Book Published by THE BAUDDHA JATIKA BALAGEVAYA 1963 Chapter 10
Part 1 – IN POLITICS
The very term “Catholic Action” was not known even among the non-Catholic English educated intelligentsia of Ceylon until the publication of the report of the Buddhist Committee of Inquiry, or more popularly known as the Buddhist Commission Report, in February 1956. There had of course been a general feeling among the Buddhists public servants that some of the Roman Catholic officers occupying key positions in various Government Departments were pursuing a policy of discrimination against Buddhists and in favour of Roman Catholics in administrative matters such as appointments, promotions and scholarships. They, however, attributed this to the clannishness of a minority community rather than to the deliberate scheming of an organized body.
The same allegation was in fact levelled against Tamil officers in key positions. It was the Buddhist Commission Report which revealed that these discriminatory acts were the result of the machinations called ’Catholic Action.’ Discussing the non-religious activities of religious bodies, the Buddhist Commission Report said: “The most prominent among them (non-religious activities) is the movement designated “Catholic Action”. “Catholic Action is a movement started by the Pope (Incl: Ignatius Loyola/ local Jesuits who have access to local laymen.) all over the world among Catholic laymen, embracing all activities from the intellectual to the manual, to the social to the political. It emphasizes the promotion of Catholic aims by the lay apostolate. Father S.G. Perera, SJ, explains the political aim of Catholic Action in a lecture published under the title: “Catholics and Civil Responsibilities” as the “devising of means to bring about harmonious agreement between Church and State in politics.” Catholic Action groups are found in every Government department and mercantile firm, directed and guided by the Catholic Hierarchy furthering Catholic interests and promoting the interests of Catholics through the use of official positions. In thisway the Hierarchy is kept informed of Government activities and the public servants given directives as regards their official acts. This is how harmonious agreement between Church and State is brought about.” (The Betrayal of Buddhism. An abridged version of the report of the Buddhist Committee of Inquiry, p21) The revelation that there was an organized movement called Catholic Action and that the members of this movement, most of whom were high officials holding key positions in public service, were being given instructions by an outside body with regard to such matters as appointments, promotions and scholarships, gave an entirely different complexion to the situation, and soon Buddhist public servants began to be vigilant about the activities of Catholic officers in their departments.
On 20th January, 1957, the Venerable Narada Maha Thero of Vajiraramaya, Bambalapitiya, addressed an open letter to the late Prime Minister, Hon. SWRD. Bandaranaike, pointing out to him the extent to which Catholic Action had infiltrated into key positions in the Armed Services, the police and various other Governmental departments and warning him of the danger of the movement. This letter which contained matters of vital importance to the people of the country, and written by a monk well-known for his piety, learning and disinterestedness in politics, was entirely blacked out by the daily Press. As a matter of fact, by this time the daily Press had been successfully “permeated with the Christian Spirit” by Catholic Action, and hence would not publish anything which put the Catholic Church or the Catholic Action Movement in an unfavourable light.
The Catholic Action Movement in fact, appears to have become very active in Ceylon from the time it realized that Ceylon would become politically independent and that as a result there might be a revival of Buddhism and Hinduism, the two indigenous religions which had been suppressed for centuries. Under British rule, every Christian Church had been incorporated by law and this legal act had given them very wide powers.
The Roman Catholic Church had been incorporated under Roman Catholic Bishop Ordinance No. 19 of 1906 and under this enactment, the Archbishop had become a Corporate soul, having perpetual succession and vested with full powers “to acquire, purchase, take hold and enjoy movable and immovable property of
every description, and to sell or otherwise dispose of same.” In terms of this Ordinance, the Roman Catholic Archbishop also had the right to invest money in business or industrial undertakings and in fact he possessed every power the law was capable of granting. And on the other hand, he as a Corporate soul with perpetual succession, was not liable to death duty. He was not obliged to render accounts either to the members of the Church or to the Government. In addition, he was also exempted from all taxes including Income Tax. The nett result of all this was that when this country gained Independence, the Roman Catholic Church was the wealthiest and the most powerful organization outside the Government.
Thus when the Roman Catholic Church realized that political independence was soon becoming a reality, it sought to perpetuate its powers under the changed conditions, by having them safeguarded by the new constitution which granted independence to the country.
Sir Ivor Jennings, who drafted the Order-in-Council (Independence of Ceylon) has revealed that proviso to Section 29 (2) (d): “was SLIGHTLY amended in final drafting to meet the views of the Roman Catholics.” The amendment is as follows:
“Provided that in any case where a religious body is incorporated by law, no such alteration shall be made except at the request of the governing authority of that body”.
Discussing the effects of this proviso the Buddhist Commission Report says:
“Parliament in Ceylon may reduce the powers of the Queen, but it cannot reduce the powers of the Christian Religious bodies. Over Ceylon, Christianity sits enthroned, and Ceylon bound hand and foot has been delivered at the foot of the CROSS.” (Betrayal of Buddhism – p31)
United National Party.
Just one year before the grant of Independence, the United National Party was formed by the amalgamation, or to be more precise, by the coalition of
several political parties. Such diverse elements as the Ceylon National Congress, the Sinhala Maha Sabha, the Tamil Congress and the Muslim league went to form the United National Party. There was no Catholic party as such, but the most united group within the United National Party, and having a strong sense of purpose and determination, was the Catholic group in the Party.
We are in a position to reveal that there was an ‘Inner Cabinet’ to advise the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon, Mr. D.S. Senanayake, on State policy as well as on the day-to-day administration, and that this Cabinet comprised entirely of Catholics. Three Catholic knights and a Catholic historian used to meet Mr. D.S. Senanayake at lunch once a week at the Senate building and State affairs were discussed at this meeting. We are sure that the late Mr. D.S. Senanayake did not for a moment suspect that these gentlemen were Catholic Actionists who were acting under the direction of the Catholic Hierarchy and were seeking to influence his policies so as to make them favourable to the Church. But in retrospect, we see how all his actions were influenced by the advice tendered by this Catholic ‘Inner Cabinet.’
This ‘Inner Cabinet’ saw to it that the newly formed Armed Forces: the Army, the Navy and the Air Force were subjected to “Christian penetration”. More than 75% of the staff posts in the Army, 95% in the Navy and more than 60% in the Air Force were manned by Roman Catholics and practically every key post was filled by one of them. Care was taken to see that even the post of the Civilian Administrator, a post filled by an officer belonging to the Accountants’ Service was always held by a Catholic or a Christian in each of the Armed Forces.
Once the key positions were captured by Catholics, they saw to it that the Catholic power within the Armed Forces was maintained unimpaired. They did this by discriminating against Buddhists and other non-Catholics in the matter of recruitment, training and promotions. And this goes on in the Armed Forces even today.
In fairness to the late Mr. D.S. Senanayake it must be said he was quite ignorant of the fact that there was a world-wide organization called the Catholic Action Movement controlled and directed by that part of the Hierarchy who had taken the Jesuit Oath, namely the Order of Jesuit Priests. They had as their ultimate objective the Catholicization of every country and resorted to infiltration tactics to achieve that objective. Mr. Senanayake had a genuine fear of Communism, and the Catholics in the United National Party, and especially the members of the ‘Inner Cabinet’ who were in close contact with the Roman Catholic Hierarchy worked on that fear and led Mr. Senanayake into the belief that while a Buddhist or a Hindu may be a Communist in secret, a Roman Catholic will always be an anti-Communist. It was thus that the Armed forces of a country with a 75% Buddhist population came to be dominated by Roman Catholics who comprise only 7% of the total population.
This all Catholic Inner Cabinet was in no small measure responsible for the rift between Mr. D.S. Senanayake and Mr. SWRD. Bandaranaike which ultimately led to the latter’s resignation from the post of Minister of Local Administration and his breakaway from the United National Party. Mr. Bandaranaike, as Leader of the House and most senior member of the Cabinet was the virtual successor to Mr. D.S Senanayake as Prime Minister. But his policies were far too socialist and nationalist for the liking of the Catholic Church. Worst of all, Mr. Bandaranaike was insisting that due place must be accorded to the Buddhist religion and the Sinhala language.
There is also no doubt that this Inner Cabinet was responsible for getting down Dr. H.W. Howes, a leading Catholic Activist of England who was functioning at the time as the Director of Education in the tiny British Catholic colony of Gibraltar and installing him as the Director of Education of Ceylon. We shall refer to his activities later.
Another act of Mr. D.S. Senanayake which worked against the interests of the Buddhists was the manning of the Public Services Commission entirely by non-Buddhists. The Soulbury Commission intended the Public Services Commission to be an independent body immune from pressure from outside, political or otherwise. The P.S.C. however, soon became the champion of minority religious and minority racial groups and sought to maintain the Colonial structure of the Public Service which favoured the Christians and the Tamils. This was generally done by “packing” the selection boards with Catholics Christians and Tamils. Catholic Action naturally lost no opportunity in making full use of this attitude of the P.S.C. and to grab as many posts as possible for Catholics in the Public
Service. As a matter of fact, within six years, i.e., 1948 to 1954, the Apostolate of Public Institutions of the Catholic Action Movement was able to infiltrate into the Treasury, the Customs, the Education Department, theGovernment Stores, the Department of Social Services, the Department of National Housing, the Income Tax Department, the Fisheries Department, the State Mortgage bank, and various other Government Departments and to “Christianize” them systematically in accordance with the instructions from the Vatican.
Buddhists who expected that discrimination against them would cease once and for all now that the country was politically independent, soon realized that discrimination of a far more subtle, far more pernicious nature was being exercised against them in the new set-up. It was at this stage that a Buddhist Congress deputation led by Dr. G.P. Malalasekera met Mr. D.S. Senanayake and asked him to appoint a Commission to look into the grievances of the Buddhists. Mr. Senanayake was most sympathetic to this demand and asked the deputation to meet him again and submit a list of names of persons who should be appointed to the proposed Commission. However, when they met the Prime Minister the next time, his attitude had undergone a radical change. He was brusque in his attitude to the deputation which comprised a number of Venerable Theras in addition to prominent Buddhist leaders. He asked the delegation whether “the Buddhists wanted a Fourth Refuge in Government in addition to the Three Refuges: Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha?” Could it be that the Inner Cabinet was responsible for this change of attitude on the part of Mr. D.S. Senanayake??
It was after this re-buff that the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress took steps to appoint the Buddhist Committee of Inquiry at its Annual Sessions at Kegalle held on 27th December, 1953.
Mr. D.S. Senanayake died in March 1952 and his son Mr. Dudley Senanayake became the Prime Minister. Mr. Dudley Senanayake resigned inSeptember 1953 and Sir John Kotelawala succeeded him as the Prime Minister.
In March, 1955, the Government appointed a Commission to go into the question of taxation and this Commission recommended inter alia that the income earned by religious bodies from lands, rents, investments and other profit earning activities should be brought under the provisions of the Income Tax Ordinance and be taxed like any other commercial undertaking. The Government prepared a draft amendment in terms of this recommendation. This was, however, vehemently opposed by the Catholic Church. When the draft came before the cabinet for discussion, the Rev. Father Peter A. Pillai, leader of the Catholic Action Movement in Ceylon, was invited to the Cabinet meeting to present the Catholic Church’s point of view. After this meeting the proposal to tax the profit /earnings of non-religious activities of religious bodies was quietly dropped by the Government and the Catholic Church continued to be exempted from taxation.
The invitation of an outsider to be present at a Cabinet meeting was quite an unprecedented thing in the history of Parliamentary Government.
It was only in 1959, after a great deal of agitation on the part of the Buddhists, that legislation was introduced to bring religious bodies within the scope of the Income Tax Ordinance.
During the years 1954 and 1955 the official language question came into the forefront and there was a general demand that Sinhalese should be declared the official language of the Country. The Catholic Hierarchy realized that it would soon lose its dominant position if Sinhalese was made the official language of the country and accordingly advised the Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala to hold a snap election in 1956. It will be remembered that 1956 was the year when the 2,500th anniversary of the Parinibbana of the Buddha was due to be celebrated and the entire Buddhist population of the country was looking forward to this event. The decision to dissolve the Parliament and to have a General Election during the Buddha Jayanthi Year came as a surprise and a shock to them.
“Janatha” the Lake House Sinhalese evening daily reported in its issue of 10th. September, 1955 under the banner headlines: General election
is at hand:
“It is learned that a leading member of the Christian Hierarchy in the Island, has advised the Prime Minister that the time is most opportune to have a general election as the demand to make Sinhala the official language was again spreading like a wildfire. This was bound to create divisions in the country and if that happens, it would be a serious blow to the Government Party . . . This has become a very serious problem to the Catholic Hierarchy.”
Sir John Kotelawala, a Buddhist Prime Minister took the advice given him by the Catholic Hierarchy and dissolved the Parliament prematurely ignoring the vehement opposition of the Buddhist clergy and the laity and held the elections during the Buddha Jayanthi Year with disastrous results to himself and to his party! Such was the influence wielded by the Catholic Hierarchy and the Catholic Action Movement over the leaders of the United National Party.
Mahajana Eksath Peramuna. The report of the Buddhist Committee of Enquiry was published in February 1956 and Mr. Bandaranaike and all other
candidates fighting on the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna ticket gave an undertaking in writing that if their party came into power they would implement its proposals. The most important proposal made by the Committee was with regard to education. The Committee proposed that all assisted schools should be taken over by the State and a unified system of education be established.
Mr. Bandaranaike’s party had a landslide victory at the 1956 elections and the pledge to the Buddhists was in no small way responsible for this victory. Mr. Bandaranaike became the Prime Minister.
However, notwithstanding the promise that Mr. Bandaranaike as leader of the M.E.P. had given to the people, the Catholic members of the new Government, Messrs. Stanley de Zoyza, Jim Munasinghe, Hugh Fernando and Aloysius Weerakoon began to assert from public platforms that it was not a
the interests of the country to take over the assisted schools, that the demand was made by a few Buddhists extremists, and that the Government had never given an undertaking to take over the schools or to establish a unified system of education. So, the Catholic Church was somehow able to win over Mr. W. Dahanayake, Minister of Education to its own point of view. Earlier, Mr. Dahanayake had been an ardent advocate of a unified state school system and had demanded that “Denominationalism must be rooted out neck and crop.”
In August 1959, exactly a month before he met with his tragic death, Mr. Bandaranaike gave a firm undertaking to a deputation from the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress that he would soon take steps to take over all assisted schools and reform the entire system of education.
The proposed Commission to inquire into the political aspects of the Bandaranaike assassination may reveal how for this decision of Mr. Bandaranaike contributed to his tragic death.
It is, however, significant that Mr. Bandaranaike met his death at the hand of a Buddhist monk who was a drug addict and that the prime mover of this crime was another Buddhist monk who moved closely in Catholic circles.
We now come to more recent events:
In the manifesto issued by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party under the leadership of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the General Elections July, 1960, the party gave a definite undertaking that if it was returned to power, it would take over all assisted schools and establish a unified and national system of education. Despite this pledge, the party candidate for Trincomalee, Mr. ERSR. Coomaraswamy, a Catholic, assured his voters at election meetings that the assisted school system will never be disturbed bya Freedom Party Government – thus showing that a Catholic’s loyalty to his Church was above his loyalty to his country, to his people and to his party. Mr. Coomaraswamy’s statement naturally caused a great deal of embarrassment, to the other Freedom Party candidates.
When the schools take-over bill came before the Parliament, Catholic Action tried its utmost to prevent it from becoming law. It organized mass protest meetings of Catholics and attempted to get the support of Buddhist monks who were managers of schools, to oppose the Government move. It organized parents’ rallies, mothers’ rallies and students’ rallies. It started a character assassination campaign against the Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Education and also the Prime Minister. The Bill became law despite the massive Catholic opposition. Once the Bill became law, however, Catholic Action hired men and women to occupy the Catholic Schools, and thus attempted to prevent the implementation of the Law. The Government, however, stood firm and the Hierarchy was compelled to get down Cardinal Gracias from India to find a way out of the tangle they had created for themselves.
To what extent the Catholic Church and Catholic Action has been responsible bedeviling the relations between the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Tamil Hindus it is difficult to say. The Catholic Church however, appears to have wielded great influence over Tamil politicians who adopted an anti Sinhala
policy or a separatist policy. Messrs. GG. Ponnambalam and C. Suntheralingham recently declared publicly that they took up ministerial posts in the Senanayake government on the advice of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaffna.
The policy of the Roman Catholic Church since Independence, has been to exploit the political and linguistic differences between the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Tamil Hindus, and thus prevent these two communities from being united. A Hindu –Buddhist Unity would naturally militate against the expansionist activities of the Catholic Church both in the North and in the South and the Church appear to be determined to prevent this.
In a pamphlet written by Rev. Charles Wickramanayake and circulated among the members of the Diocesan Council of the Church of Ceylon in October, 1958, he says: ”Long before the politicians raised the cry, a Bishop of God in Jaffna is said to have raised the cry, ”Tamil is in peril” and the Christian Church of God in Jaffna is accused of having persisted in this policy, even though a Mrs. Menon from India had said that this cry was absurd.”
A Catholic priest may not write to the press without the express permission of his Bishop. Canon Law is very clear on the point. It declares that “any priest who writes articles in daily newspapers or periodicals without the permission of his Bishop contravenes Canon 1286 of the Code of the Canon Law.” Tamil Catholic priests like Rev. Fr. Xavier S. Thaninayagam and A. Mathuranayagam, however, not only wrote to the Press against the language policy of the Government and demanded parity of status for Tamil and Sinhala as an official language, but also took an active part in protest meetings and demonstrations organized by the Federal Party over this issue. Rev. Fr. Thaninayagam went so far as to bring grave accusations against the Government before foreign audiences. (CDN. 15.8. 1956)
There is no doubt that these Tamil Catholic priests had the blessings of their Hierarchy. We are also aware that Sinhala Catholic priests like Reverend Father Joe Quintus Perera who supported the Government’s language policy were silenced by the same Hierarchy by threatening him with action under the Canon Law.
Next to the United National party, the Federal party has been subjected to the process of “Christian penetration” by Catholic Action. The Federal party is predominantly a Tamil Party – with only a small handful of Muslims. It must be pointed out in this connection that while only 7% of the Sinhalese population is Catholic by religion, the percentage of Catholicsamong the Ceylon Tamils is as high as 21%. The pressure of the “Pope’s block vote” must, therefore, naturally be greater on the Tamil politicians than on the Sinhala politicians. This explains why the members of Parliament belonging to the Federal Party have become champions of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Action Movement, inside and outside parliament. The Federal Party has also toed the Catholic Church’s line on all important issues that came up before parliament, although their stand has been against the interests of the greater majority of the Tamil Hindus. Some such issues were the Paddy Lands Bill, the taxation of Religious Bodies Bill, and the Schools Takeover Bill. The Federal Party is also for the continuance of the
Catholic domination in the Armed Forces although the Tamil Hindus, just as much as the Sinhalese Buddhists, have been discriminated against by the Catholic High Command in these Forces.
In its task of “permeating the temporal order with Christian principles” Catholic Action in every country pays special attention to the press.
Speaking of the influence of Catholic Action on the American press Emmet McLoughlin says in his book: ”American Culture and Catholic Schools” “The
most important channel for Catholic censorship and propaganda is still the Press. The Hierarchy does its best to keep unfavourable news out of the daily papers and our national magazines. This would include such un-American activities of the clergy in other parts of the world, negotiations by the Vatican with totalitarian powers, questionable actions of the American clergy such as the arrest of a priest for drunk and reckless driving (especially with a parishioners wife in the same car). This censorship is usually achieved through Catholic members of the newspapers’ local staff and the ever present Damocles’ Sword of the threat of a subscription boycott by the large Catholic public or an advertising boycott of the Catholicmerchants (p140)
The daily press in Ceylon is no less subservient to the Catholic Church than its counterpart in North America. Catholic Action has been very successful in infiltrating both the important newspaper groups in Ceylon. The Times Group of newspapers is in fact managed and edited by militant Catholic Actionists, although some of the important shareholders of the group are prominent Buddhists like Messrs. Henry Amarasuriya, and Donald Ranaweera. This group of papers is well and truly run as a propaganda machine of the Catholic Church supporting what the Church supports and opposing what the Church opposes. The policy of the Times Group of papers is said to be formulated by no less a person the Archbishop of Colombo himself.(Circa 1963)
In the course of an address delivered at the presentation of the Buddhist Commission Report to the Maha Sangha and the Buddhist public at Ananda College on the 4th. February 1956, Mr. L.H. Mettananda referred to the Lake House newspapers and said:
“The Roman Catholic Church with its vast resources is openly and blatantly exploiting the poverty, the ignorance and the helplessness of the Buddhist masses. The Buddhists have no way of ventilating their grievances and getting them redressed in this democratic land of ours. The Lake House newspapers which support the Government and the Roman Catholic Church pay no heed to the grievances of the Buddhists. On the other hand these papers publish glowing tributes to the Catholic clergy and nuns and give prominence to Roman Catholic Parades and processions. They also suppress any form of local news critical of, or detrimental to the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time they advise the Buddhists to be tolerant. The Dinamina, the Silumina and the Janata fool the fool the Bhikkhus and the Sinhalese reading public, while the Daily News and the Observer ridicule the Bhikkhus, the Sinhalese teachers and the Ayurvedic physicians and the Sinhalese reading public in general. The Government rejoices at all these, so does the Roman Catholic Church.”
Mr Mettananda went on to say:
“We are asking that the youth of the country be freed from missionary control. Today it is not only the education of the young that is endangered. The adults receive their education largely through the Press. We have no grievance against the Times which is a Catholic controlled newspaper. But we have every right to expect the Lake House newspapers: The Daily News, the Observer, the Dinamina, the Janata and the Silumina to be run as national newspapers. They were started by a great patriot of this country, the late D.R Wijewardena, at the request of another patriot the late Sir D.B. Jayatilake. It was the late Mr. Wijewardena, who left by will two lakhs of rupees for the construction of the University Sangharama. The Lake House newspapers are run by his son-in-law, Mr. Esmond Wickremasinghe, who happens to be a member of a Christian family. He has filled the editorial staff and other key posts of the Lake House with Christians,
especially Roman Catholics. His general policy is to decry the Sinhala Language and Buddhism, and to the extole the virtues of Christianity and English. He runs his newspapers as official organs of vested interests and foreign interests. There is scarcely anything national in his English newspapers. But as his income comes chiefly from the Sinhalese reading public, he gives his Sinhala newspapers a local look which, however, rapidly undergoes a change when it suits him. His inconsistency can be seen from the fact that his English newspapers support English as the State language and ridicule the Sinhala medium child as a monkey-faced idiot, and Dutugemunu as a pot-bellied drunkard, while his Sinhala newspapers appear to support Sinhalese as the State language and appear to ridicule the denationalizedsection of our society.”