Divided Catholic Church crippled by racist priests -Part II
Posted on March 25th, 2014

H. L. D. Mahindapala

The names of the  205 Catholic priests listed in the anti-Sri Lankan letter sent to UNHRC reveals the low depths to which the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has fallen. It reveals  that the Catholic Church is divided on ethnic lines into two irreconcilable camps. It confirms that the Tamil-wing of the Catholic Church does not sing from the same page of the Bible as the Catholics in the rest of the nation. Like Rev. Fr. S. J. Emmanuel they say alleluia to Tamil racist politics than to the universal brotherhood of non-Tamil Catholics in the Roman Catholic Church. This is not unusual in Tamil Catholicism.  It is in keeping with the racist politics of  Fr. Emmanuel who once declared: “I am a Tamil first and a Christian second.” It  is even reported that  he compared Prabhakaran to Jesus.

Not surprisingly the list of 205 names attested to the anti-Sri Lankan letter sent to UNHRC starts with Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, Catholic Bishop of Mannar, No.1 in the list, and runs down to  Rev. Fr. S. Philip Ranjanakumar, OMI, Vavuniya No.205. The manipulative hand of Bishop Rayappu, perhaps with some nudging from Fr. Emmanuel from abroad, is quite evident in this political move. The deliberate attempt to enlist only the names of the Tamil priests in the North and the East, leaving the Sinhala Catholic priests out, seems to be a direct challenge by the racist Tamil-wing of the Church to the spiritual and temporal power of  Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the highest authority in the Catholic hierarchy in Sri Lanka.

But Bishop Rayappu is out to impress that the Tamil priests are behind him and not under the Cardinal appointed by the Pope. In other words, he is brazenly playing the same political role of Prabhakaran who claimed to be “the sole representative of the Tamils”. Bishop Rayappu is also proclaiming that the Catholic Church is now divided into two separate dioceses, one under his command with the Cardinal Ranjith having whatever is left in the south.

True, Bishop Rayappu has managed to get a couple  of Silvas and Fernandos into his list. Other than that the rest in the list are all “Suntharams” and “Sundaris”. This un-Christian division of the universal Catholic Church into ethnic camps questions whether Rome has any prospect of reconciling the divided Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. Rome is aware of this cleavage but  has been turning a blind  eye for a longtime. It pretends that it does not  exist because it fears that any open attempt to bring both parties together would open the festering wounds in the Church. But the problem cannot  be wished away. It is the racist undercurrents of  the Tamil-wing that is threatening the unitary state of the Church in Sri Lanka. If the Tamil-wing of the Church is bent on dragging the Tamil priests into the anti-Sinhala camp headed by Bishop Rayappu,, as seen in the recent attempt to enlist Tamil priests for Tamil extremism,  what is the future of Catholic Church in Sri Lanka? Isn’t the Church putting up a show of sham unity when the Church is split right down the middle: one played with impunity by Bishop Rayappu and the other more benignly by Cardinal Ranjith.

Ethnic division in the Churches has been a perennial malaise in the post-Chelvanayakam era. Ever since the separatist movement was launched by S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, a member of the Anglican Church in Colombo who switched over to the South Indian Church following his racist politics, the Catholic Church has been fighting a covert battle to maintain the unity of the Church threatened by divisive ethnic politics. The overt acts of Bishop Rayappu reveal that the Church is merely putting up a show of unity to the congregation and the world at large. However, behind closed doors the Church acts very much like the houses of Montagues and Capulets  (Romeo and Juliet) than a shared and sacred refuge for all Catholics. The Church seems to have fallen from the high wall like Humpty Dumpty and it is clear that not all the Pope’s men will be able to put it together again as long as racism rules the Tamil-wing of the Church.

The execrable ethnic extremism of Bishop Rayappu belongs to the Tamil Tigers and TNA and not to the Catholic Church. Some Catholics are quite certain that the day he goes knocking on the Pearly Gate St. Peter will send him directly to the nether world where Prabhakaran and Bishop  Rayappu will be comfortable in each other’s racist company.  He certainly has no place among the saintly angels in heavens above who accept humanity, without distinctions, as the children of God.

Of course, this means that Rome can never promote him to be the leader of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka because he is totally incapable of bringing the divided Church together. He has done enough damage to the Church as it is. The Church needs a healer and not a separatist. His putative campaign asking for justice for the Tamils (why only the Tamils when all other communities too suffered?) is a mere cloak to hide his political objective of seeking revenge. His ceaseless campaigns to vilify Sri Lanka indicate that he has gone  berserk with  his vindictive Tamil  politics.  His idea of reconciliation is retaliation. This is also the cancer eating into all Tamil separatists in the diaspora who are dreaming of the day when Prabhakaran would do a Lazarus and return to lead the Tamils once again into suicidal Nandikadal.

Judging by the quantum of his anti-Sri Lankan activities he can’t be having much time for either man or God.  In contrast the Cardinal and his Bishop in Jaffna, Bishop Savundranayagam, has taken a more responsible attitude towards reconciliation. It is significant that Bishop Savundranayagam’s signature is not in Bishop Rayappu’s list. That seems to be the only silver lining in  the racist clouds darkening the Tamil-wing of the Catholic Church.

This racist role of the Catholic Church has been underplayed and under-reported by the political analysts some of whom are committed Catholics.  Earlier, when the English-educated Vellahlas were ruling the roost in the North the Catholic Church went along with the casteist elite. To accommodate the Vellahla patrons of the Church the hierarchy even established separate pews for the higher caste. The Vellahlas always were allotted the front pews and the low-castes were thrown into the obscure rear.

In other words, the Catholic church was casteist before it became racist.  They sided with the ruling Vellahla elite and legitimized their casteist hierarchy that oppressed and suppressed the fundamental rights of the helpless low-castes, some of whom were not allowed to walk in daylight in case they polluted the sight  of Vellahlas. The casteist culture introduced by Arumuka Navalar reigned supreme in the North. Unlike the Anglican Church which did put up some resistance against the caste-ridden Vellahlas the Catholic Church, by and large, compromised with the fascist political culture of Vellahlas.

Though casteism was an integral part of Hinduism the Catholic Church took over casteism as a part of their Christian culture. One of the most outstanding features of the northern political culture has been the role played by the English-educated, Vellahla Catholics with the official blessings of the Church leaders. The Church had no hesitation is going along with the ruling elite of the day. In the days when the Vellahlas ruled Jaffna with an iron-fist the Catholic collaborated with the Vellahlas elite. When Velupillai Prabhakaran took command of Jaffna and the North the Church readily collaborated with Tamil Tiger fascism. Bishop Rayappu is an unrepentant remnant of the fascist regime of Prabhakaran.

Another feature of the northern political culture is the pre-eminent role played by the Church in driving Jaffna towards racism. Though Jaffna is predominantly Hindu it is the Catholic Church that had taken the lead in Tamil politics. In the south the Buddhist monks play a lead role in shaping  its political culture. In the north the Hindu priests are missing outside their temple premises. Their role has been primarily to service the Hindu community with their socio-religious needs. They confine themselves to performing the rituals which brings them an income. They do not come out to give any political leadership. Not since Arumuka Navalar (1822 ” 1879) led the revolt against Christianity and its intrusive social activities to infiltrate Jaffna culture, including education, has Jaffna produced a single eminent Hindu priest to lead Tamil politics. Swami Vipulananda too played the role of a reformist but his  role was more in the sphere of culture.

It is the Catholic priests who filled the gap. The Catholic Church was successful in penetrating Jaffna society to a larger extent than in the south. They achieved this success by aligning themselves with the Tamil language and mono ethnic Tamil extremism. First they were led by Tamil scholars like Fr. Xavier Thaninayagam who was also linked to the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) through the language issue. I remember seeing him at  Galle Face Green, lending his support with his presence, when the ITAK  staged their first anti-Sinhala Only Bill demonstration in 1956. As a reputed Tamil scholar he must have been moved by the perceived threat to the Tamil language arising from the introduction of the Sinhala Only Bill.  But later, in the post-Vadukoddai period (starting from May 14, 1976) when  Tamil politics  was militarized and when Chelvanayakam’s forehead was marked with a red pottu drawn from the blood of a Tamil militant, the Church as a whole aligned itself  with Prabhakaran and his  brutal politics.

The Church should take its share of responsibility for prolonging the 33-year-old north-south  conflict by aiding and abetting Prabhakaranist violence. They were not helpless bystanders. They were active participants who wielded considerable influence over the LTTE. In the main the Church was the conduit thorough which the Tamil Tiger excesses were either white-washed or justified internationally by the Church. They had no qualms of being a part of the movement, either covertly or overtly. Bishop Rayappu continues to this day the work left undone by Prabhakaran. At the  height of the conflict  he ran  away with the statue  of Holy Mary. Now he drafts anti-Sri Lankan resolutions  to help the American Ambassadress to pursue  her anti-Sri Lankan politics. But the reality is that  neither of these acts has produced any beneficial results  to him, to  his  political cause or to his God.

So how does Bishop Rayappu justify his Tamil racist extremism to his God? Isn’t he a pathetic symbol of Tamil politics in the post-independent era: a monument of labour that produced in the end a mouse like Prabhakaran? Is he now trying to step into the shoes of Prabhakaran to carry on the futile war through other means? Where is that going to take him? Where will it take the Church? Will it not take the Tamil people once again to Nandikadal through rivers of blood?

And with priests like him does the Church need another Satan to undo the monumental foundations laid by  Jesus Christ for peace and reconciliation between man and man and man and God?

3 Responses to “Divided Catholic Church crippled by racist priests -Part II”

  1. Nanda Says:

    Catholic Church has crippled Sri Lanka.
    Kassipu Joeshp Geobbles has crippled both Tamils and Sinhalese. Sri Lanka needs wheel chairs.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:


    The Hindu folk just make Jesus one of the Avatars of God ! Same attitude toward the Buddha.

    The Catholic church is being used by Tamil leaders to acquire more power and land for Tamil Nadu. The CC is used by Tamil leaders to uplift low caste/Dalit origin Tamils of Tamil Nadu, via Lanka.


    It seems that Tamil leaders (politicians, clergy, other VIPs), except for a few, do not care at all for the rest of the folk in Sri Lanka, or whether Lanka is slammed at international fora, or whether Lanka is bifurcated or trifurcated. So Lankans must turn to the Law to protect Lankans, to keep the country whole, as done in Singapore.

    For a start, deport ALL illegal migrants in Lanka.

  3. Ratanapala Says:

    Catholic Church is not divided. In the south they run with the hares and in the north they hunt with the hounds; that is the only difference. These are only appearances to hoodwink those who find it difficult to see the woods for the trees. The agenda of the Catholic Church whether in the south or in the north is the same- Evangelisation and breeding of traitors for the eventual bifurcation and establishment of a Christian Western outpost in Sri Lanka.

    Malcolm Ranjith is just as dangerous as Rayappu Joseph!

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