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BENGALURU, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - Hindus are denouncing the Vatican and the Indian Catholic hierarchy for plagiarizing, misappropriating and altering, "every component of Hindu culture and life" in the name of inculturation and indigenization.
Catholic clergy "usurp Hindu spiritual and cultural heritage and call it 'cultural inclusiveness,'" says Hindu author Aravindan Neelakandan, but "in reality, it is only a theology of aggressive spiritual deceit."
While evangelicals appropriate Hindu symbols to evangelize, it is "particularly Catholics," who "have no compunction in being associated with Hindu religious practices" and simply "incorporate them into their own worship," writes Hindu columnist G.C. Shekar.
"Inculturation, as a strategy, is planned well and executed meticulously through institutes which are exclusively created for the evil purpose. They operate in educational, social, spiritual and fine arts fields," observes Hindu commentator B.R. Haran.
Over the last decade, militant Hindu organizations have begun extensively documenting and publicizing hundreds of examples of liturgical, architectural, philosophical, artistic and other forms of cultural appropriation by Catholic clergy seeking to carry out the project of inculturation.
Hindus are even interpreting the 2019 Amazon Synod's imperative to incorporate indigenous "music and dance, in native languages and clothes, in communion with nature and with the community" as confirmation of their fears and are pointing the finger at Pope Francis for encouraging "cultural appropriation."
At the heart of the experiment is the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Center (NBCLC), founded by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), where the chapel is built in the form of a Hindu temple and an "Indian Rite Mass" is celebrated using Hindu bhajans (choruses), chants from Hindu scriptures, Hindu rituals such as the "aarti," and even the intoning of the greatest Hindu mantra "Om."
"A statue of Mary can be found holding a baby Ganesha (the Hindu elephant deity), in attempt to make her look like Parvati (consort of the deity Shiva)," notes Swarajya Mag.
Catholic writer Michael Prabhu, who has been exposing the "Hinduization" of the Indian Church through extensive research on his blog Ephesians 5:11, told Church Militant that "devout Hindus are greatly concerned that Catholics are hijacking their 'intellectual property.'"
But "if this 'inculturation' matter were not so frightfully serious an issue, I would have enjoyed a hearty laugh at the terribly mistaken apprehensions of our Hindu brothers and sisters," he remarks, explaining how Hindus have completely misunderstood the Catholic inculturation agenda as geared towards evangelization.
I cannot decide which would be more difficult for me: allaying the concerns of our Hindu friends about their fear of our intention to hoodwink them into converting by our adopting and adapting their religious symbols and rituals into our lives and liturgy, or convincing my Catholic friends that the Indian Church is now Hinduized, and that — for the vast majority of clergy — proselytization or evangelization is the last thing on their minds.
"Dozens of my investigative reports establish beyond any shadow of doubt that the Catholic hierarchy is engaged in a systematic Hinduization of all aspects of Church life — they euphemistically call it inculturation or adaptation," he emphasizes.
"By appropriating the philosophies, symbols, rituals, etc. of the majority religion, we are left with a syncretized Christianity," Prabhu laments. "Since all religions are seen as but different roads leading to the same Divine, the need to evangelize is effectively precluded."
Prabhu explains how outcaste "untouchables" who "have converted to Christianity from Hinduism" and "who comprise about 42% of the Christian population [in India], view inculturation as Brahminization, relating to the highest, temple-priest caste of the very religion that they have discarded, Hinduism."
On the other hand, he says, "some of my close friends, converts from Brahmin Hinduism, are completely perplexed and furious with the Indian Church for its blatant Hinduization — appropriating symbols and rituals as well as philosophies particular to the Hindu religion."
Hindus are also objecting to the "growing phenomena of Christian yoga "wherein there is "a conscious removal of key yogic/Hindu concepts while exploiting the popularity of the word," writes Yogi Baba Prem, insisting that one does not need to be a Hindu to practice yoga, but to faithfully give credit to its Hindu origin and goals.
"Hinduism should reclaim its full heritage and not allow other groups to rename its sacred teachings under their banner without a minimal expectation of acknowledgment of its Hindu roots, especially when they have no history of those teachings within their own system," Prem asserts.
Inculturation in India, aggressively promoted after Vatican II, is coming under fire from three quarters. First, faithful Catholics are distraught by what they see as outright syncretism.
Second, converts from the untouchables are traumatized by the importation of Brahminical Hinduism — an oppressive system they thought they had escaped by converting to Catholicism.
Third, Hindus are enraged by what they interpret as "cultural appropriation" — either because it is theologically fashionable or as a strategy for conversion — even though the Indian Catholic hierarchy has effectively announced a moratorium on evangelization, reinterpreting it as "dialogue," "integral liberation," or "making a Hindu a better Hindu."
Speaking to Church Militant, Fr. Bryan Lobo, S.J., dean of the faculty of Missiology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, emphasizes that inculturation is bound to fail if it was used as a "mission strategy."
"This is precisely not inculturation as a natural phenomenon. It leads to proselytization which must be avoided, as repeated quite a few times by Pope Francis," he insists.
"Why can't religious inculturation be looked at as a natural phenomenon which cannot be avoided?" asks Lobo, noting that "appropriation or misappropriation is always a matter of perspective."
"The question is, do we have the right to appropriate any religious symbol as long as it is in the public domain and as long as a reinterpretation of that symbol is not being imposed on that religion to which the symbol belongs?" Professor Lobo queries.
"Christian inculturation must lead to friendship, socialization and non-alienation or reconciliation. If it is for such kind of inculturation that the Hindus and the Dalits misunderstand and sometimes persecute Christians, then the onus of culpability falls on them [Hindus and Dalits]," he stresses.
Lobo clarified he did not support inculturation that is syncretistic as in the icon which depicted the Blessed Virgin Mary cradling the infant Jesus in the form of the Hindu elephant deity Ganesha.
Hindus, however, categorically condemn inculturation as religious theft, reasoning: "Our culture is never separate from our religion."