has misunderstood what the commentary is saying. People often look upon the Commandments in a negative light. The Commandments are not meant to restrict our freedom; rather to ensure it. One is never more free than when one keeps God’s law in love.
329-330: NCB’s comment on Joshua ordering the sun to stand still: “The sun of Gibeon has caused enough worry to those who take everything in the Bible literally. In ancient times people would have believed that the sun really stood still. Later when it was learnt that the earth revolves around the sun, people thought that the earth suddenly stood still. But that would have caused a great terrestrial catastrophe. However, these difficulties arise because of a misinterpretation. The author is composing his narrative by quoting from an ancient poetic collection, ‘the Book of the Just’ (v.13), and the poets are ruled by creative imagination, not by scientific observation. It is a poetic way of expressing that it was indeed a great day when impossible things happened”.
Again, this is the accepted explanation. If we were to take the verse literally, we would have to hold that the sun revolves round the earth! The commentary in fact gives such a beautiful explanation – it is a way of saying that it was a great day when impossible things happen.
553-554: NCB’s comment on 2 Kings 17:12: They served filthy idols: “Here the word “idol” does not just mean an image or representation, like we have images of Jesus and the saints. But idol here refers to an object that is considered as sacred as God himself and takes his place in our hearts. By embracing the idols of the foreign nations, the Israelites also adopted their filthy and worthless cultural practices in sex, greed and violence. Our contemporary society has its own idols, and a country like India may adopt “idols” of a foreign culture with the false values that go with them (cf.17:15-17)”.
Mr. Prabhu regards this as “a travesty of a commentary on a biblical passage”! What is the commentator saying? First, against fundamentalists who decry any images or statues of Jesus and saints, the commentary clarifies that these latter are not to be classed as “idols”. (One wonders whether Mr. Prabhu regards the statues in our churches as idols forbidden by the First Commandment). (Once again, this is NOT what I meant -Michael) Secondly, it reminds us of contemporary idols. We can rail against the clay idols and forget the real idols in our daily life: money, power etc…
1239: “The virgin is with child and will bear a son and will name him Immanuel (v.14): this version of the text is based on the Greek translation of the OT. However, in Hebrew the word used is almah, which simply means the young woman. What Isaiah actually says to Ahaz is that the young woman (his wife, the queen) will bear another son, and before he reaches the age of puberty (the meaning of v.16) the land of the two kings will be destroyed, …This prophecy in its primary meaning has reference to Isaiah’s time, and the child was offered as a sign at that time. He was Hezekiah who succeeded to his father’s throne in 715, and was a God-fearing king whose counselor Isaiah became. For, God is still with his people: He is Immanuel.
Of course, the prophecy has a fuller sense in addition to its primary meaning. It is an expression of the royal messianism. The Greek version, by using the word “virgin”, is indicative of an early Jewish interpretation and expectation about the coming Davidic Messiah. And when speaking of the Virgin-birth of Jesus, Matthew quotes the Greek text to proclaim that Jesus is the fulfillment of these messianic hopes. He is our Immanuel – the living sign that God will never abandon us. (cf. Mt. 1:23)”
Mr. Prabhu remarks: “To understand how the NCB commentaries include what is irrelevant to our faith, explain what need not be explained, and do not say what must be said, one must read the CCB (Philippine Christian Community Bible) commentaries, in this case of Isaiah 7 (pages 532, 533) and note the differences.” I have made a photostat of the CCB. Any reader can see how much clearer and closer to Catholic teaching the NCB is. It explains so clearly the original and the fuller sense of the passage, as the Catholic Church has always held.
1647: Commenting on the Return from Egypt to Nazareth (Mt. 2:19-22), NCB states: “…far more absurd is the much publicized suggestion that Jesus visited India either during his hidden life and/or after his resuscitation from the tomb, and now lies buried in Kashmir. There is not the slightest evidence of this.
There is nothing in the teaching or the praxis of Jesus which in any way suggests that he ever travelled outside Palestine. His teaching is thoroughly Jewish, in its suppositions, and very different from Vedanta; his miracles are eruptions of charismatic power, not the result of yogic techniques. All that is said and did fits in well with the picture not of a yogi but of a Jewish Galilean teacher in pre-seventy Palestine.”
Mr. Prabhu objects to this – “Who wants to know what Jesus was not? Jesus was not a yogi; he was not many things”. Is this a sensible objection? Since claims have been made that Jesus was a yogi, it is good to rebut that claim in a Scripture commentary. (I guess that if the commentary had not made this statement, Mr. Prabhu would have found fault with it for not making it! Any stick is good enough to beat an imagined antagonist).
1745-1746: NCB’s comment on the Gerasene demoniac (Mk. 5:1-20): “Exorcism narratives are found in all the synoptic gospels, but Mark pays special attention to them in order to bring out Jesus’ absolute power over evil. …the incident of the demoniac is described in detail (vv. 2-5), showing the immense capacity of evil to tyrannize human beings. But Jesus proves himself master of the situation (v.6-10), and totally liberates the unfortunate individual (v.15). …A comparative linguistic analysis of this story shows that it contains exorcism elements from current Hellenistic practices – like the formula of confession (v.7a), the formula or subjugation through the knowledge of names (v.9), and the formula of concession (v.10). An important element in the story is its clear missionary motivation. Mark presents Jesus’ ministry for the first time in Gentile territory (v.1) ….This narrative also reminds us of our duty towards everyone, particularly those living in sub-human conditions, fettered by social, religious and economic bonds. The number of such people living in the slums and shanties of our country are legion, and it is part of our mission to liberate these unfortunate people.”
Mr. Prabhu objects that in the three hundred words of commentary, “never once is Satan or the devil mentioned”! What does one make of that? One could point out that in this passage of Mark, not once is Satan or the devil mentioned! One will notice too that in several places, NCB mentions Satan by name: pages 15, 1670, 2249, etc.
Conclusion to Section B:
To my mind, none of the objections of Mr. Prabhu on the NCB scriptural interpretations has any validity. It would be good, perhaps, if Mr. Prabhu were to enlighten himself a little more on the interpretation of Scripture.
C: As Mr. Prabhu’s objections to the Illustrations
I find it difficult to respond to these objections because I know so little of art. I asked a priest and two knowledgeable laywomen to go through the illustrations. The priest and one laywoman found the illustrations quite in order. According to them, the illustrations are artistically done and very much in harmony with our faith. The second laywoman objected to the illustrations, especially the one of the woman with the bindi (which according to her had a Hindu connotation).
To take the two illustrations objected to by Mr. Prabhu:
The first one is on pages 92-93 of NCB of Moses and the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:1-12): Mr. Prabhu states: Though the steeple is in the foreground, one may just miss it at first glance, as we did. The mosque and the temple are more prominent, especially the temple which is fairly eye-catching”. This is reading too much in a picture. The fact that Mr. Prabhu almost missed the steeple is revealing – one sees what one is looking for!
Further, Mr. Prabhu objects to the commentary accompanying the picture:
94: In asking us to take off our sandals, Scripture is telling us that every place or manner in which God manifests himself is sacred and, therefore, every religion is deserving of our respect, even if we do not accept all of their cultural and social wrappings. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Respect for other religions helps us to understand our own religion better”.
On p.4 of his Critique, Mr. Prabhu states that this commentary is a “lie, a deliberate misinterpretation of the Word of God” spoken in a specific context, manipulating it “to apply to the Ashtoreths and Baals of Moses’ time.”
Is that so? Or is it a legitimate application of what God told Moses? Is not every place where God manifests himself sacred? Is not every religion deserving of our respect?
The second illustration which Mr. Prabhu objects too is towards the end of NCB, p.2263. Mr. Prabhu on p.7 of his Critique states: “Traditionalists will reject the NCB on the basis of just the one drawing of an Indian woman wearing a bindi (tilak) in the centre of her forehead while preparing to do arati (aarti) or puja with a flame, flowers and a coconut on a plate”.
Keeping in mind what I said above about the laywoman who objected to the picture, I can still affirm that these traditionalists who are out of sync with what the Church allows. “Traditionalists” rejecting the NCB is not surprising. For that matter, we have the “traditionalist” followers of Lefebvre who reject Vatican II!
(“Sacred” and “deserving of our respect” are two very different things. A Gita or a Koran are definitely deserving of our respect but not necessarily sacred — as in how Catholics hold the Bible — to non-believers.)
(Despite all the defensive arguments of the Bishop, BOTH illustrations — that of the larger temple and mosque with the diminutive church in the foreground which collectively the commentators regarded as “holy ground”, as well as the woman with the bindi — have been removed from the First Revised Edition 2011.
One line drawing of a woman with a bindi in the 2008 edition is left untouched in the Revised Edition 2011.)
The Bishop conveniently skips mentioning the illustration of the Mother of God with a Hindu bindi on page 1645! It, too, is retained in the Revised Edition!! -Michael
As can be seen from the Response, I think there is nothing unorthodox in the NCB Commentary. Search as hard as I could, I could not find traces of the “drops of poison” which Mr. Prabhu claims are there in the commentary!
Perhaps, to allay criticism, the references to Hindu scriptures in the commentary which I have marked with an asterisk * could be avoided since these references do not illuminate the scripture passages commented upon and, in fact, could lead to misunderstanding.
I would suggest also that when referring to non-Christian sacred books, in keeping with the practice in Church documents, non-Christian scriptures be referred to with a small ‘s’ and not capitals (pp.121, 1301, 1660 etc.).
Three additional remarks:
There is a point in the NCB which, in my opinion, would need to be corrected – a point NOT adverted to in Mr. Prabhu’s Critique. It is the statement on p. 1662. Speaking of politically motivated “hunger strikes” which are legitimate if undertaken responsibly, the commentary states: “Even a fast unto death need not be morally reprehensible if undertaken for sufficiently serious reasons”. To the best of my understanding this is not in harmony with Catholic moral teaching.
I would suggest that, if possible, an Introduction to the whole NCB could be inserted along the lines of the CCB printed in the Philippines on how to use the book, avoid misunderstanding the Bible etc. It would make the NCB a little more “pastoral”.
This Response has been limited only to the points raised by Mr. Michael Prabhu. Perhaps, this could be an occasion for a comprehensive reading of the Bible so that the “Imprimatur” could be given by the CBCI or the CBCI Doctrinal Commission on behalf of the Episcopate.
† Agnelo Gracias
I can safely conclude that this “rebuttal” of my critique by Bishop Agnelo Gracias was not meant to be seen by me but was widely circulated to discredit me, my ministry and my crusade against the NCB. If the Bishop — or anyone of his fellow Bishops who received a copy of it and were convinced by its justifications — had so desired, it would have been communicated to me in response to the many emails that he/they were receiving from this ministry and its supporters.
The Bishop also fails to mention in his “rebuttal” of my critique that page 94 of the 2008 NCB has been removed, most certainly on his instruction, and is not included in the 2011 Revised Edition!!!!!
Page 94 is a defensive justification of the line drawings on pages 92 and 93, that of describing the temple, the mosque and the gurdwara as “sacred” or “holy ground” as of Moses in the presence of the Living God Yahweh in Exodus 3:5. Page 94 carried two excerpts from Vatican II Documents including Nostra Aetate #2 as well as one from Ecclesia in Asia. With the offensive illustration on page 92 pulled, there was no reason to still have the box on page 94.
Despite these major interventions, the Bishop has gone to extraordinary labour to justify the “contextualization” as he calls it, of the NCB commentaries. What I observe is his in-depth knowledge of Hindu mythology and religious texts. He represents the theological condition of most of the priests, theologians and Bishops in the Indian Church today. When one is so deeply saturated with the philosophies of other religions, and considering the rampant religious relativism prevailing today, how could one’s worldview be unaffected. Consider all of the above in the light of my many reports on the last pages of this present report not just alleging the Hinduisation of the Church as accused (by the Bishop) but DOCUMENTING it.
I may not be a theologian or a Bible scholar but I have been in ministry long enough, for 33 years, and have studied enough of Catholic apologetics and at Catholic Bible schools and read my Catechism, the Early Church Fathers and Church Documents to be able to discern error.
I also have first-hand experience of the pluralistic and liberalist formation that our seminarians undergo when I attended the contact classes under priest and nun theologians for my Master’s in Christian Studies at the University of Madras. The lectures were brainwashing sessions in liberal and modernist theology. The Dean of Studies, Fr. Felix Wilfred, has been castigated by Rome. Attending lectures was unavoidable torture.
The NCB is only a product of such a situation.
Bishop Agnelo Gracias must be reminded that not only did apologists, priests, canon lawyers and theologians concur with my position on the NCB, some of them contributed to reports that are on our web site, wrote to officials in the Vatican and even presented copies of the offending publication to Roman dicasteries.
There is no need for me to rebut the Bishop’s rebuttal. Others, including theologians, have, see further below.
SOME RESPONSES TO BISHOP AGNELO GRACIAS’ REBUTTAL (OF MY CRITIQUE) WHICH I CIRCULATED:
Subject: RESPONSE OF BP. AGNELO GRACIAS OF BOMBAY TO MY CRITIQUE ON THE NCB. ATTACHED
BCC: A FEW SELECTED PRIESTS AND LAITY
Dear Reverend Fathers and friends,
Please acknowledge receipt of this mail with attachment.
I had received the hard copy over two months ago from a confidential source which I cannot reveal. The fact that a copy reached me is proof in itself that we have God’s favour in our crusade.
I had even contemplated giving up the fight, not just against the NCB, but also against error in the Church in general. I found the burden too heavy, not just physically but also emotionally because I love my Church so much and so many people continue to bring to my attention all the errors that are being perpetrated on the faithful. What made it more difficult is that there are very good people who are normally very responsive but who have not responded to my letters, and I had written to some of them at least thrice. Some have continued to consult me for information on New Age issues or wish me for Christmas, yet avoid committing themselves by giving a simple letter against the NCB which they certainly oppose. I sometimes wonder which is the real bane of otherwise good Catholics, apathy or compromise.
Whichever, they do not realize that future generations of Catholics including their own families will pay the price for it.
But I have received so much of love and encouragement in the past two months, much of it from people whom I have never met. I received Christmas cards and letters of support, assurances of prayer and financial help to meet the ministry’s needs and expenses of the specialists’ consultations, x-rays, medical tests and medicines for Angela and me. There were many telephone calls, and one intercessory prayer group even prayed for us over the telephone, long distance, for 20 minutes. Only since the last two days I have got back to work on a limited schedule, hence the delay regarding this issue.
I gave the hard copy of Bishop Agnelo’s response to my critique to my niece who got it typed out when she went to London, and she mailed it to me two weeks ago. I am preparing a detailed response to it.
The NCB has supposedly been withdrawn or its commentaries under critical examination for revision, but copies of it are still being sold. I have confirmed that. It shows the Bishops’ minds.
If there is even one error in the NCB, (otherwise why would the Bishops order a revision for the next edition?) it should have been taken off the shelves by an order from the CBCI. Several priests and laity have been expressing their skepticism about the nature and extent of the proposed revisions, and the response of Bp. Agnelo only confirms that. His response is derogatory in places, and mocks the concerns as well as the knowledge of the lay faithful and the good priests who oppose the NCB and what it represents. I will have no problem rebutting his statements. Note that most of what is written by the Bishop in IIA
Reference to Indian scriptures/practices has nothing to do with our critique, whereas he has refused to discuss major issues of contention including New Age [yoga, prana, OM etc.] It must also be remembered that Bishop Agnelo’s comments are not representative of the entire college of Bishops or those of Rome.
We must also keep in mind that despite the numerous letters that we have written to the Bishops, they have not communicated to us the decisions of the two or three meetings [if not more] that they have had on the NCB.
As a follow up to the eight-page critique on the NCB, http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_01-A_CRITIQUE.doc, I had also prepared a thirty-eight follow-up report on the issue, titled: NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 02-THE PAPAL SEMINARY, PUNE, INDIAN THEOLOGIANS, AND THE CATHOLIC ASHRAMS http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_02-THE_PAPAL_SEMINARY_PUNE_INDIAN_THEOLOGIANS_AND_THE_CATHOLIC_ASHRAMS.doc.
Both of the above are available at the ministry’s website which is www.ephesians-511.net.
After that I had written three rounds of letters to Rome (addressed to our Pope as well as to the heads of all Pontifical Councils and Congregations), on the 16th, 20th and 22nd October, 2008, attaching both above documents.
Soon I will be uploading the details of these letters as well as my correspondence with the Indian Bishops on the NCB issue on the website and it will be seen by all as to how diligently the Church responds to the voice of the faithful!
The following work still remains:
1. About 21 of us, including a priest, have written letters of opposition to the NCB, to The Examiner. While they have published at least three pro-NCB letters, not one of ours seems to have been published. This shows clearly that the Editor of The Examiner is biased. In fact, he was the media spokesperson for the NCB. I have to send a copy of it to the Bishops and also upload the information on the website.
2. We have received hundreds of letters of opposition to the NCB from priests and laity from all over India and the world. Even with optimisation of font and space, it runs into over 100 pages of a Word document. It will not be possible for me to send it to you as an attachment. You will have to wait for me to upload it on the website and give you the link. The Bishops too will have to be informed of the same so that they are aware that there are many more Catholics who reject the NCB.
3. We had been interviewed by leading national dailies and the stories of our opposition were carried in several newspapers in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai and in two leading Tamil journals, one of which was a cover story in which one of the accompanying drawings depicted one-half of Jesus as the Hindu deity Krishna and another as half Jesus, half Shiva!
In case some of our Bishops are blind as to the clear message conveyed by the NCB, the secular press isn’t.
A French Benedictine summa cum laude theologian and I were interviewed by Asia’s largest Catholic news agency, UCAN, and our opinions as well as those of some priests in our team were published in a UCAN report. The report was also copied by the Philippines Catholic Bishops’ Conference which brought out the original and non-controversial Community Bible on which the NCB is allegedly based, and with which there is not much difference, so Bishops like Bp. Agnelo maintain.
4. In the event that we are not satisfied with the proposed revisions in the NCB, we plan to once again approach the secular media, this time in a more organised and definitive manner using all means to achieve maximum publicity.
We are constrained to take such action because there seems to be no forum for personal discussion with the Bishops, despite our having requested for it. Love, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 11:50 AM
Subject: Re: FROM MICHAEL- Bishop Agnelo’s response recd.
Dear Michael Thank you for the response. Been catching up on the backlog of work here… Bishop’s Agnelo’s response was read. I will send my thoughts in a separate mail, suffice it for now that my belief still very much is that the commentary is offensive, scandalous and incredibly sinful especially in terms of sins directed against the third person of the Trinity, has no relation in most cases to what the Holy Spirit wishes to speak. Few if not none of the above issues were addressed. I agree it is painful to keep writing rejoinders. God bless Derrick D’Costa BAHRAIN
THEOLOGIAN, SEMINARY PROFESSOR
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2009 3:41 AM
Subject: RE: RESPONSE OF BP. AGNELO GRACIAS OF BOMBAY TO MY CRITIQUE ON THE NCB. ATTACHED
Dear Michael, I am very grateful for your kindness each time I passed through Chennai. I appreciate your dedication in your work and your zeal to stand and defend the truth.
Thank you for having sent me the report of Bishop Angelo Gracias. I read it very quickly.
There are some major errors in the reply regarding the interpretation of some passages of the Scripture: B 14 He doesn’t believe in the historical aspect of Genesis (Chapter 2 etc…) He doesn’t believe in the historicity of the 10 Plagues, and of the parting of the waters. He is opposed directly with all the Fathers of the Church who interpreted as historical events having really been true!
See the reply of Pope Pius XII (Humani Generis 1950). I quote:
“38. Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies. This Letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.
39. Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers”.
I should take more time for reading and expressing a critique!
United in prayer and sacrifice NAME WITHHELD, EUROPE
Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 6:50 PM
Subject: Re: RESPONSE OF BP. AGNELO GRACIAS OF BOMBAY TO MY CRITIQUE ON THE NCB. ATTACHED
Dearest Mike, Glad to know that you are getting back on your feet. It is very sad to read through the response you got to your critique. By the way, I did send an email to the Bishop with regard to my total disagreement as to the NCB. I don’t know if you received a copy of it… this was quite some months ago when you had first sent me excerpts of the so-called Bible. Kenny D’Sa GOA
Subject: Comments on Bishop Gracias’ remarks
Very dear Michael,
I have just finished reading the document from Bishop Gracias, and it was a particularly positive surprise to see that he gives you reason on several points. The tone he uses in the document is clearly marked by the fact that he feels personally questioned about the whole NCB matter, and also by the fact that his remarks seem to be part of an internal document, not meant for you to see. So, I wouldn’t take his offensive remarks too personally, and instead concentrate on the insight you now have on Bishop Gracias’ personal views on the NCB, which on some points join yours. I see this as an open door for a possible dialogue with the Bishop.
I made a lot of annotations while reading Gracias’ document, but I will limit myself to only some comments, which you might find useful.
The Bishop remarks that the Scripture commentary is not meant as a compendium of Moral Theology. I agree. But it is neither meant as a comparative study of religions. I firmly believe that to understand the Bible, one needs to understand the cultural, historical and religious context of Palestine and Middle East. That means to understand the pagan religions of the Canaan, Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, Rome, etc., which could have indeed an influence on the religious practices of the Hebrews.
The Old Testament can only be fully understood if one knows about the traditions inside the Hebrew people. One of my professors at the University always says that the best book on the Eucharist was written by Cardinal Lustiger, who was a Hebrew converted to Catholicism, because he was able to understand the deep meaning Jesus gave to the Sacrament in the Hebrew context of the time.
So, I understand that some cultural elements from Hinduism are useful in a Bible meant for India, but I would be much more careful in including Hindu theological concepts that seem superficially similar to Christian ones, because we are in a totally different context.
Another thing I’ve been thinking is that if I wanted to read the sacred scriptures of Hinduism, I would not appreciate similar comparisons written in order to try to explain Hinduist concepts to me using parallelisms with Christian concepts, because as a Christian, I would end up thinking that these Hinduists don’t understand Christianity and should stick to explaining Hinduism with their own words!
PART A: Reference to Indian scriptures/practices
On some points the Bishop misunderstood you. I also got the very clear impression that the Bishop really does not understand the problems linked to New Age ideologies and to practices such as Yoga (he in part recognizes it). And that therefore, he does not understand the problem with some of the commentaries, and that is why he does not see why someone would object to them (for instance number 12 on the rest of God on the 7th day, or Nr. 121/122 on the Decalogue).
There are some of the Bishop’s remarks, which I consider very valid as alternative points of view, and in those cases, I would not be troubled if the comment remains as it is in the NCB. For instance, Nr.8 on the different accounts on Creation, Nr. 20 on the flood stories, Nr.122 and 1652 (with reserves due to my little knowledge of Hinduism).
I would however consider as the most important point of this part, the fact that he gives you reason on several of your critiques.
PART B: Objections to the Scriptural interpretation of certain texts
Here, we enter into a big debate inside the Church regarding the interpretation of the Old Testament. The Bishop is right regarding the need to take into account the literary genres used in the Bible. And the fact that the books of the Bible were not meant to be chronologically accurate historical descriptions of the events, but had as their main purpose to transmit how God revealed Himself to the chosen people and His plan for our Salvation.
For instance, there are two stories in the Bible regarding how at the end of the Exodus, after Moses dies, Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land. According to the Book of Joshua, the Promised Land was occupied with a vast military operation, starting with the conquest of Jericho, and from there of all the surrounding land. Instead, according to the Book of Chronicles, after the death of Moses, the people occupied peacefully and gradually the Promised Land, living in peace with the populations already occupying the territory. The stories are contradicting, but are both present in the Bible. Which one is historically accurate? According the specialists and confirmed by archaeological findings, the Book of Chronicles is probably the most accurate from a historical point of view. In fact, the Book of Joshua is written like a military epopee. However, God wanted both stories to be in the Bible, because both stories are important from a theological point of view, and are part of God’s Revelation and plan of Salvation.
In a similar way, the stories of Creation in Genesis were included not as historically accurate descriptions, but because both stories (very similar to stories also known among the pagan people living in Middle East) reveal something important about God’s plan of Creation. But evidently, the Bishop is right, they are not meant to be taken literally. The important points are the concepts: God is the Creator of all things; He created us in His Image, etc.
I have myself only recently understood all these concepts. The Faculty of Theology of Lugano is a very conservative faculty, renowned as extremely faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, so I am quite confident of the correctness of the above notions. Our professor also advised us to read a document from the Pontifical Biblical Commission titled “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church”, which summarizes the main points we have to keep in mind when reading the Bible. I found it on-line here: http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/PBC_Interp.htm
All the conclusions seem to me very positive, and I do hope that the revision of the NCB will lead to the correction of many of the points you raised.
What I see now, is perhaps a good opportunity for you to try to start a dialogue with Bishop Gracias. I guess that you both spoke very clearly your opinions, and that now is a good moment to try to reconcile on some points. I know that you probably are not satisfied with the Bishop’s remarks, but you have to recognize that he was honest enough to agree with you on the points where he considered that you were right.
I also think that if you can establish a good relationship with the Bishop (by “good” I mean a relationship where both of you can speak freely and also feel respect for each other, even if you will disagree on many points), you could have an excellent occasion to help the Bishop understand all the points he is missing on New Age ideologies and practices, and why they are dangerous. But to achieve that, first you have to try to establish a dialogue. And the main problem I see is that Bishop Gracias has gotten the wrong idea about you, and does not know you for the profound and faithful Christian in love with God and full of zeal for His Church that you are. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, I know that this can change, for the benefit of all.
Lastly, my mother (who I have maintained informed of all of this) has especially asked me to transmit to you her sincere encouragement to continue with your work. “India is lucky to have you; you are among the very few who understands the problems linked to New Age ideologies, and you are therefore one of the very few people who can help the Church acknowledge this problem and understand it. So, keep up the excellent work and the good spirit!” (Her words!)
I hope the above will be useful. I keep you and Angela in my prayers. Very warmly in Christ,
PRIEST, NAME WITHHELD
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2009 1:11 AM
Subject: Re: RESPONSE OF BP. AGNELO GRACIAS OF BOMBAY TO MY CRITIQUE ON THE NCB. ATTACHED
Dear Michael, Thanks for this mail.
I quickly went through and was feeling greatly indignant and distressed at the crookedness of the bishop.
I have quickly run through the article, without going through details. I have gone thru the initial pages and posted a few comments on it which could help you in confronting the situation immediately… and also aimed at expressing my support and solidarity towards you.
In fact I feel he should have acknowledged and respected you before talking about respect for other religions (in the words of Gandhi) at the effort you have put in and on account of which he has shamelessly, without acknowledging, at least taken a step to correct a few things. Charity begins at home before doing charity to people of other faiths. He should have shown charity towards you first. I too strongly feel that the subsequent points he has commented on are not important as it digresses from the main issue. If need be I could even comment on it and the fallacy of his arguments but not important or else we will miss the bus!!!!!
I cannot really come out in the open, but if worst comes to worse…and if you at any time feel that you require my open support then I am there. Till then I’ve to be in the background. I believe that this the way in which the Lord wants me to serve him for now. The enemy is crooked! Keep up the battle take care prayers with love NAME WITHHELD
In the priest’s letter, he had introduced his comments within the lines of the Bishop’s response, but it is not practical to reproduce the entire letter again, so they are copied and pasted here:
BISHOP: I do not know whether it is worth answering the critical general remarks made by Mr. Michael Prabhu.
Allow me only to advert to a few of his remarks.
PRIEST: The aim of Michael’s critique was not what the Bishop is picking on but the very concept of a syncretized Bible.
MY COMMENT: “Not worth answering”! That is how the Bishop feels about my critique, but answer he did.
BISHOP: [I 1. Against my claim that there is no official policy of evangelization in the Indian Church:]
One wonders how Mr. Prabhu can make such a statement. Has he gone round the dioceses to see the evangelizing effort being carried out in many of them – work which is being carried out silently without much publicity? It is ironical that at this very moment while writing this rebuttal to his criticism, the Church in Orissa is being attacked for ‘converting’ tribals!
PRIEST: Here Michael may be wrong, yet the fact remains there is not enough thrust as far as evangelization is concerned. Ask Bishop Agnelo what efforts his co-bishops have made in this regard. Give statistical facts.
Many in the Catholic Church admit that it is not us who are evangelizing but the Protestants. Some spokespersons have even gone to the extent of presenting our statistical data on population to claim this. Have a look at their own priest, Fr. Terence Murray, “What we need to clarify here is that the Church does not encourage conversion”. Editorial: ‘Awakening Faith’, Sept-Oct. 2008, in the Catechetical magazine issued by the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Mumbai [the archdiocese of Bishop Agnelo]. What action did the bishop take against him and to correct this statement/situation? This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are books and policies of the archdiocese which are anti-evangelization, or even if there is then it is not consistent with church Dogma. So for Bishop Agnelo, reflecting on his own shame should make more sense than trying to take out a speck from the eye of Michael’s writings.
MY COMMENT: The priest, who has served in the same archdiocese as the Bishop, did not fully agree with the Bishop’s contention that I am wrong.
BISHOP: [I 2. To my questions,
Where was the Church when abortion was legalized in the 1970’s? Where will the Church be when euthanasia is legalized?] To the best of my knowledge, the hierarchy, within its limitations of a lack of political clout, did its best to prevent the passing of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill…
What is Mr. Prabhu’s Ministry, METAMORPHOSE, doing about euthanasia since there is currently a move to legalize it? …
PRIEST: Bishop Agnelo, come out with a white paper
to show what was done…
Tell us here what the hierarchy is doing to prevent legalization of euthanasia and homosexuality, Even the RSS has made attempts in the court of law… What has the Catholic Church done? Answer if you are her self-appointed defender.
MY COMMENT: The primary calling of this ministry is to expose uncorrected error in the Catholic Church. It also provides catechesis to Catholics on liturgy and other facets of the Faith.
BISHOP: I 3. He speaks of SCC’s and BCC’s in disparaging terms – he says they “largely are as different from the early New Testament Church of the Acts as chalk is from cheese”
(pg. 4 of Critique).
PRIEST: The onus is on the Bishop to prove otherwise the soundness of the SCC’s and BCC’s. They are not consistent with church teaching as they claim. What Christefidelis Laici talks about is a SCC far out removed from what the present SCC movement claims.
MY COMMENT: I could eloquently defend my statement on what I believe the SCCs/BCCs must be, but aren’t.
BISHOP: I 3. He inveighs against the commentary for not speaking against the caste system in commenting on the passage on the resurrection of the dead as opposed to the Hindu view of transmigration (Critique, p.3). And he affirms that poor dalits were mentioned just once in the Beatitudes. (Critique, p. 4)
The caste system, dalits and untouchability is mentioned in a number of places in the commentary: 1653, 1656, 1689, 1700, 1701 – and perhaps in many more places! In fact, there is even a reference to forgiveness of “caste antagonists”. Mr. Prabhu accuses the commentary of focusing too much on “liberation”. The liberation refers precisely to
freedom from oppression and exploitation – and, in India, one of the biggest structures of exploitation has been the caste system.
PRIEST: What is the basis of your freedom and how is your ideology different from that of the Marxist?
MY COMMENT: It is strange that the priest, and scores of other laity and priests, can see my point on the commentaries’ apparently inexplicable focus on liberation and the omission of a condemnation of the caste system, while the Bishop can’t!
The Bishop instead is happy to fault me — and I accept that he is right — that dalits and untouchability are mentioned on a few other pages. My apologies to the Bishops. I am sure that I, a simple lay Catholic will be excused for not searching the commentaries more closely, when scholars and theologians have actually written so many errors into the commentaries and two learned Bishops have given the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur to them, and others released them in impressive functions.
If I had searched the commentaries more closely when I wrote the critique in July 2008, I would have found that the NCB teaches that the Angel Gabriel did not actually appear to Mary, a fact that I learned only in February 2009, along with some other similar problems in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke which also will be informed to the good Bishops shortly.
If one reads carefully my critique points 11, 12, etc., and wherever I have referred to “liberation”, it is evident that the Bishop is sidestepping the real issues raised by me. Every Catholic who is awake to reality knows that today most priests preach that Jesus came to liberate (social Gospel) and minimize or completely avoid the saving-from-sin-and-hell topic.
That is EXACTLY what the priest asks, above. To prove my point, I am shortly publishing a critique of the New Tamil Missal and the New Tamil Bible. The author of the critique, a Jesuit priest, wrote over a decade ago EXACTLY what I have been saying today. The Tamil theologians have transformed even the Holy Rosary into a rosary of liberation theology.
BISHOP: I 4. He asks: “….can someone explain why contraception, the murder of unborn babies, female infanticide, honour killings, usury, same sex marriages, stem cell research, euthanasia, the death penalty and a dozen similar issues were not discussed in the commentary of this Indian ‘Bible’? …Perhaps, Mr. Prabhu was expecting a Scripture commentary to be a compendium of Moral Theology!
PRIEST: Putting it in this language only exposes his false zeal to defend without realizing what he is defending.
MY COMMENT: The Bishop responds selectively. My question should be read in the light of the entire critique of the NCB which otherwise analyses Hinduism, nature religion, New Age practices and principles (yoga, prana, etc.) and of course the constant promotion of “liberation” of the oppressed. Then why not use the NCB as a vehicle to promote Catholic principles?
BISHOP: I 5. Finally, I do not enter into the question of the compatibility of Yoga with the Christian faith, nor the question of whether homeopathy, acupuncture etc. are “New Age” therapies. These are complicated issues which would need much more study than has been done till now. I realize that a study of these topics would need to be done but it goes beyond the scope of the present Response and, perhaps, that could be a task undertaken by the CBCI Doctrinal Commission to study and give guidelines to the Church in India.
PRIEST: Otherwise vociferous promoters of interreligious dialogue, the Bishop prefers to make a study on New Age/yoga!
1) The study should have started a long time ago when the Document on New Age (JCBWL) came into existence, 2003.
2) Why is he pushing the issue under the carpet? If you have made yourself a spokesperson through a response to this critique, then commit yourself on behalf of the CBCI to a fixed date and respond on the New Age.
3) Finally, is there room for dialogue, or is it the arrogance of the Bishops that only they can discern correctly (apart from their priests and laity)?
MY COMMENT: The Bombay Archdiocese, which Bishop Agnelo serves, has virtually institutionalized New Age meditations like yoga and vipassana and Centering Prayer, New Age personality typing like enneagrams and MBTI, New Age holistic therapies and alternative medicines such as acupuncture, acupressure, homoeopathy, magnet therapy, etc., if one can believe their Archdiocesan weekly, The Examiner, and the documentation that I have been making for years. So while the archdiocese of Mumbai allows its mouthpiece (the editor of The Examiner is one of the most diehard proponents of the NCB) to advertise New Age, lends its diocesan centres and parish halls for their practice, allows its diocesan priests and religious to promote them, the good Bishop “realizes that a study needs to be done”! Now, why am I reminded of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning? If the good Bishops and their theologians and scholars would spend less time, money and effort on interreligious dialogue and the study of Hindu scriptures and Hindu “saints”, maybe they might correct their priorities.
Alternatively, they might study the wealth of Catholic information on the New Age available on the internet.
Or, they might simply examine this ministry’s website in which we have copied information published by priests, Bishops, Cardinals, Theological Commissions, exorcists, apologists, and even by Rome.
BISHOP: II A. Let us examine each of the references to Hindu scriptures in the Commentary of the NCB referred to by Mr. Michael Prabhu.
PRIEST: To set out “examining” is to catch the bull by the tail. The aim of Michael’s critique was not the particulars but rather to show that to set out on a task like the NCB is in itself inconsistent with sound doctrine. It is a corruption, syncretism to merge two different entities into one, viz. nature religion and revealed religion. Also remember the true motive behind the whole exercise of selling the book. It was not sold as a commentary. The motive and the intention of promoting the NCB is scandalous.
BISHOP: II A. 8 …This is a very apt reference to Hindu scriptures. In any Scripture commentary, the Biblical creation account is compared to the Babylonian and other myths. It is fitting that in a commentary meant for India… […]
PRIEST: Here again this NCB was not promoted as a commentary, so Bishop Agnelo shouldn’t play around…
MY COMMENT: The priest gives up after just about two pages of the Bishop’s response. All that the Bishop writes in defense of the inclusion of what we have objected to is not convincing. It is like he — and who he represents — and we, are on two opposing platforms, conflicting wavelengths. It conflicts with what we learned in our catechism, at the feet of foreign missionaries, through study of the Early Church Fathers and the time-to-time teachings of Rome, the Catholic Bible Colleges and Catholic schools of evangelization we have attended under holy and knowledgeable Indian priests.
One cannot accept the new teachings and still be loyally Roman Catholic.
BISHOP: C 1. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Respect for other religions helps us to understand our own religion better”.
PRIEST: Vox Gandhi, vox dei! Here you prove it: You require other religions to understand your own. Is your religion the same as the other? Is Bishop Agnelo saying that truth is immanent to man?
MY COMMENT: If our Bishop knew the sayings of the saints of the Church would there be need to seek justification by quoting someone who had a poor opinion of Christians? We have sunk into spiritual poverty.
BISHOP: GENERAL CONCLUSION: As can be seen from the Response,
I think there is nothing unorthodox in the NCB Commentary. Search as hard as I could, I could not find traces of the “drops of poison” which Mr. Prabhu claims are there in the commentary! Perhaps, to allay criticism, the references to Hindu scriptures in the commentary which I have marked with an asterisk * could be avoided since these references do not illuminate the scripture passages commented upon and, in fact, could lead to misunderstanding.
PRIEST: Bishop Agnelo contradicts himself?
MY COMMENT: Perhaps I made another error in my critique (the other one was about the references to dalits).
There are no drops of poison in the NCB commentaries. I restate my case. The whole of the commentaries is so completely poisoned that one cannot apparently distinguish good from evil, right from wrong anymore. We do not need a so-called “Bible” like the NCB to bring death to the “Faith of our Fathers” and that of our children.
ALL THE NCB RELATED FILES
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 01-A CRITIQUE JULY 14, 2008
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 02-THE PAPAL SEMINARY, PUNE, INDIAN THEOLOGIANS, AND THE CATHOLIC ASHRAMS 18 SEPTEMBER 2008/SEPTEMBER 2009/APRIL 2012
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 03-A FRENCH THEOLOGIAN DENOUNCES ERRORS IN THE COMMENTARIES FEBRUARY 24, 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 04-THE ONGOING ROBBERY OF FAITH FEBRUARY 24, 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 05-THE ANGEL GABRIEL DID NOT APPEAR TO THE VIRGIN MARY MARCH 15, 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 06-PRESS REPORTS AND READERS’ CRITICISMS MARCH 22, 2009/DECEMBER 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 07-UNPUBLISHED LETTERS AGAINST ITS ERRONEOUS COMMENTARIES-THE EXAMINER MAY 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 08-LETTERS CALLING FOR ITS WITHDRAWAL 31 DECEMBER 2008/DECEMBER 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 09-LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH APRIL-MAY 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 10-CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE SECULAR MEDIA, AND WITH PRIEST-CRITICS OF OUR CRUSADE AGAINST ITS ERRORS MAY 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 11-VATICAN HELD RESPONSIBLE, BRAHMIN LEADERS DEMAND ITS WITHDRAWAL JUNE 25, 2009/DECEMBER 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 12-LETTERS TO ROME JUNE 2009/AUGUST 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 13-RESPONSES FROM THE BISHOPS AND THEIR EXECUTIVE COMMISSIONS AUGUST 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 14-UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX GREEK CATHOLIC BISHOPS CALL IT A NEW AGE BIBLE, “EXCOMMUNICATE” INDIAN BISHOPS
MARCH 2010/APRIL 2012
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 15-DEMAND FOR ORDINATION OF WOMEN PRIESTS-FR SUBHASH ANAND AND OTHERS
APRIL 2010/JULY 2010/APRIL 2012/17 MARCH/10 APRIL 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 16-CRITIQUE BY DERRICK D’COSTA
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 17-EXTOLLED BY CAMALDOLI BENEDICTINE OBLATE 1/5/10 MAY 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 18-REVISED EDITION COMING, ST PAULS IN DENIAL JULY 2010/DECEMBER 2011
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 19-REVISED EDITION PUBLISHED A YEAR AFTER DENIAL JULY 2010/DECEMBER 2011
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 20-HALF-TRUTHS FROM CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIAS 28 JUNE 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 21-INDIAN CHURCH’S SYNCRETIZED BIBLE EXPORTED 7 MARCH/6/9/24/30 MAY/5 JUNE, 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 22-BISHOP AGNELO GRACIAS DEFENDS IT YET IT IS PULLED FOR REVISION FEBRUARY 2015
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 23-EDDIE RUSSELL CALLS IT A HINDUISED HERETICAL BIBLE FEBRUARY 2015
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 24-WHAT WERE THE REVISIONS MADE IN IT FEBRUARY 2015
HINDU RELIGIOUS MARK ON THE FOREHEAD 22-THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE
SOME OTHER RELATED FILES
BINDI OR TILAK MARK ON THE FOREHEAD-INDIAN OR HINDU?
CARDINAL IVAN DIAS LIGHTS A LAMP FOR THE HINDU DEITY GANESHA
DIVINE RETREAT CENTRE ERRORS-04 –HINDU BINDI OR TILAK MARK USED
FR ANTHONY DE MELLO-WRITINGS BANNED BY THE CHURCH
HABEMUS PAPAM INDIANUM-WE HAVE AN INDIAN PONTIFF
HINDU FLAG POLE AT CATHEDRAL OF ST THOMAS IN MADRAS-MYLAPORE ARCHDIOCESE
HINDU RELIGIOUS MARK ON THE FOREHEAD
(Series 01 through 21; change the digits in the link below)
INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE 01-POPE BENEDICT XVI
INCULTURATION OF THE LITURGY AND SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM-JON ANDERSON-AND MY RESPONSE
IS HOLY COMMUNION EQUIVALENT TO
PRASADAM-IS IT SAFE FOR CATHOLICS TO CONSUME PRASADAM
IS THE SYRO MALABAR CHURCH NOW OPENLY PROMOTING ITS HINDUISATION?
LOTUS AND THE CROSS-THE HINDUISATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN INDIA
MAY CATHOLICS CELEBRATE THE HARVEST FESTIVAL OF PONGAL
MOTHER TERESA AT PRAYER IN A BUDDHIST TEMPLE
PAGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH IN INDIA 01
PAGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH IN INDIA 02
PAGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH IN INDIA-RESPONSES
PILAR PRIEST FR PETER CARDOZO VENERATES THE HINDU DEITY GANESHA
SHOULD OSWALD CARDINAL GRACIAS HAVE RESIGNED AS CARDINAL OBRIEN DID
14 MARCH 2013
SONIA GANDHI-CATHOLIC OR HINDU?
TAMIL NADU CLERGY VENERATE THE HINDU DEITY GANESHA
THE GOLDEN SHEAF-A COLLECTION OF ARTICLES DEALING WITH ECCLESIASTICAL ABERRATIONS
THE HINDUISATION OF MUSIC IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
THE HINDUISATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH-IMAGES
THE ONGOING ROBBERY OF FAITH-FR P K GEORGE
THE PAGANISATION OF THE LITURGY IN INDIA-C B ANDRADE
THE PAGANIZED CATHOLIC CHURCH IN INDIA-VICTOR J F KULANDAY
THE SALESIANS, OSWALD CARDINAL GRACIAS AND NEW AGE PSYCHOLOGIST CARL ROGERS
MARCH 2012/APRIL 2013
THE ST PIUS X SEMINARY CELEBRATES HINDU DEITY GANESH
THE TWELVE POINTS OF ADAPTATION FOR THE INDIAN RITE MASS-WAS A FRAUD PERPETRATED ON INDIAN CATHOLICS?
THE ST PIUS X SEMINARY CELEBRATES HINDU DEITY GANESH
WAS JESUS A YOGI? SYNCRETISM AND INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE-ERROL FERNANDES
WHY INDIAN CATHOLICS DO NOT WANT AN INDIAN POPE
CHANTING OF MANTRAS
Categories: Hinduisation of the Catholic Church in India