The Diocese of Cadiz Condemns the Veneration of an Indian Deity in a Church

Source: FSSPX News

Ganesh, the "elephant-god".

In Spain, the Church authorities have intervened to end the scandal of syncretistic prayers in a sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady.

While the episcopal statement is firm in its condemnation, it does leave several open questions.

It was nothing new: every year for eight years now, inter-religious ceremonies are held in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Africa, in Ceuta, a city in northern Morocco, in Spanish territory.

Thus on Sunday, August 27, 2017, for Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival in which of the elephant-headed god that is supposedly Shiva’s son is particularly venerated, an effigy of the pagan divinity was brought into the sanctuary dedicated to the Blessed Virgin with the permission of the local ecclesiastical authority.

There Hindu children recited an Our Father at the foot of the statue of Our Lady while the Catholic faithful intoned a hymn to Mary… in homage to the god Ganesh!

The Reaction of the Diocese

The scandal nevertheless ended differently than last year: alerted by many Catholic faithful, the diocese of Cadiz, to which the sanctuary belongs, reacted with a public statement condemning the act.

Bishop Rafael Zornoza, the local ordinary and therefore judge of the matter, expressed his

deep sorrow for this unfortunate fact that has caused damage, confusion or scandal in the Christian community, and as representative of the Church in Cadiz, apologized to all those who were hurt, scandalized or troubled in their faith by this act.

When confronted, the rector of the sanctuary, Fr. Juan José Mateo, who is also the episcopal vicar, “acknowledged that it was a mistake” , according to the statement from the diocese that mostly sought to calm things down by arguing that the priest lost control of the turn of events:

He didn’t intend, at any moment, to venerate anything outside of our only and true God, for his intention was only to welcome the sign of respect that the Hindu community wanted to offer towards the Christian community and the Patroness of Ceuta, and not to celebrate a joint interreligious event. [...] He has presented his resignation, which was accepted.

This reaction, inspired by the justly scandalized faithful, is an opportunity for us to recall an important truth of the Faith: the Church refuses to allow any divinity other than the true God to be adored, especially in one of her sanctuaries. This is the first divine injunction; the first commandment given by God to Moses (Exodus 20:2-5) stipulates that the people must refuse idols and worship only God.

Not Only an Old Testament Commandment

This injunction is repeated many times in the New Testament, especially in St. Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians: “Neither become ye idolaters” (I Cor. 10:7) . St. Peter, the first pope, exhorted Christians to be faithful to the true God and to His only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior of men: “Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) . 

The Church has even written into her Canon Law her horror for the profanation of sanctuaries by impious acts that are insults to God and to the holiness of the place, and a great scandal for the faithful. It is no longer permitted to celebrate worship in a profaned sanctuary until reparation has been made with penitential rites.

Let us note that, after a welcome display of firmness, the diocese of Cadiz and Ceuta felt the need to add in its statement that “in no case is the love of the members of the Hindu community or their beliefs rebuked”. 

This is perfectly in keeping with the new approach to non-Christian religions developed by the Second Vatican Council in the declaration Nostra Aetate. In its second paragraph, the October 23, 1965 document considers Hinduism and Buddhism in a very positive light. It claims that through Hinduism, to which the cult of Ganesh belongs, “men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry” (sic). Furthermore, the conciliar declaration goes on to say, the Church

regards with sincere reverence (their) ways of conduct and of life, (their) 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.

This sort of language scarcely fits in with the examples of the missionaries who, in the footsteps of a St. Francis Xavier or a St. John de Britto, did not hesitate to risk their lives for the true Faith and to attack pagan myths, the influence of the Brahmins, and the worship of idols.

Is this Condemnation Enough?

While it is most fortunate that the syncretistic act that took place on August 27 was condemned, must we not wonder at the confusion that seems to have been spreading for fifty years now? How have the faithful and priests come to behave in such a way? At the root of such errors are interreligious dialogue and ecumenism, both of which make the spirit of faith lose its strength and savor, like the salt in the Gospel (see Matt. 5:13). The conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate, by considering relations between Catholics and infidels in an irenic and positive way, carries a grave responsibility.

In the same way, this type of syncretistic meeting finds an echo in the incorporation into the Catholic liturgy of rituals and gestures from other religions. As Marie Malzac recalls in La Croix, in 1969, under Paul VI’s pontificate, four years after Nostra Aetate, the Vatican authorized “twelve elements of adaptation” for celebrating Mass according to Indian customs, such as bowing with one’s hands joined in front of one’s nose as a replacement for genuflecting and the kiss of peace, or the use of incense, flowers and oil lamps in a pagan way. But even in the country of the maharadjas, the “Indianization” of the Mass is no longer all the rage, and the journalist for La Croix points out that in the past several years “Indian Christians have preferred the Roman rite, with altar servers and lace surplices”.