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I was excommunicated without an inquiry - The Times Of India

Tissa Balasuriya ()
March 16, 1998

Title: I was excommunicated without an inquiry
Author: Tissa Balasuriya
Publication: The Times Of India
Date: March 16, 1998

Sri Lankan Roman Catholic theologian Fr Tissa Balasuriya drew
worldwide attention last year when he was excommunicated by the
Vatican for his controversial book, Mary and Human Liberation. In
the book, Fr Balasuriya says that a baby is born without
"original sin". This is contrary to the Catholic belief that all
children, except Mary and Jesus, are born with the 'original sin'
committed by Adam and Eve, the first human beings.

However, owing to the public pressure and criticism, the Vatican
perhaps for the first time within a short span of one year,
revoked the excommunication on January 15, this year after
accepting ecree of reconciliation' signed by the 73-year-old
priest saying, "serious ambiguities and doctrinal errors were
perceived in my writings and therefore provoked negative
reactions from other parties affected relationships and led to an
unfortunate polarization in the ecclesiastical community. I
truly regret the harm this has caused".

Fr Balasuriya, who has authored about a dozen books; is an ardent
advocate of an Asian theology which propagates the coexistence of
different religions peacefully in the continent.

The Sri Lankan theologian, who was in New Delhi recently, talked
to V J Thomas on various issues confronting the religions and the
people of Asia. Excerpts from the interview:

Q: This might he the first time Vatican had revoked an
excommunication in such a short span of time. Have you retracted
>from your controversial writings to reach a compromise with the
Holy See?

A: What I said was that a baby was not born with sin or born
alien. So there was no need for baptism for getting salvation.
Baptism is a ritual for entry into the church. This is my
interpretation. Many Dutch theologians also have given a similar
interpretation. The church authorities said that I had reduced
the dogma of the church into a myth.

How do you feel when you were excommunicated? Was life miserable
for you?

I got 15,000 letters from all over the world supporting me. I
was much more in communion then with the people. But I was
unhappy because the church excommunicated me without an inquiry.

The decree of reconciliation signed by you says that you should
submit your writings regarding faith to the church for scrutiny.
Is this not a kind of censorship by the church?

I have to submit to the church only the writings on canon law and
other subjects related to the faith and not the writings on any
other subjects. This is the normal rule. But the way the church
authorities put it, it looks different. But it is my duty to keep
the people informed.

Are you for the ordination of women?

I don't see any reason against it. Women followed Jesus
throughout his last journey. Women make a lot of contribution to
the growth of the church.

Has the "liberation theology" lost its punch in Asia now?

We have developed an Asian theology. It is different from the
liberation theology. It is in the direction of social justice.
We should purify our culture. Then the feudal, caste barriers as
well as intolerance will disappear.

Is the church doing anything to end the ethnic conflicts in Sri

Seven per cent of the Sinhalese and 15 per cent of the Tamils are
Christians. So the church is one of the binding factors between
the two communities. The church also strives for a peaceful
solution for the ethnic problem. It supports the devolution of
the central power. It is working for the refugees, victims of war
and safeguarding the human rights.

How do you feel the globalisation of economy affects countries in
Asia and Africa?

Inequalities are increasing in Asia and Africa. The advantages
go only to the elite. In South Asia, the vulnerability is that
foreign money is coming in, but moves out quickly when conditions
turn difficult. In Africa, malnutrition, death and infant
mortality are increasing. Globalisation is a new colonisation,
but not with one country but several countries united in
collusion with our elites. The colonial powers are to be blamed
for the poverty in Asia and Africa. They should compensate for
over 300 years of colonisation. Britain and others should pay
back the money they had taken away from the colonies. Britain
should pay back India and Sri Lanka the wealth it took away from
them. It is many times more than the national debts of these

Why has the church become a silent spectator to the growing child
prostitution in Sri Lanka?

Poverty is the main cause of child prostitution. Tourism has
encouraged it. Church-supported action groups, priests and non-
governmental organisations are protesting against it. But they
could not do much to stop it.

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