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Dr. Rajesh Thangaraj, BDS wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a few questions regarding Christianity. I'm from India, a very diverse society in the world. Here there are various religions that are followed by various people.

My question is regarding the caste system and Christianity in India. The basis for the caste system is rig Veda in which an hymn is said where:

  • Brahmins
  • Vaishiyas
  • Chatriyas , and
  • Sudra

are created in different parts of Bhrama. This also depends on ones previous birth, karma. A human takes seven births to finish his karma and reach god. In India, the Christian population is dominated by Dalits, like a caste system. Hindus were caste from Christians who also followed untouchability. Untouchability is the practice of ostracizing a group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom or legal mandate.

In Christianity, it is said that the birth of a human is happens once then one will reach Heaven or he will be in an in-between place depending on the Final Judgement day of Jesus. There are also sayings:

  • to have faith in Jesus and His Resurrection
  • His Ascension into Heaven etc.

In the Mass, the priest says he is consecrating is Jesus' Blood and is Jesus' Body and he encourages the congregation to share in Him and believe in Him, etc.

My questions are:

  • Did Jesus speak about a caste system?
  • If yes, when and where?
  • If no, then why is a caste system followed in the Church all over the country of India?
  • Why are parish priests keeping quite in this issue?
  • What is the purpose of their silence?
  • If that silence is for:
    • money and
    • power and
    • to get a mass movement of people to join the Church

  • What does that say about Jesus and His preaching?
  • Is it a fake Church?

Regarding Pope John Paul II, he took some steps but nothing happened.

  • So far what steps has the Vatican taken to handle this situation?

Kindly answer my questions,

With regards,

Dr. Rajesh Thangaraj. BDS

  { Did Jesus speak about a caste system and why does the Church allow this system in India? }

Mike replied:

Dear Dr. Rajesh,

Thanks for the question.

I can’t comment one your first paragraph below because it deals with Hinduism, a religion based on pantheism: that God is everyone.

While Christians do believe God does manifest Himself through other people and through nature, we do not believe He is physically everywhere. We believe God the Father sent His Son Jesus to save all mankind, including Hindu’s, from their sins. In Christianity there is only one God, Jesus the incarnate God and Man.

You said:
My questions are:

  • Did Jesus speak about a caste system?

No, He didn't.

You said:

  • If yes, when and where?
  • If no, then why is a caste system followed in the Church all over the country of India?

I can’t speak to this as I am not knowledgeable enough with the development of the Catholic Church in Indian history and culture though I believe St. Thomas was sent there to evangelize the Gospel. The concept of a caste system in the Church makes no sense to me.

Yes, there is a hierarchy of clergy in the Catholic Church but it is a call to various degrees of service, not separation for any social or other cultural reasons.

You said:

  • Why are parish priests keeping quite in this issue?
  • What is the purpose of their silence?
  • If that silence is for:
    • money and
    • power and
    • to get a mass movement of people to join the Church

  • What does that say about Jesus and His preaching?
  • Is it a fake Church?

Maybe my colleagues can provide addition insight on this subject that I am unaware of.

Sorry,

Mike

Dr. Rajesh replied:

Hello Mike,

Thanks for your reply.

Sorry, the caste system is part of the Indian culture present in Christianity today. That is, those people who converted to Christianity brought the caste system, which is purely a Hindu tradition, along with them. None of the priests, fathers, or sisters in India are opposing this culture.

This caste system culture is wide spread in both North and South India.

Christians of the upper caste will follow or are following an untouchable law that is a Hindu tradition in churches very openly. Out of the total Christian population in India, 70% of the people belong to Dalits community, that is the lower caste and untouchable, as believed by the upper caste Christians! The remaining 30% is upper caste people. If you take the total number of bishops in India out of 200+ bishops, only six are very Dalits.

A upper caste family will not marry a lower caste boy or girl, even if they were openly advertising in the newspapers:

Roman Catholic Nadar groom wanted; bride from the same caste.

The Church knows very well about these inequalities in Christianity in India but She is keeping quite. She is not ordering the people not to follow Hindu culture. In fact, this silence from the Church indirectly facilitates people to follow caste system of the Hindu culture.

That's why I asked, Why is your Church is doing this?

If you could do something to eradicate this caste system in Christianity in India, Jesus would bless you a lot.

Kindly do something to fulfill my request.

With regards,

Dr. Rajesh Thangaraj

John replied:

Dear Dr. Thangaraj —

Jesus did not speak specifically to the caste system, as it He preached primarily to Jews living under Roman rule so there was no specific caste system as found in India. However, Jesus did speak to the issues surrounding social justice . . . commanding us and all men to love God and one another as they love themselves. That includes feeding the poor and so forth. It also includes treating all men justly so the principles of the Indian caste system are not harmonious with the principles of Christianity.

Priests are called to preach the entire Gospel, starting with the needy to come to Christ and including all His teachings on faith and morals.

As I understand it, the situation in India is such that conversions are not allowed. You are whatever religion your parents are and no religion is allowed to proselytize . . . at least this what an Indian priest told me who is a friend of mine. That being the case, Catholic priests in India may be restricted in what they say about other religions. Certainly Catholics are not allowed to observe the caste system or participate in the injustices of this system.

Christianity however is different than other religions because it is not a religion of works so before the Gospel speaks to social issues, it's primary purpose is to bring you Christ. The closer you get to Christ, the more you convert your heart to the truth and turn away from sin and injustice so a priest's first job is bring people to Christ.

This is the same in every nation. We have many injustices in the United States. Today the greatest is abortion. In prior centuries, it was slavery. Catholic priests speak out against these evils but it isn't their primary role. Their primary role is to instruct us in the faith and to allow God to make those changes in our heart that lead us away from such evil. An addition problem we have is even when priests do preach, they often will not speak out enough. That is because even priests are men. They are not perfect.

The Church's primary function is not to change men, by changing society. The Church's function is to save souls, so that the Holy Spirit, might change men's hearts, so that men will change society and rectify injustices.

If Catholics in India observe the caste system then it is they, as individuals including priests, who are not being faithful to the Teachings of Christ just as in the West, we have Catholics who violate Church teaching by supporting:

  • legalized abortion
  • homosexual marriages or
  • whatever other sinful behavior.

I'm not diminishing the responsibility of the Church as a whole to speak the truth in love but the Church from day one, has had it's share of sinners. I can't speak to the specific restrictions and persecutions that may burden the Church in India, hence the Church must balance the pastoral need to protect Her members, with the need to speak the truth at the risk of persecution.

We live sadly in an imperfect world.

With your permission, I would like to forward this exchange to Father Allen Anonymous in India. He was here in Boston studying at [Educational Institution suppressed] and also assisted at my parish. We became good friends. Perhaps he might give us insights and perhaps he would be willing to engage in a dialogue with you and help answer your questions.

I hope this helps,

John DiMascio

Richard replied:

Dear Dr. Rajesh,

I don't know much about this topic, but a search on the internet has brought me these reports of efforts against the influence of the caste system:

This article notes that some Christians do have a caste mentality, in the words of Cardinal Gracias.

Also, I found a recent appeal from three bishops to Pope Francis. [PDF] They describe the multiple forms of discrimination in society and even in the Church against Dalits, and they appeal to the Pope to appoint more Dalit bishops and reduce discrimination within the Church.

I hope this information will be useful.

With best wishes,

Richard Chonak

Dr. Rajesh replied:

Dear Mike and friends,

I know this issue is unique to India. I have discussed this with many people in person with no responses. Without solving this issue no soul can reach Jesus because this is absolutely the opposite of what Jesus would teach and preach.

In other words, we are filling a bucket with water that has a huge hole at the bottom. It won't get filled up without closing that hole. Currently, whatever effort is made to fill it with water is a waste of time, work, and energy.

As to the Christian caste system case in India:

  • the water is Jesus
  • the bucket is the soul, and
  • the hole is the caste belief, and
  • the filling persons are the priests and the Church.

Thanks!

With regards,

Dr. Rajesh Thangaraj

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