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TEOTONIO R. DE SOUZA, SJ.

FELLOW OF THE INSTITUTE

CHURCH CARD OR PEOPLE'S


CARD IN GOAN POLITICS?

Separata do Boletimdo Institute Menezes Braganea, N.. 166 -- 1992


-
sasrwxr.OFFSKI' PHIIVTERS,RANASTARIM - (;()A - 40.3 107
CHURCH CARD OR
PEOPLE'S CARD
IN GOAN POLITICS? *
Teotonio R.de Soiwa SJ.
Fellow of the I~lstitutc

Introduction

G eorge Fernandes a Christian born labour leader, has been accusing


Mr. Eduardo Faleiro, the M.B. of a predominately Christian dorni-
nated constituency of South Goa and Unior: Minister of State for Foreign
Affairs, of playing "Church Card" in politics to sabotage the Konkan
Railway Project. (Herald, Panjim, 20- 1-92) There was a counter
statement in a local daily of 21- 1-92 wherein a local political leader sees
the official stand of the Church more in keeping with the welfare of
Goak population and territory. He refers to the so-called "Church card"
as "people's card". An official press-note issued on the same date by the
Director of the Diocesan Service Centre for Social Action rejects
insinuationsin the press of any one -sided manipulation of the Church
authorities over the issue of Konkan Railway Alignment.

What has been the role of the Catholic Church in Goa since
liberation? It has definitely freed itself significantly from its pre-
liberation shackles and is trying to witness to hopes and aspirations of
the common people. In the process of this witnessing it cannot escape the
fate of its masters who was accused of being a subverter of the law and
murdered on a cross. While the hangovers of the colonial past have
hindered its progress, the immersion of the Church into a secular-
democratic system (with communal tensions) has been a major

* (Talk at the Seminar on "Society,Religion c l r u i Politics in Goa and Maharashtra",


Goa University,Jan. 22-24, 1992)
BOLETIM DO INSTITUTO MENEZES BRAGANCA

challenge to which it has responded fairly commendably over the last


four decades. Every decade brought its own challenges: Survival in 60s,
Ramponkars .in 70s' Languages in 80s, and Tourism in 90s. We shall
briefly look into these areas of the Church involvement and try to
understand how it saw them as'important issues of people's welfare to
which it could not remain alien.

Early Post-Liberation Phase


The Church of Goa has been accused earlier for encouraging vote
for keeping Goa out of Maharashtra in the first Assembly elections
and in the Opinion Poll in early 1960s. Following the liberation the
democratic process ir, Goa had begun where it should have begun,
namely with village panchayati raj in October 1942. It changed the entire
character of the political process in Goa. No elections of the Portuguese
type had any parallel with the universal suffrage that brought the
propertyless and uneducated masses into consideration for the first
time. The elections for the first Legislative Assembly the next year
fiirther strengthened the process. The classes that had been most
neglected by the Portuguese suddenly shot to power. Hindu Brahmins and
Christians bhatkars and their retinues entered a period of expiation for
their past sins. The Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party and its Bahujan
Samaj ideology was an expression of populism that sought to whip up
communal feelings, using Marathi language and the merger issue as key
platforms.The penetration of the rural electorate was done quite
effectively with promises of land reforms that would give land to the
tiller and of tenancy reform that would protect the mundkar against
eviction. While the Hindu elite vote got divided between the Congress
and the United Goans Party, most Christians regardless of class or caste
rallied round the UGP in spite of the fact that conversion to Christianity
four and half centuries ago had failed to make them equal socially or
economically. Even if the Christians were aware of this intra-
community problems the new political scenarib offered them no other
alternative but to stick together as a community till the Opinion Poll of
1967 which marked the end of a rnajor phase in Goa's political growth.
CHURCH CARD OR PEOPLE'S CARD IN
GOAN POLITICS?

Goan Politics and Church after 1967


In the new phase religion and caste continued to provide pre-given
organisational and mobilisational platforms as elsewhere in the country,
but political alliances now follow more the class interests cutting across
the traditional religious and caste groupings. This new phase also
coincided with the aftermath of major changes within the Catholic
Church internationally and also in-India. There had been major self-
questioning within the Church and the responsibility of the laity and
greater sharing of responsibility was being stressed. There was a
Seminar on "The Church in Goa Today" in 1968 in preparation for a
national seminar on "The Church in India Today" in 1970. The seminar
in Goa prepared the ground for an organised renewal of the
Archdiocese. The immediate results were the establishment of a Priest's
Senate, some Diocesan Centres for special apostolates, and a Pastoral
Bulletin. In 1978 aDiocesan Pastoral Council was set up, and the process
is on for establishing parish level councils. ~ uthist process of democra-
tisation has not been without its problems. This could be seen from
the open manisfestation of protests against the authority of the official
Church. Not that such incidents were new or unknown. The Christians
who took part in the struggle for Goa's freedom had done so under
penalty of being considered unfaithful children of the Church controlled
by the colonial authorities. In the earlier centuries of the Portuguese rule
the native priests and even a Bishop had instigated political rebellions
against the Portugueserule in Goa. But in the post-liberation context
it was an experience of the democratic revolution inside an ecclesiastical
set-up that was not sufficiently cleaned from the inherited attitudes
and m d u s operandi. The challenges from within came from different
quarters: From lay people, as well as from the diocesan priests and from
areligious congregation. There were some-priestswho had their personal
agendas that did not receive official Church approval and went seeking
support from other quarters, including the government. Among cases
that invited greater publicity, we could list the Christ-Ashram of
Nuvem, the Independent Church of Cuncolim, the Women's Hostel at
Instituto Piedade and the Verna Ashram of Pilar dissidents.
BOLETIM DO INSTITUTO MENEZES BRAGANCA

In Solidarity with Ramponkars


* Priests and many Christians leaders were involved in actively
supporting the struggle of the ramponkurs or traditional fishermen since
mid 1970s. The then Chief Minister Sashikala Kakodkar issued a press
statement and also wrote to the Church authorities deploring the circular
issued by the Administrator Apostolic on 30 Jan. 1978, in which he had
expressed sympathies for the sufferings, preoccupations and anxieties of
the "ramponkars" and had advised. all faithful to pray for a quick and
peaceful solution, based on demands of social justice and dignity of
human person. The Church refused to see a s merely a political issue a
a situation that affected the living of a large section of the population.
(Ren. Feb.15, 1978, p.55). The government of Shahikala Kakodkar
showed its irritation over the issue by siding with the 'rebel' nun and
some working girls who refused to vacate the Instituto Piedade in
February 1978. The government sought to question the right of the
Archbishop to control the premises and claimed State ownership of the .
building. The State also laid arbitrary claim to many other properties
of the Church (Ren.;ian.l5, 1980 ; Goa Today, May 1981, pp, 11,26.)
The government also tried to humiliate the Archbishop (Patriarch since
March 1978) by threatening to withdraw the privilege of priority pass
for feny crossing. Such pettiness on the part of the Government possibly
contributed to lowering its popularity, to its downfall at the end of 1979
after many years of unchallenged rule, and to its political limbo ever
since. It is important to recall that the Assembly elections coincided with
the elections for the Lok Sabha and the Christian community was
strongly agitated over the issue of freedom of Religion Bill, 1978 brought
forward by a Janata M.P. The open hostility of the local government
towards the Church authorities over the above mentioned issues could
have easily mixed up in people's mind with the general mood created
by the Tyagi Bill and protests it provoked in Goa and elsewhere in the
country by the minority religious communities. Following theelections
and victory of Congress U, a prominent lay-woman wrote to the
Archdiocesan Bulletin: "Politics is an integral part of life, and hence
every Catholic is in duty bound not only to interest himself, but where
CHURCH CARD OR PEOPLE'S CARD IN
GOAN POLITICS?

possible to get involved in it. It is interesting therefore to find as many


christians in the new legislature... Christian politicians, it is hopes, will
accept their success from the hand of God and will endeavour to cany out
their responsibility in a spirit of service and dedication... It would be
wrong on our part to except privileges from them merely because they
are christians. All we should demand are our legitimate rights... It is
incumbent on each one of us t o clean the Augean stables of po!itics and
to project a vigorous picture of the Church in Goa" (Ren., Jan, 15,1980).

For People's Language and Survival


The Church was also accnsed of taking <ides in the language
agitation in 1980s. The understanding of the issue left no doubt that the
language issue was used and continues to be used by the politiciaris in a
communal fashion bccause of the economic implications. Marathi as
official language could give the majority con~munitya privileged posi-
tion regarding employment opportunities, economic power, and con-
sequently, political domination. Hence, it was a socjo-economic issue on
which depended the right of future generations for equal share of bread
and butter. The eciitor of the Archdiocesan Bulletin wrote on February 1,
1987: "If the language struggle becomes also their struggle (of the
Christian Community), can the leaders of the community -- whom the
politicians call "the Church" -remain aloof from their hopes and aspi-
rations, alienated from their struggle, indifferent to their sacrifices and
fears? The Church leaders -Bishops, priests,religious --are not simply
pujaris, whose business is to conduct prayers, offer mass and religious
services inside the four walls of the temples. It is not their business to
launch agitations, strikes etc. Rut it is certainly their duty and
obligation to be in solidarity with their people, share their grievances
and anxieties, give them moral leadership if needed, specially to keep
their struggle imbued with Gospel values, discouraging the use of
violence when not strictly needed in self defence." In a press note issued
by the diocesan Pastoral Council on Jan, 8, 1987 it regretted the
interference of unscrupulous elements in the language agitation, the
destruction of lives and properties, and discriminatory arrests and
BBLETIM DO INSTITUTO MENEZ3 BRAGANCA

harassment of members of a 'particular community". The press note


categorically stated that the Church was in no way connected with the
developments, and it demanded that all violence-should stop forthwith,
no matter from what quarters it originated. (Ren. Jan 15, 1987) .When
the Official Language Bill was passed, the Pastoral bulletin we!comed the
compromise as a better part of realism, though it did not hide its
disappointment manifested in the use of a rather strong expression
"bigamy" to describe the place accorded to Marathi language in the Bill.
(Ren. March 1, 1987, p. 85)

Against Corruption of Youth and the Nature


The Church of Goa hadangered the Goan business community for
spoiling their chances of exploiting the Carnival as "Goan Christian
fesiival". The celebration of Carnival had died down during the last years
of the Portuguese regime, and perhaps only in ~ a ~ u s ~ c m iwas v abetter
l
organized and it coincided with the feast of the Chapel of Suissos. it
commemorated the defeat of Ranes and Bhosles. After liberation, it
was only from 1963 that the Carnival was developed into a tourist
attraction by the Government. It began attracting some opposition from
religious groups owing to growing liberties in dress and behaviour, and
particularly the drug abuse. The Carnivalfloat in New Delhi in 1983 was
regarded by some as "scandalous" and it marked the beginning of arnore
open opposition from the Church. The Pastoral Council issued a circular
strongly objecting to "the values projected during the celebration %
they jeopardised ethical values". The Pastoral bulletin of Feb. 1repeated
the objection next year with'a, stem warning: "Beware of the coming
tamasha". It w m e d the Catholics not to allow their children to be a sort
of prey and pleasure toys for the benefit of the tourist industry",
condemning in the most energetic terms, "this grotesque andhedonistic
business-sponsored and Government sponsored tamasha for the benefit
of some and to the prejudice of manyw.-TheChurch went a step firtherand
the Pastoral Council stated that the use of the Panjim Church square for
the Carnival celebration was hurting the religious feelings of the Catholic
using the said square, for the forthcoming Carnival celebrations (Ren.
CHURCH CARD OR PEOPLE'S CARD IN
GOAN POLITICS?

March 1,1985, p. 98-9). The stand taken by the Church seems to have
had its impact, and the Carnival has been a muted affair ever since, and
the opposition to it is no longer from the Church, but from other socially
concerned individuals and watch-groups that have been keeping a check
on the interest of big business in tourism.

In May 1988 the Goa Diocesan Pastoral Council sub-commission


on tourism expressed deep concern over the erosion of moral values,
economic exploitation, cultural degradation and ecological destruction
that are direct consequences of tourism development. Early November
1990 the Archdiocese of Goa hosted a Consultation on Tourism spon-
sored by the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India. The industrial
commercial lobby is likely to be sore over this interferenceofthe Church
and will interpret it as "politically" motivated. (Ren. Aug.'l5,1988, pp.
290-300, 1 Jan. 1992, pp. 9, 19)

In Conclusion
It is very comfortable for the powers-that-be to have a holy woman
like Mother Theresa just taking awaiall the shit we produce, so that we
go on indefinitely producing the same by-products of our civilisation.
Theliberal-democraticcapitalistworld system iscontended with a hol;
sewage system which it promptly honours with Nobel prizes and other
awards.

The Church in India has begun responding to the poor as required


by the mission of Jesus. At anational convention of Catholics in Bombay
in 1989 the caste discrimination i ~the
. Church was declared a serious sin
to be overcome. At their biennial general meeting in Pune last week the
Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) took up for deliberation
the plight of dalits, women and unorganised labour, and called for
immediate step to improve their lot (Camil Parkhe, "CBCI workshop
on social concerns", The Navhind Times,Panjim ,20-1-92.)

Religion that is not meaningful to cope with life stresses is of no use.


BOLETIM DO INSTITUTO MENEZES BRAGANCA

Religions that have become over-organised have also become fossilised.


All religions begin as instruments of change, but then become
instruments for maintenance of status quo, and even of opression. There
is a dialectic of the priest and the prophet at work in every religion. There
is need of healthy balance between the two roles. Dom elder Camara,
a radical Bishop of Brazil, has a saying: When I help the poor and work
for them, everybody calls me a saint. When I dare to ask the reasons why
they are poor, people call me communist. Well, then I would prefer
to be a communist than a saint." (R.?annikar, 1988).

Someone has said that that religions were started by laymen and
carried on by priests. I believe that Jesus did not start Christianity
as a religion. He was teaching the poor and oppressed masses of his
society a nzw way of living that represented a protest against the
oppressive political rule of Rome and the exploitative domination of the
socio- religious hierarchy of the Jewish society. The basic thrust of his
intervention was social with political implications. The administrative
organisation evolved gradually and so did the new hierarchical
authoritive power of the Church. It was only when Constantine, the
Roman emperor, co-opted the new religion as official religion of the
Church that Christianity in the West became an imperial tool of the
roman empire, while in the East it came under the sway of the Byzantine
empire. This tradition continued under the western colonial and
imperial regimes, There were intra-Church protests all through, but it is
only from the end of the colonial era that the Christianity of the Third
World has been helping the Christianity at large to recover the
Christianity of Jesus. It was in latin America that this recovery began
under the label of Liberation Theology in early 60s. The Western world
was appalled with the use made by liberation theologians of Marxist
analysis of the society and by their willingness to justify violence to
counter state violence, (Rosino Gibellini, 1979;.Alberto Rossa, 1986;
Daniel H. Levine, 1986).

Under the impact of Vatican 11(1963-1965) the Catholic Church


CHURCH CARD OR PEOPLE'S CARD IN
GOAN POLITICS?

opened itself to a new self understanding, but it was still from a Western
perspective. The liberation theology of Latin America was a new
contribution to the self understanding of the Church and it is beginning
to understand the salvation in terms of the kingdom of God that Jesus had
preached, and a kingdom that had its roots in this life. Hence, the
Church has begun to recover the revolutionary potentialities of the
Gospel, which questions the absoluteness of any wordly institutions and
solutions that do injustice to a great majority of God's children who are
promised better times in life after death. The Church has also begun
looking upon itself as People of GOD in pilgrimage andpermanently
in need of self purification. It is an important check against the sacrali-
sati~nof any institution. The Christian revolution consists in refusal to
absolutise any political. order and therein it contains seeds of change and
de-establisation. (Concilium, 1969). To that extent the Christianity,
rather than the institutional churches, is essentially politically subversive.
It is in this sense that Christianity in the Third World has emerged from
its experienceof exploitation at the hands if the Christians from the First .
World and is now able to display the power of the same Christianity as
a counter-culture and a form of social resistance and protest.

Since 1976 the Third World Christian Theologians have come


together in a group known as EATWOT (=Ecumenical Association of
Third World Theologians ) to evolve a counter discourse that is
challenging that west-oriented ad narrowly Christian understanding of
the world and history. The Third World Theology sees the poverty as
experienced by the majority of G,od9schildren as a degradation of the
divine image on earth. It is a social sin to be eradicated. I have spoken to
you today,asa Goan historian but also as a Jesuit priest, and a member of
EATWOT.

I do not claim that prejudices and some class interests do not enter
into the Church led campaigns or social causes, but I feel good about
greater democratisation that is at work in the Church and about the on-
going self-critque in the light of the ~ o s ~principles
el which do not seek
BOLETIM DO INSTITUTO MENEZES BRAGANCA

the welfare of any single community but embrace all in need of love and
concern.

SELECT REFERENCE MATERIALS

I . A Cry for Justice. Compiled by Lionel Fernandes, Teresa


Albuquerque and Louis D7Silva.Bombay, ~ . ~ . ~ . , * 1 9 8 9
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CHURCH CARD OR PEOPLE'S CARD IN
GOAN POLITICS?

--------------------
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Bishop Mar Julius I, Panjim 1988.
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of India, Nov. 20, 1988, pp. 46-7.
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BOLETIM DO INSTITUTO MENEZES BRAGANCA

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,
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GOAN POLITICS?

kingship in.medieva1Europe", Studies in History, 7,1,n.s. (1991),


New Delhi, Sage Publications, pp. 107-134.
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1988" Tripod No. 50, 1989, pp. 40-55.
45 ----- ----------- , ed., Essays in Goan History, Delhi, Concept
---;

Publ. Co.., 1989.


. .

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Conference of Christian Political Activists, Social Scientists and
Theologians, Madras, Jan. 2-4,1986), Madurai. vanguard Press,
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(Statement of the Vth Conference of the Ecumenical Association
ofThird World Theologians, New Delhi, August 17-29, 1981)
Vidyajyoti, February 1982, pp. 8 1-96.
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48.
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Bombay, Examiner Press, 1970.


50. Virginia Fabella, Asia's Struggle for Full Humanity, New York,
Orbis Books, 1980.
5 1. Vishwapriya L. Iyengar, "Fisherpeople of Kerala" EP W , Dec.7,
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