Archishop's present stand on terrorism

Mario Perera Kadawata

Under the caption : "The archbishop speaks out the reality", Infolanka reproduces the folowng quote; "The Venerable Archbishop of Colombo Oswald Gomis has with tremendous courage expressed his views in the Vatican Radio that the opportunities for a dialogue with the LTTE is basically nonexistent as the war has reached a decisive stage and added that fighting will likely prove to be the only to end the conflict." Archbishop Gomis struck his note on the truth that has often been overlooked by many.

No doubt it took a lot of courage for the archbishop to make this statement. No doubt also that ground realities made such an assessment inevitable. That many Jaffna catholic priests (and nuns) were overt supporters of the LTTE is no secret. None probably went so far in this support than a once high dignitary of the Jaffna diocese, a one time Vicar General (the bishops right hand man), who was also a one time rector of St.Xavier's Seminary, the premier institute for training priests for that diocese. The individual concerned is Fr.S.J.Emmanual. The nexus between bishop, priests and .seminarians is all too clear to play the ostrich's game.

I wish to forward to you for reprint in your reputed columns the article I wrote to the Island and bearing the date Thursday 6th Jult 1995. This was in reply to a shocking statement made by Fr.S.J.
Emmanual. I wish to state that NO ONE of the catholic hierarchy of this country, whether archbishop. Bishop or priest, took Fr.Emmanual to task for denigrating the teachings of the Church. Only an insignificant layman did so, and that was I. This fact lies confirmed by articles that appeared in the newspapers at that time and still in my possession.

Catholic Tamil priests and the cult of martyrdom
I refer to 'Lost innocence (five)' by Amita Abeyesekera, in the Island of the 5th May. Rev.Fr.S.J.Emmanual from St.Francis Xavier's Seminary, Jaffna, is quoted by Amita making pronouncements that are absolutely shocking to any catholic ear. I cite the two relevant paragraphs. "Surprisingly, the Tamil Tigers' cult of martyrdom receives sanctions from many priests and pundits. Fr.Emmanual, a catholic explains his Tamil militancy: First, I was born a Tamil, then I became a Christian? I can't forget that heritage".

Even the Tiger's suicide-killings are theologically acceptable, the priest insists: The church refused to let suicides have a Christian burial. But for me, these boys and girls aren't suicides, they're martyrs. They are giving up their lives for a higher cause".

First and foremost Fr.Emmanual has blundered in his interpretation of the words 'suicide' and 'martyr'. A suicide is a person who takes his own life, while a martyr is a person who accepts theologically speaking to die for his faith. in Christ. It is obvious that suicide-killers are not martyrs in the catholic sense.Therefore Fr.Emmanual's assertion that suicide killings are 'theologically acceptable' is quite imaginative.

Jesus Christ the supreme model of ll Christians did not kill himself. He gave himself up to death by other. He did not do so to establish a separate Jewish state - quite paradoxically he even prophesized that a stone upon a stone would not be left of the Temple of Jerusalem, Solomon's Temple and the symbol of Jewish national unity. He also claimed before Pilate that his kingdom was not of this earth.

As for Fr.Emmanual's declaration that he is a Tamil before being a Christian, he is not being 'theologically' sound either.

Would Fr.Emmanual please answer the following simple questions?

1. Father, to whose image and likeness were you created? If you are not shy to affirm, like all Christians do, that it was to God's image and likeness, then your Godliness must precede your Tamil heritage and your militant aspirations. What do you have to say?

2. As a Catholic priest, you are another Christ (alter Christus). Those who belong to Christ's race, are those who do the will of his Father in Heaven. When the Jews raised the racial issue: 'We are the children of Abraham', Christ answered that he could transform stones into children of Abraham. Don't forget, Father, that for Christ, his Godly mission preceded his Jewish birth. 'Before Abraham was, I am'. So what are you first, Father, an 'alter Christus' or a Tamil?

3. Father, when you offer mass for your Tami militants (suicide-killers included),you begin the Lord's prayer with : 'Our Father in Heaven…'Should you offer mass for a congregation consisting of Sinhalese, how would you begin the Lord's prayer, Father? Surely you would say: 'Our Father in Heaven …' If so, does not your Christian sacerdotal vocation precede your Tamil heritage?

4. Father, according to Christ's words in the Gospel,.what is the criterion according to which God welcomes back those who are His? 'When I was hungry you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty you gave me drink; when I was naked you clothed me, etc.etc. Do you find the least racial reference
in this enumeration?

5 Father, you admit that the church condemns suicide-killings or just suicides. You however justify it.
Could you cite a single Catholic teaching or tradition that justifies suicide for any purpose whatsoever? Even for the faith? Is there a single martyr on our altars who is a suicide?
6 Father, have you given your mind to those civilians who are killed by your suicide boys and girls? Please cite the name of one single martyr of the Catholic Church whose act of death was the cause of death to others? Do not strain your mind to find several; examples, just one would suffice.

7 Father you reside in a Catholic seminary and you probably teach there. Young seminarians are entrusted to your care. Is it correct for you to live in a seminary and retain your scandalous ideas? Do you recall Christ's threat to such persons that lead the young stray? That it be better that a stone be tied round their necks and they be drowned? Considering your publicly proclaimed position, would it not be more genuine on your part to shed your robes and take up the gun; or go on a suicidal mission to blast yourself in the midst of innocent civilians which for you is the gateway to martyrdom

8 As regards suicide for a 'higher cause' which for you is martyrdom, pray tell us what is this 'higher cause'? Is it of a worldly or of a religious nature? Who is the judge of this 'higher cause'?Your personal conscience; a religious body; or a secular forum?

Father, I wonder whether you came down to Colombo to show your loyalty to His Holiness Pope John-Paul 11. you are probably aware that he has authored an encyclical called 'the gospel of life' (Evangelium vitae). Read it, Father, it is an unequivocal condemnation of 'the cult of death' whatever be the 'causes' or 'higher causes' it is made to serve.

Mario Perera

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