JULY 24, 2015
Bombay Church mouthpiece, The Examiner, accused of promoting ‘heretical’ views
By Manoj R Nair, Hindustan Times (Mumbai), firstname.lastname@example.org, July 24, 2015
Even as the uproar over the Indian government’s promotion of Yoga has died down, the debate whether the practice is compatible with certain religious beliefs continues.
After criticising theologians and priests for supporting Yoga, some community blogs have now accused the weekly The Examiner, the mouthpiece of Mumbai’s Roman Catholic establishment, of promoting ‘heretical’ views by publishing articles on the practice. Apostasy (abandoning religion), Heresy (dissention) and Gnosticism (a heretical movement in the early church) – words that were more likely to be used against non-believers in another period in history – have been used to describe those who wrote about Yoga.
The bloggers have called themselves ‘orthodox’ but their critics have accused them of being ‘radicals’.
One of the articles that has been criticised was written by Thomas Dabre, the bishop of Pune, who discussed the possible therapeutic benefits of Yoga on the mind and body. The groups are particularly incensed at his writings because Dabre is an important figure in the church: besides heading a large diocese, he is also a former head of the Doctrinal Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) – an important decision-making body of the church. He is also an expert in culture and religion, having authored an important book on the life of the 17th century poet Sant Tukaram.
In his article, Dabre had said practising Yoga as therapy could provide physical and mental benefits. In response to the accusations that he was promoting the practice, Dabre has said he is not an ambassador for Yoga. “But as a Catholic theologian, I can comment on society.”
The Examiner, too, like Dabre, has said its articles on Yoga just reflected the social debate on the issue. Father Tony Charanghat, the weekly’s editor, is currently not in India, but a spokesperson said that every article in the journal did not reflect the church’s official stand on the issue. “The magazine gives space to people who have different views on a subject; we publish some of the letters that we receive. Similarly we also get articles from our readers that we sometimes print. The opinion given in the letters and articles are never our views and this is clearly mentioned in the magazine.”
The spokesperson added: “We publish articles that are thematic – issues that people are talking about.”
But the critics of the articles are not satisfied with this answer from the magazine; they want the church headquarters to issue an official statement on its view on Yoga.
Much of the criticism against the articles on Yoga has appeared on blogs written in Mumbai, but some articles are also from Chennai where a writer Michael Prabhu, who runs a website, has accused the theologians of misleading followers by misinterpreting two Vatican documents that said that practice of certain traditions, including eastern meditation and yoga, are not compatible with their faith.
“My calling (from God) is to expose errors in the church. When bishops and priests commit liturgical and doctrinal errors, I bring it to their notice,” said Prabhu who said that he has ‘nothing’ against other religions. “Yoga is not a form of physical exercise; it is a religious ritual, but the theologians are interpreting it to their fancies.”
Another senior theologian who has been criticised by the groups is Mumbai’s Bishop Agnelo Gracias, who is also associated with the Doctrinal Commission. This diarist spoke to Gracias who, explaining that he was attending an important official assignment out of Mumbai, declined to comment on the controversy. He promised to talk about the issue after coming back to the city.
As Chairman, Doctrinal Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), Bishop Thomas Dabre, then Bishop of Vasai, published an article in the Vidya Jyoti Theological Review of March 2004 in which he elaborated on the “New Age Phenomenon”. This was thirteen months after the release of the Document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, a Christian Reflection on the New Age by Rome.
While examining the Document, the Bishop admitted that “much of the New Age thinking emanates from Indian sources“. To be accurate and honest, he should have said that New Age thinking emanates from HINDU sources. What other “Indian” sources could New Age thinking possibly emanate from?
In electing to use those words, even though he tried to camouflage the truth, the Bishop had endorsed the stand of the Document that YOGA (#2.1, #220.127.116.11) is New Age.
In that article, Bishop Dabre also refers to an earlier (1989) Document in which Rome warns Catholics of the spiritual and psychosomatic dangers of eastern meditations like YOGA, Zen and transcendental meditation.
This Document, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some Aspects of Christian Meditation, signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was published explicitly to inform Bishops like Thomas Dabre that YOGA, Zen and T.M. were a no-no for Catholics, and they were mandated to convey these cautions to us.
This is what Bishop Dabre wrote in the theological journal:
Eastern Forms of Prayer and Meditation
In this age of interreligious dialogue, there is greater interest in the spirituality of Eastern religions. Some of the clergy, religious and the laity are adopting
Zen meditation, yoga exercises, vipassana
and other eastern and psychic and therapeutic practices and techniques. Some of these things are done in our houses of formation. Some go to the USA and conduct eastern exercises but do not practice them in their personal lives or ministry when they are here!
As the Second Vatican Council has urged us, whatever good and noble values we find in other religions has to be acknowledged, preserved and promoted (NA 2). But these must be correctly assessed in the light of the Christian understanding of faith, prayer, meditation and mysticism. This will help for proper integration and enrichment, and avoid syncretism on the one hand and dissipation of authentic Christian prayer and meditation on the other. For this the document On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation
gives us useful guidance. (St Paul Publications, 1990.)
But how many Catholics, whether clergy or religious or laity have even heard of the existence of these two Vatican Documents, let alone read them?
On June 22, Bishop Dabre wrote a pro-yoga piece on his Facebook page when there was absolutely no call for him to do so. It was even reproduced in the Bombay Church organ, The Examiner, July 4-10, 2015.
This, reported the Hindustan Times on July 9, sparked protests from Catholics across the nation.
(My detailed report and analysis of the Bishop’s false teachings on YOGA have been delayed due to injuries sustained by me in a motor accident but they will be released soon to complement this present report.)
To further obfuscate things for the already largely ignorant laity following him on his blog, Bishop Dabre called the 1989 Document by its Latin title, Orationis Formas. No less than seventeen (17) individuals furnished their email addresses and requested the Bishop for the Document (as if they could not download it from the Internet), and this they did not realizing that the Bishop was using his blog to distort the truth and misinform Catholics on the issue of YOGA.
While one of those Hinduised Indian Catholic priests out there took the Bishop’s side, not everyone was hoodwinked. An Indian seminarian in the United States, a Bishop’s secretary and a fair number of lay Catholics rejected and challenged Bishop Dabre’s errors and lies; one even called it heresy.
Bishop Dabre very cunningly uses the term “yoga exercises” for YOGA instead of admitting that the clergy of the Indian Church are promoting YOGA as an additive or embellishment or alternative to prayer!
I can prove my charge from the contents of any Catholic priest-authored book on yoga — and there are many — that is printed/published/sold at St. Pauls or other Catholic bookstores.
Even in the Bombay Catholic Church, the Cardinals’ and Bishops’ blue-eyed boy, the disciple of yoga guru BKS Iyengar, Fr. Joe Pereira who runs the enormously wealthy Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) KRIPA Foundation that has spread its tentacles across the nation, clubs YOGA with the New Age “Christian Meditation” of the World Community of Christian Meditation (WCCM). And all this is done under the aegis of the Cardinals and Bishops of Mumbai who lend their institutions — and archdiocesan weekly The Examiner — to him for his anti-Christian agendas.
To support my statements, I have already furnished the hierarchy of the Church with scores of pages of evidence on my web site, and I will provide links to a few of those reports at the end of this file when it is updated.
In his Vidya Jyoti 2004 article, the Bishop engaged in verbal semantics. The great majority of Indian Bishops know how to say a lot without saying anything. They’re diplomats. I have experienced this over years of correspondence with them. The Bishop’s “theological” analysis of the New Age is available at
NEW AGE-BISHOP THOMAS DABRE
Now, the two Roman Documents that I referred to are DOCUMENTS in every sense of the word. But Bishop Dabre and his confreres prefer to gloss over them, misinterpret them and dismiss them lightly.
However, at the same time, theologians like him appeal to other Church Documents such as Nostra Aetate which was issued during Vatican Council II. Now Nostra Aetate is a PASTORAL document, and not dogmatic.
Pastoral Documents are not “binding” on the faithful.
Catholics agree that many of the Vatican II Documents are ambiguous in their statements and there can be as many interpretations of a couple of sentences as there are theologians. There are very learned theologians who reject all sixteen Council Documents and believe that there will one day be a Pope who will throw out Vatican II and link the Church back to its 2000-year old tradition, thus ridding Her of the doctrinal heresies and liturgical aberrations that have crept in even though nowhere mandated by the Council.
Bishop Dabre, in the same way, cites Nostra Aetate in his 2004 article on the New Age while passing over
Orationis Formas which can give us, he says, “useful guidance”.
It’s what the Bishop doesn’t say that’s significant.
To expose the Bishop’s duplicity, I reproduce for the reader the entire section of Nostra Aetate #2 from which the Bishop has reproduced a few words:
[O]ther religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways,” comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.
Liberal Bishops and theologians, inculturationists, and Hinduisers never cite the whole of #2. It is not surprising why they don’t. I rest my case. For now.
I will return with a full report on the Bishop Dabre YOGA/Surya Namaskar issue and simultaneously complete the present one.
Meanwhile, please read
IS BISHOP DABRE FORMER CHAIRMAN DOCTRINAL COMMISSION A PROPONENT OF YOGA?
Subject: Hindustan Times Mumbai article today…
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2015 09:03:07 -0700
This is most interesting. Secular media can see the rational arguments you make and understand fully the intent and logic but the hierarchy can only respond by attacking your credentials as the alternative is unthinkable – that is to respond with Catholic teaching and doctrine. This is most strange. God bless you and your ministry.
Derrick D’Costa, Bahrain/Mumbai
Date: Sat, 25 Jul 2015 08:13:49 +0530
May the storm brewing in Mumbai become a hurricane and blow away the heresy about yoga. May the truth shine forth and May You be vindicated and acknowledged by everyone. Let us pray.
Elma Barreto, Goa