Joseph Vaz – Did he take part in the Goa Inquisition?

Joseph Vaz – Did he take part in the Goa Inquisition?

– by Shenali D Waduge –

What Christianity/Catholicism cannot deny whatever modern day twists their biased historians and followers spin is the fact that western colonial crusaders traveled to foreign lands in Asia, Africa and North and South America to invade, subjugate and convert the indigenous natives by hook or by crook. This reality is etched in stone and cannot be erased. The pages of European Christian history are blood stained and the victims and descendants of victims of Christian rule and bigotry are now no longer prepared to remain silent and keep quiet. They are calling for accountability and settling of scores. These calls can no longer be ignored or dismissed.

This dramatic development has today led to a series of efforts by Christian establishments and modern day missionaries using NGO funded historians and local surrogates to defeat these campaigns seeking honesty and truth in history by recreating history by re-writing what never existed and showing fiction as truth and people who have little time to research or double check on the lies being perpetrated are falling prey and believing these lies much of which is now being directed to hide or whitewash the genocidal legacy of the Christian Church i.e. both Roman and Calvinist.

The Portuguese Inquisition in Sri Lanka in particular remain without an apology and compensation and we question how the Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka and its head Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith can morally call for National Reconciliation when they refuse to acknowledge the massive Portuguese sponsored crimes and apologize and pay compensation and return Buddhist Temple lands taken by force during the Christian colonial era.

These moral obligations of the former colonial  powers based on established historical facts continue to be swept under the carpet. Blaming the Mahawamsa for Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim ire in respect of crimes and injustices committed during Christian colonial rule constitutes a red herring. Much of the evidence on this subject is derived from the writings of Portuguese historians themselves like Fernao de Queyroz, Friar Paulo da Trinidade, Joao Ribeiro, and Diogo de Coutoamong others.

The Catholic Inquisition

The Roman Catholic Church spent the first 900 years or so hunting the heretics. Then the Church commenced the Crusades against the Muslims in the 12th century wherein the Pope sent out armies to throw out or convert the Muslims inhabiting the Holy Lands. Then the inquisition was launched in Europe – technically the Inquisition remains to this day as an ongoing affair. From 1233 when Pope Gregory IX announced the beginning of the Inquisition people were given only one month to confess their beliefs and embrace Christianity or face death.

The Abigensian Inquisition was the first major operation of the sort put on by the Catholic Church in France against the ascetic living Christian sect called Cathars. That crusade annihilated all Cathars or the secret society of Knights Templar.

The Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th century was based on the notion that Jews and Muslims were pretending to convert to Catholicism in a bid to undermine the Church in Spain. The practices during this Inquisition were no different to that of their predecessors. The Spanish Inquisition went on for 300 years – going after ‘fake’ Catholics till 1834.

Another fact often hidden is that the orders of the Pope were often motivated by the lust for wealth and lands – the Crusades, Inquisitions and the like never hid the lust for wealth or political power.

A Church, that under the Inquisition kept the famed scientist Galileo Galili under house arrest for 9 years for claiming that the Earth moved round the sun, formally apologized for the arrest only 350 years after his death i.e. in 1992.

The Holy Office of the Inquisition still remains very much in Vatican City but to hide its murderous past it has been rechristened in 1965 under the name Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which is headed by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger of Munich (often referred to as the Black Pope).

Goa Inquisition

The Goa Inquisition was the Portuguese Inquisition in India and throughout the Portuguese Empire in Asia which included Ceylon.

The Inquisition under the Portuguese colonial administration meant

  • Enactment of Anti-Hindu laws to encourage conversions to Christianity
  • On 7 February 1575 Governor Antonio Morez Barreto issued orders to confiscate properties of Hindus whose ‘presence was prejudicial to Christianity’ – obviously the Governor forgot the Christian doctrines of love, forgiveness and sharing.
  • Portuguese Government orders on 31 January 1620 that ‘no Hindu, of whatever nationality or status he may be, can or shall perform marriages in this city of Goa, nor in the islands or adjacent territories of His Majesty’. In 1625 Governor Francisco Barreto issued orders to ‘bar Hindus from seeking employment’ in the Portuguese held territory.
  • Hindus were banned from public worship
  • Hindus had to assemble in churches to listen to preaching or to refute their religion
  • Hindu pandits and physicians were disallowed from entering the capital city on horseback or palanquins
  • Christian palanquin-bearers were forbidden from carrying Hindu passengers.
  • Christian agricultural laborers were forbidden to work on lands owned by Hindus

These bans were no different to the manner Jews were treated under Nazi rule in Europe.

In case we have forgotten it was the Portuguese who invaded India and it was these invaders who were telling the Indians they did not belong to the land of their birth unless they had converted.

In Ceylon the Inquisition by Portuguese meant that Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam were all prohibited.

The Portuguese destroyed all Buddhist, Hindu temples and Muslim mosques in Portuguese controlled areas of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). 

The Inquisition guaranteed ‘protection’ to ONLY those Hindus who converted to Christianity – thus a wave of baptisms of Hindus took place.

According to Teotonio R de Souza an Indo-Portuguese historian, grave abuses took place in Goa – the Inquisition was a Tribunal, it had a judge answerable only to the General Counsel of the Lisbon Inquisition who sent by Portugal to Goa. The palace where the Inquisition was conducted was known as the fearful Big House.

Viceroy Antonio de Noronha issued in 1566 an order applicable to areas under Portuguese rule:

“I hereby order that in any area owned by my master, the king, nobody should construct a Hindu temple and such temples already constructed should not be repaired without my permission. If this order is transgressed, such temples shall be, destroyed and the goods in them shall be used to meet expenses of holy deeds, as punishment of such transgression”.

By 1567, 300 Hindu temples were destroyed in Bardez.

  • From 4 December 1567 laws prohibiting rituals of Hindu marriages were enacted (sacred thread wearing and cremation too)
  • In 1620, an order was passed to prohibit the Hindus from performing their marriage rituals.
  • In 1583 Hindu temples at Assolna and Cuncolim were destroyed through army action.
  • All persons above 15 years of age were compelled to listen to Christian preaching, failing which they were punished.

“The fathers of the Church forbade the Hindus under terrible penalties the use of their own sacred books, and prevented them from all exercise of their religion. They destroyed their temples, and so harassed and interfered with the people that they abandoned the city in large numbers, refusing to remain any longer in a place where they had no liberty, and were liable to imprisonment, torture and death if they worshipped after their own fashion the gods of their fathers.” wrote Filippo Sassetti, who was in India from 1578 to 1588.

Suppression of the Konkani language

In June 1684 an order was issued to suppress the Konkani language. Speaking Portuguese was made compulsory and laws dealt severely with anyone using local language.

It also meant that all non-Christian cultural symbols and books written in local languages were sought to be destroyed.

In 1812, the Portuguese prohibited children from speaking in Konkani in schools

In 1847, the Portuguese ban extended to seminaries

In 1869, the Konkani language was completely banned in schools (this meant that Goans could not develop a literature in Konkani which used scripts of Roman, Devanagari and Kannada). Konkani eventually became spoken only by the servants!

That was how the Church eliminated an entire language!

Francis Xavier – Brains behind the Goa Inquisition

Francis Xavier, in a 1545 letter to John III of Portugal, requested an Inquisition to be installed in Goa. It was Ignatius Loyola of the Jesuit order (to which the present Pope belongs) under the direction of King of Portugal who first sent Francis Xavier to land in Goa in 1541. Francis Xavier was instructed to carry out the Inquisition in Goa when conversions failed. The key take from this is that the Church adopted the Inquisition after Conversion methodologies failed. It took just 4 years for Francis to indulge in religious persecution and crimes against humanity stating that “their (Hindu) gods are black….rubbed over with oil as to smell detestably, and seem to be as dirty as they are ugly and horrible to look at’. This was the memo he wrote to Rome.

What happens thereafter not many Christians would like to discuss or admit but what did happen was that the Viceroy’s building was transformed into a Torture chamber with 200 cells in 1560 and orders were given by Viceroy Constantine de Braganca to throw all Hindu Brahmins out of Goa and other areas under Portuguese control.

This was a case of native Indians being thrown out from their own lands of historic habitation by invaders. Next the Third Concilio Provincial adopted a resolution asking the King of Portugal to give permission to banish from Goa ‘the Brahmins, physicians and other infidels’ who are an obstacle to the Church and to convert ‘heathens’ to the ‘only true faith’. This happened in 1585.

For his leadership and contribution towards converting and murder of Hindus/Muslims who refused to give up their traditional faith for an imposed foreign religion, Francis Xavier was rewarded posthumously and made a Saint in 1622.

The Goa Inquisition remains the most violent inquisition ever executed by the Portuguese Catholic Church and it lasted from 1560 to 1812 (in Europe it ended by 1774).

When these Church Leaders accuse other nations and religions they must remember that the CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS YET TO APOLOGIZE FOR THE GOAN INQUISITION.

Eye witness accounts of the Inquisition reveal the horrors committed by the Church:

 “..The inquisition, this tribunal of fire, thrown on the surface of the globe for the scourge of humanity, this horrible institution, which will eternally cover with shame its authors, fixed its brutal domicile in the fertile plains of the Hindustan. On seeing the monster everyone fled and disappeared, Moguls, Arabs, Persians, Armenians, and Jews. The Indians even, more tolerant and pacific, were astounded to see the God of Christianism more cruel than that of Mohammed, deserted the territory of the Portuguese …”

Memoirs of Judges Magalhães and Lousada: (Vol 2, Annaes Marítimos e Coloniais, page 59)

“ … The terrors inflicted on pregnant women made them abort … .Neither the beauty or decorousness of the flower of youth, nor the old age, so worthy of compassion in a woman, exempted the weaker sex from the brutal ferocity of the supposed defenders of the religion..”

“..There were days when seven or eight were submitted to torture. These scenes were reserved for the inquisitors after dinner. It was a post-prandial entertainment. Many a time during those acts, the inquisitors compared notes in the appreciation of the beauty of the human form. While the unlucky damsel twisted in the intolerable pains of torture, or fainted in the intensity of the agony, one inquisitor applauded the angelic touches of her face, another the brightness of her eyes, another, the volluptuous contours of her breast, another the shape of her hands. In this conjuncture, men of blood transformed themselves into real artists !!”

Alexandre Herculano, Famous writer of 19th century in his Fragment about the Inquisition

What is striking about the Goan Inquisition is the present day witness mechanism. During the Goan Inquisition the witnesses were never brought face to face with the hapless accused, all kinds of testimonies were accepted even lies – it looks so much similar to how nations and people are being charge sheeted even by UN bodies to this day. Secret trials, denial of a right to an attorney, denial of due process are just a handful of modern day illegalities roots of which are found in the Christian Inquisition conducted by the Catholic Church – not surprising, virtually all were found guilty – reminds us of the kangaroo trials taking place today under ICC, UNHRC, EU, and USA sponsorship in Iraq, Hague and Africa.    

One would not expect the Church to permit humans to face inhuman treatment given Christian rhetoric but that is just exactly what happened. Yet, it is the same Church that carried out the Inquisition that prevails to this day.

Inquisition – the most diabolical institution ever created by humanity

The Inquisition was simply the most diabolical institution ever created by humanity, and shows the depravity of the Christian church and the Pope. The Inquisition might arguably be considered an even worse evil than the Holocaust of the Jews which lasted for only a few years but which neither the Vatican nor Roman Catholic leaders and Church officials condemned nor did anything positive to prevent its continuation.  The torture methods employed were:

1. The Judas Chair: This was a large pyramid-shaped “seat.” Accused heretics were placed on top of it, with the point inserted into their anuses or genitalia, then very, very slowly lowered onto the point with ropes. The effect was to gradually stretch out the opening of choice in an extremely painful manner.

2. The Head Vice: Pretty straightforward concept. They put your head into a specially fitted vice, and tighten it until your teeth are crushed, your bones crack and eventually your eyes pop out of their sockets.

3. The Pear: A large bulbous gadget is inserted in the orifice of choice, whether mouth, anus or vagina. A lever on the device then causes it to slowly expand whilst inserted. Eventually points emerge from the tips. (Apparently, internal bleeding doesn’t count as “breaking the skin.”)

4. The Wheel: Heretics are strapped to a big wheel, and their bones are clubbed into shards. Not very creative, but quite effective.

Convicts had to march alongside a ‘godfather’ in a procession till they reached the Church of St. Francis where at the altar sat the inquisitor and his councillors, the viceroy and his court. After the sermon, sentences were served and the condemned were directed to be burnt at the stake! Other methods of execution were SAWING – hung upside-down andsawed apart down the middle, starting at the crotch. DISEMBOWLEMENT – A small hole is cut in the gut, then the intestines are drawn out slowly and carefully, keeping the victim alive for as much of the process as possible.

None of the Indian civilization religions Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism have in their religious scriptures ever advocated punitive treatment of humans or even animals in this barbaric manner. This is essentially a legacy of Abrahamic religions to the world.

In the land that they were living in foreign invaders had come, taken over and then had decided that Hindus should die for practicing their religion and Muslims had to either flee or be killed too. To be converted and then persecuted by the Church from 1560 to 1812 is no small number of years. We are talking of 252 years of persecution and death. For prohibiting a man, woman or even child to say their own prayer or to keep an idol in their own home at the risk of imprisonment and torture surely must deserve an apology by the Church? Why has it not been forthcoming and if this apology is not forthcoming how can the Church or its emissaries call on others i.e. non – Christians, to adhere to TRUTH, MORAL AND LEGAL ACOUNTABILITY, AND STRIVE FOR NATIONAL RECONCILIATION?

Isn’t this a blatant display of unabashed hypocrisy?

For placing these irrefutable historical facts in the public domain, does one qualify to be labeled a ‘Sinhalese Buddhist’ chauvinist?

Joseph Vaz – Did he take part in the Goa Inquisition?

Joseph Vaz, (21 April 1651, Benaulim – 16 January 1711, Kandy) was a Catholic Oratorian priest from Goa. He is called the ‘Apostle of Ceylon’ by the Catholic Church. On 21 January 1995, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Colombo.

Father Joseph Vaz smuggled himself to Ceylon incognito in 1687 (145 years after Francis Xavier travelled to Goa to carry out the Inquisition under the direction of his Jesuit leader Ignatius Loyola and 182 years after the Portuguese had first set foot in Ceylon).

Joseph Vaz came to Sri Lanka ostensibly to save the local Catholics from Dutch Calvinist persecution. It was also a period when the Goa Inquisition was at its peak. Hindus, Muslims, Jews and even some local Christians were subject to it.

Joseph Vaz who is hailed as Asia’s greatest Christian missionary in respect of whom even Portugal had issued a commemorative Postage stamp on the 300th anniversary of his birthday could not have been unaware of the unrelenting Portuguese persecution of non – Christians and the inhumane practices of the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa.

The well – known aphorism ‘Charity begins at home’ applies to Joseph Vaz as well. Why did he not remain in his home town Goa to save his fellow Goans from the persecution of his Portuguese co – religionists instead of coming to Ceylon to save the converted Sinhalese and Tamil Catholics from alleged Dutch Calvinist persecution?

Was he a passive spectator of these crimes or accomplice to the Portuguese inquisition of the innocent Goan people who were not prepared to submit to Portuguese pressure to change religion or become Rice Christians. This tendency to embrace another religion purely for inducements  was a well known practice in Sri Lanka and many other Asian countries that were subject to Western Christian colonial rule and it carried the derogatory epithet ‘ Rice Christianity’.

In the interest of historical truth and probity, this is a valid question and honest answers must be supplied by those who hero – worship Joseph Vaz.

When people in one’s own town are in trouble and need to be saved from brutal torture and being burnt at the stake (a common practice of the Catholic Inquisition), it is morally indefensible for a supposedly public spirited padre to travel to another region or country to save people in trouble there, while at the same time ignoring the plight of his own town folk.

There are three possible answers to explain the conduct of Joseph Vaz vis –a- vis the Goa Inquisition:

1) He knew of the abominable crimes being committed ( like the manner in which the Germans are being accused of their failure to stop Nazi abuses under the Third Reich) but lacked the interest or moral courage to speak out against such crimes, or

2) He was complicit in these crimes directly or indirectly, or

3) He was fanatically loyal to his Catholic faith and any abuses committed in the name of the Holy Church and Jesus Christ did not register in his mind as unlawful or unacceptable.

The French Philosopher Voltaire said:

“Goa is sadly famous for its inquisition which is contrary to morality as well as to commerce. The Portuguese monks deluded us into believing that the local population was worshipping the Devil, while in reality it is these monks who serve him (the Devil)”.

Did Joseph Vaz visit Ceylon in a state of mental delusion thinking that the Portuguese inquisition in Goa being carried out by his co – religionists was appropriate and just and that the Pope and the Catholic Church were infallible and can do no wrong?

In Sri Lanka the Jury is still out on Joseph Vaz.