Lethargic IITian
Musings of a 20-something lethargic IITian on India and Catholicism.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002  

When talking about St. Francis Xavier in the Indian context, one cannot help but notice that he is a man much despised by the Hindutva brigade:

God is punishing India for having tolerated that Inquisition-happy "Saint" Francis Xavier of Goa who dismembered children alive in front of their parents (whose eyelids were cut off so they had to watch), carefully cut off the extremities of people so they were still conscious when they were nothing but torso and head, chopped off and burned the genitals of men, cut off breasts, and penetrated vaginas with swords, all in the name of his religion.

(Rajeev Srinivasan, Children of a Lesser God, Rediff, 23 February 2001)

Note: I wrote to Rajeev asking for specific references to the "Inquisition-happy" saint's atrocities; but have yet to receive a reply from him. Could it be that he has not failed to notice that the Portuguese Inquisition had already been in India before St. Francis came about? Could it be that he just blew his top off and combined St. Francis's evangelisation activities with those of the Portuguese sailors (Heck! They're both from Portugal, so ...)? Could it be that he didn't fail to notice that St. Francis, in fact, sought to adopt a method of evangelisation that was based on preaching and not force? That St. Francis did, in fact, actively encourage converts to stick to those customs that did not interfere with their Catholic spirituality? Could it be that, like most Hindutva writers (including Varsha Bhosle - and I'm coming to this later today) he's not let fact get in the way of propaganda?

Anyhow, the only factual reference I can see in any Hindutva bashing of St. Francis Xavier is this:

When I have finished baptising the people, I order them to destroy the huts in which they keep their idols; and I have them break the statues of their idols into tiny pieces, since they are now Christians. I could never come to an end describing to you the great consolation which fills my soul when I see idols being destroyed by the hands of those who had been idolaters.”

(The Letters and Instructions of Francis Xavier, translated and introduced by M. Joseph Constelloe, S.J., Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1993, pp 1178.)

Another variation of this floating around is:

"When all are baptized, I order all temples of their false gods destroyed and idols broken into pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel seeing this done."

And what exactly is the criticism that the Hindutva brigade has against this?

The objective of expunging ‘all the traces and remnants of the past’ has been followed by Francis Xavier.

(Ashok V. Chowgule, Christianity in India: A Hindutva Perspective, HVK)

A point that is (to put it simply) factually incorrect. One only has to look at the history of the St. Francis Xavier-Antonio Gomes (Rector of the College of St. Paul's in Goa) dispute to see the extent to which St. Francis fought to protect the right of Indian Christians to retain their ancient customs (where it did not run contrary to Christian doctrine and spirituality).

And, of course, the inconsistency in the Hindutva side shows up here too. "When all have been baptised ..." hardly seems to me to be an advocation of aggression on Hindu shrines in active use. When one looks at this quote in the context of the Babri Masjid demolition ("But the masjid has not been used for worship in nearly half a century, why should the Muslims care ...") one sees the inconsistency in the Hindutva position. For, if the demolition of the Masjid can be upheld on this basis; it logically follows that they cannot revile St. Francis for saying what he did (in his case, I should grant him some leeway considering the century he lived in!).

After a lot of hunting on the Net, that's about as much "factual" basis I can come up with for the Hindutva reviling of St. Francis Xavier. A lot of allegations without backing fact, and a quote that's twisted out of context.

What then drives the Right-wing to attack the Apostle of the East so much? Could it be that unless they tore down those examples of Christian living (St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Fr. Chavara Kuriakose) they fear that Indians may actually "crawl to the nearest church on their knees" (as Gandhi is reputed to have once said)? Or is it the general Hindutva feeling of insecurity that drives them to create enemies of shadows (first the Muslims, then the Christians)?

posted by Kensy | 7:28 PM
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past blogs of interest
Hinduism as a religion
Pederasty and the American Church
Caste in Indian Christianity
Syro-Malabar engagements
Syro-Malabar weddings
Divine Retreat Centre
Varsha Bhosle and Ideological Relativism
Anti-Conversion Ordinance and the Church stance
Self-Righteous Rightism
The Hindutva Attack on St. Francis Xavier
Varsha Bhosle and the Church (U-turn)
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