Fr. Michael Amaladoss, the revered Indian Jesuit theologian currently under Vatican investigation, has been featured in several stories by National Catholic Reporter throughout the last 20 years.
NCR's John L. Allen Jr. reported on Amaladoss and four others whose views were widely believed to be addressed by Dominus Iesus, the Vatican's document assailing religious pluralism. In a September 2000 cover story, "Five Catholic experts in world religions," Allen reported:
Indian Jesuit Fr. Michael Amaladoss believes the most pressing religious challenge today is defending the oppressed. He supports development of countercultural communities as alternatives to values and assumptions of global capitalism. "Such countercultural communities may not always carry the label 'Christian,' " Amaladoss has written. "In the past our mission has often targeted the followers of other religions. The supposition then was that ours was the only true religion. Our evaluation of other religions and at least of some of their followers is more positive today. Besides, faced with the threat of global disaster brought about by radical modernity, we see in all those committed to an alternate world allies rather than enemies." This tendency to see collaboration on behalf of justice as more important than religious affiliation has alarmed Vatican officials. Amaladoss is the author of Making All Things New: Dialogue, Pluralism, and Evangelization in Asia (Orbis, 1990).
An open letter to Pope Francis: "Indian theologian deserves support, not CDF censure" by Peter C. Phan
Thomas C. Fox, NCR publisher, wrote about Amaladoss in his book Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church. Fox included an excerpt from Amaladoss about "the call to be countercultural":
We realize that the only effective way of witnessing to and promoting the Reign of God in this situation is to adopt a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand we have to show in practice that people can meet their needs through alternative technologies and alternative economic and commercial practices. On the other hand the people must progressively gain participative control of the systems that govern their lives and, in this manner, humanize and socialize them. This strategy has to be pioneered by small groups of people who link themselves into networks, nationally and internationally, to put pressure on the powers that be so as to bring about progressive change. I would like to suggest that such a strategy will not be effective unless it is accompanied by a cultural transformation, namely a change in people's world-views and systems of values. The roots of such a cultural transformation will be a spirituality that motivates, inspires and enables people to search for a fuller life for all. Any spirituality today, in a world of religious pluralism, can only be human and global, cutting across religious frontiers. The mission of the Good News in such a context requires counter-cultural communities who do not believe in the power of money or numbers or even of truth, perceived in the abstract, but in the power of the Spirit and in their own call to serve.
Here are excerpts of some previous NCR coverage featuring Amaladoss:
Oct. 11, 2012: "The controversies of post-conciliar theology," by Bradford E. Hinze:
In Asia, theologians have given special attention to the reality of God's activity amid the diversity of religions, represented in the works of Jacques Dupuis (who taught for more than 36 years in India), Peter Phan and Michael Amaladoss. These attempts to wrestle with the complexity of historical reality -- personal, social, cultural and religious -- were officially criticized by Ratzinger during his career as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To Ratzinger, they represented the negative repercussions of modernity's embrace of secularity, liberation, cultural relativity and religious pluralism.
Nov. 25, 2009: "India is a rising Catholic power too," by John L. Allen Jr. Allen's NCR Today post discusses the importance of India for Catholicism. He writes that "Indian Catholicism also faces three major headaches," saying that "India has acquired a reputation for some of the most adventurous theology in Catholicism today, especially in 'religious pluralism.'" He continues:
Thinkers such as Michael Amaladoss, Felix Wilfred, Raimon Panikkar, Aloysius Pieris and Jacques Dupuis, all of whom are either Indian or influenced by India, have been controversial because of the various ways in which they try to give positive theological value to non-Christian religions. That's a logical development given India's religious diversity, but it has raised alarms in quarters of the Church identified with evangelical Catholicism. Catholic leaders will want to encourage theological exploration that can open up dialogue, but without transgressing doctrinal limits.
Oct. 19, 2007: In a cover story from Allen titled "China & India: The emerging Asian superpower," Allen wrote about the significance of the rise of India and China for Catholicism. Allen referenced Amaladoss in a section titled "Doubts about dialogue":
Yet at precisely this moment, identity pressures within Catholicism itself are driving the world's most influential Christian body toward new doubts about dialogue. (See related story on Page 14.) For example, virtually all of the Catholic theologians targeted by the Vatican for recent investigations of their work are concerned with how Catholicism should understand and relate to non-Christian religions, many significantly influenced by the Asian context. These include the late Belgian Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis, who lived in India for 36 years; Indian Jesuit Fr. Michael Amaladoss; and Vietnamese-American theologian Fr. Peter Phan. In various ways, all these writers argue that religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism are part of the divine plan -- in other words, that God doesn't necessarily intend for everybody to be Christian.
June 29, 2001: "Perspective: U.S. theology meeting signals broader vision," by Fox. Fox wrote a perspective piece on the appointment of Fr. Peter Phan as the new president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and Phan's invitation to Amaladoss to serve as a keynote speaker at the 2001 Catholic Theological Society of America:
It was within this Catholic debate over mission thinking that Phan invited Indian Jesuit Fr. Michael Amaladoss, a former assistant to the superior general of the Society of Jesus and one of Asia's most respected theologians, to be a keynote speaker at this year's gathering of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Phan calls Amaladoss a "bridge builder."
Speaking before the society, Amaladoss echoed the thinking of the Asian Catholic leadership. He embraced mission theology and the building of inculturated churches in dialogue with other Asians. "Our starting point is that salvation is now understood not merely in terms of individuals being saved but in cosmic terms made familiar to us by Paul," he said.
Amaladoss upheld the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, but rejected the notion that other religions must be seen as simply leading up to the fulfillment of Catholicism. This idea does not match the Asian experience, he said. Rather, Amaladoss argued that the divine-human dialogue has led to the emergence of many religions. It is the task of believers, he said, to work for reconciliation finally leaving it to God to gather up all things.
Again echoing ideas widely held by the Catholic Asian bishops, Amaladoss said the Spirit and Word have been present throughout history in all religions. Asian evangelization begins, he said, with contemplating this reality and then attempting to learn from other religions. This approach opens the church to true dialogue, he said.
While other religions have the Word, the Christian gift is to know the Incarnate Word. Sharing our knowledge of Jesus' message becomes the Christian task. "We do not proclaim and prove Jesus is the Son of God. We do not preach a creed. We announce the good news that the kingdom of God is here," Amaladoss said.
Through dialogue Christians can finally live in harmony in Asia with the other religions. Asian bishops continue to form a vision of life based on harmony, a value deeply treasured in Asia, he said.
Noting that many Asians, including Ghandi, have been deeply influenced by Jesus yet reject the church and its creeds, Amaladoss said evangelization does not necessarily require teaching church dogma.
By several accounts, Amaladoss' talk was well received. Furthermore, his appearance represented another step in the call for a truly universal Catholicism, with local churches networked together, learning from and inspiring each other. Although under attack, the Asian theologians seem to speak out with greater confidence, stressing their unique gifts.
Could it be that their experiences contain lessons for the West? And perhaps for all local churches struggling to secure better footing in the shifting, multi-ethnic soils of the 21st century?
Dec. 3, 1999: "Proclamation vs. dialogue: Mixed reactions to pope's call for conversion of Asia," by Fox, NCR staff and UCA News. NCR covered a variety of reactions to Pope John Paul II's call for the conversion of Asia in the third millennium:
The pope made a 62-hour stop in New Delhi where on Nov. 6 he unveiled his long-awaited response to the April 1998 Synod for Asia. He boldly proclaimed Jesus Christ as humanity's "only savior" and called upon the church to bring Christianity to Asia during the third millennium. "There can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord," the pope emphasized. ...
Jesuit Fr. Michael Amaladoss, an Indian, called Ecclesia in Asia "a document for Asia but not from Asia." He said its tone and style "are very un-Asian." The method, he said, "is a priori and from above." The former Jesuit assistant general, who now teaches at the Jesuit-run Vidyajyoti College of Theology in New Delhi, said that the document is broad enough, however, that "one can pick up encouraging quotes to support any activity in which the church is engaged."
Oct. 1, 1999: NCR ran a world brief, "Theologians welcome guidelines on de Mello," on how "Jesuit theologians have welcomed Indian bishops' guidelines for taking a 'balanced' view on the writings of Fr. Anthony de Mello, their Vatican-censured confrere, who died 12 years ago." The brief included a quote from Amaladoss:
Pastoral guidelines from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India 'nowhere condemn [de Mello] nor discourage people from reading his books,' said Jesuit Fr. Michael Amaladoss, a Delhi theologate lecturer.
Feb. 19, 1993: "Religious Orders: A close look at Jesuit order uncovers a rich history and challenging future," by Arthur Jones and NCR staff. In a story featuring Jesuit general assistants, Jones mentions Amaladoss:
Periodically, the four general assistants (the others are Fathers Michael Amaladoss, Simon Decloux and Joao MacDowell) meet to discuss the health and actions of their boss, Jesuit Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, but otherwise their work comprises administration and travel, meetings and projects.
[Mick Forgey is an NCR Bertelsen intern. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.]