The Jesuit-diocesan Relations: from Estrangement to Engagement

The Diocesan and the Jesuit relations- though cordial- are complex and afflicted by the traumatic event of suppression. Although the suppression is an arche-point for these complex relations, we cannot study them in a linear manner as the complexity of the trauma, humiliation and loss afflicts these relations differently across their length and breath.  The complexity of these relations cannot be captured in unique, stable, Cartesian conceptual tools.  Given, the complexities of these relations, this study tries to approach them with the help of weak hermeneutics of Gianni Vattimo.[1]  Though, the event of suppression is a point of rupture, it cannot be viewed through a metaphysical monism. Loss of innocence triggered by the disruption of suppression intensifies and multiplies differently at different times and shapes the relations under our study.  Hence, we cannot impose an immutable order of things on these relations that are profoundly dynamic and often dependent on existential contingencies and varied dexterities of individual persons who are involved at different times and places. Even if one wishes to talk of objectivity, one cannot put the dynamic relations into a totalising grasp of our conceptual apparatus. Hence, a hermeneutics of weak thought of Vattimo might open us to an enlightened understanding of the dynamism of our fragile human relations.  Besides, the disruption of suppression is not merely an event of the distant past, but is an event that is bursting forth continuously on the horizons of the relations that our under our scrutiny. Perhaps, we may have to view this event in the light of Heideggerian, Ereignis[2] (eventing event) so that we can factor its  role in the activation of the relations under  our study. The ereignis might be able to capture a sense of loss, humiliation, ignorance and forgetting that mark these relations.  This means there is a kind of nullity that profoundly affects and afflicts these relations. That is why we cannot comprehensively, capture the dynamism of nullity in a singularized epistemic monism but have to remain open to their understanding across time and space.

We begin our study with an attempt to understand, the hermeneutics of weak thought. At this stage, we wish to claim that we have no mastery on the weak thought but declare that we remain in a continuous quest of understanding the same. Next, we attempt to undertake an application of the hermeneutics of the weak thought to the dynamic yet fragile relations under our study. We wish to study the manner in which the tragic expulsion of the Jesuits in the colonial times is alive and active in these relations. Weak thought assists us to open ourselves to the giving of being in the traces so that we are enabled to trace the traces of the past and seek how they may open up some way of understanding of the belonging together of the diocesan and the Jesuits today. Finally, we shall try to trace a path for the future of the Jesuit-Diocesan relations that might be illumined by the weak thought that we try to follow here.

Hermeneutics of Weak Thought

Weak thought as envisioned by Vattimo is a humble epistemology. It shuns aside the triumphant epistemology and embraces one that is open to the acceptance of being limited by our finitude, linguistic horizons, historical and natural alienations.

 Strong and the Weak Thought

Vattimo points out that strong thought investigates being or beings in the categories of presence, permanence and stability. It seems to claim that it has the privileged direct access to being, without cultural, linguistic and historical mediations. It takes empirical as well rationalist forms. The empirical variants stress the immediacy of pure sense data while the rationalists emphasize the transcendental conditions for possible experience. Strong thought is mostly concerned with arche, the beginning which is the basis and foundation as in the case of Aristotle who places great importance on the first principles or archai. There is also the Hegelian version of strong thinking. It historicizes being based on the categories of culmination, fulfilment and finality.   It understands history as a linear, progressive and unidirectional movement.  Unfortunately these versions of strong thinking have all the seeds sowed within it to evolve into various shades of totalitarianisms. Weak thought stays on the other end of the pendulum. Being does not take the form of essence to it.  It deals with being in the categories of chance, event, accidence, occurrence in time etc. It sees being as primarily accessed through language.  Thus, being is viewed not as presence but as occurrence. Further, it sees being not as stable and fixed ‘is’ but as something that comes or arrives.[3]  Hence, being is never given fully but always remains given in traces, signs and cultural traditions.

Residue and Trace

Weak thought embarks on the quest for traces and remains. It proposes the residual or remnant way of experiencing being. It seems to point out that traces literarily copy or trace being for us but not as fully given but as ever giving.   Here we cannot take the word coping in the usual understanding of the word, though there is a dimension of mimesis to it. We are to take it in a sense of ‘opening’ of being to us. Thus, being is given in ‘traces’ and not in some unchanging, self-identical, ahistorical categories.  This means weak thought challenges us to expose ourselves to the traces where there is a simultaneous loss as well as proliferation of meaning.  But paying attention to the traces Vattimo effectively resists strong and violent thought that hitherto has been neglected, even erased and eliminated.  Being that is given through traces has no permanent character but remains transient in the giving.  It presents an opening and submits us to constant interpretations and reinterpretations of the experience of its presencing while preserving its radical otherness since it is not something that we can fully possess, assimilate or control at any given time.  Thus, Vattimo emphasizes the radical fragility, impermanence and weakness of our thought and challenges us to return to our authentic self by turning to the revelation of being in the traces and the remnants.[4]

 Disrupted and Disruptive subject 

Contemporary Philosophy has abandoned the victorious subject of Decartes.  Levi Strauss names the subject as the spoilt brat of Philosophy. Foucault views it as the subjected subject. Thus, subject is no longer envisioned in terms of dialectical synthesis and unity but in terms   of rupture and interpretive hubris.  Subject, thus is viewed as a split subject and is thrown into a project of self becoming. Vattimo drives this home when he says, ‘Being, even after the end of metaphysics, remains modelled on the subject; which is a split subject, which is the overman, and no longer corresponds to being, thought of in terms of fullness, force, determination, eternity, deployed actuality, as tradition always recognized it’.[5]  Subject, therefore in our postmodern times is identified with the hubris and conflict of interpretation. Vattimo views the conflict positively. He teaches that conflicting interpretations can trigger a charitable recognition of belonging to a common history. We may even include a common geography. Indeed, our fragmented experience reminds us that we belong together to a common humanity. Vattimo traces a common rhythm with the project of self becoming in the abandonment of interpretation and the mystery of incarnation which he sees as the archetypical occurrence of secularization.

 The Diocesan-Jesuit relations in the power of Weak Thought

The events of suppression and restoration affect the relations of the diocese and the Jesuits differently. The suppression was inflicted by the politico-ecclesial powers combine on the Jesuits and the diocesans became the natural heirs of the vast ecclesial institutions set up by them. Hence, the relations of the diocese and the Jesuits post-restorations are of great interest. But one cannot ignore the hundred years of suppression that saw the absence of Jesuits in Goa. This period unlocked possibilities that opened space for an immense growth of diocesan clergy who successfully shouldered the responsibility of running the Jesuit institutions and parishes, particularly in Salcete.  Hence, following the hermeneutics of weak thought, we shall try to trace the traits that mark these relations so that we can try and create a portrait of the same. While we follow the trail of trace, we do so through the lens of hermeneutics of weak thought and consider trace as remnant of the trauma of suppression that is afflicting the relations under our study.

The Event of Suppression                                                                                 

The event of suppression intimately marks the Jesuits in Goa. Its imprint remains green even today but cannot be named and as such stays in the realm of an inexpressible other.  Hence, to trace the trace of suppression that is afflicting the Diocesan-Jesuit relations is no easy task.  Hence, we follow the weak ontology of Vattimo. Vattimo dumps strong substantative and essence-centric thinking and embraces weak mode of thinking that resist any form of totalisation.  The continuous bursting forth of the impact of the event of suppression may be viewed as an eventing Event in the light of Heidegger’s Eriegnis. It is characterised by nullity.  This nullity afflicts both diocesan and the Jesuits differently.  To the diocesan the event of suppression is placed in the distant past and its presencing in the present context is a nullity, while the Jesuits seem too conscious of the affliction of suppression which acts as a constant force that nullifies them. Thus, the event of suppression continues to silently disrupt the Diocesan-Jesuits relations complexly. Persons at both ends of relations have somehow become disrupted subjects who then continue to produce disruptive lines of relations.  Hence, we cannot see the tragic event of suppression as an merely a historical event but have to view it as a tremendous episode that is continuously presensencing  on the horizon of the Diocesan-Jesuit relations.  That is why a reconciliation programme may be therapeutic and may bring apostolic rejuvenation among the members on both sides of the divide.

The Losses and Gains

The complex relations between the diocesan and the Jesuits have always been uneven. The losses of the Jesuits have been the gain of the diocesans in several ways. The Jesuits are weakened and dispossessed of their land, residences, colleges and the churches that they built and operated before the tragic suppression.[6] But what is certainly the loss of the Jesuits became the gain of the diocesan priests.[7] The native/ diocesan priests mainly had to serve the church from their homes during the colonial times. They could hardly serve in canonical offices that could let them serve the people as parish priests and assistants in the parishes. The suppression of the Jesuits and the expulsion of all other religious orders from Goa became a blessing in disguise to the native clergy. The native priests then became the natural successors of the institutions and the churches vacated by the Jesuits and other religious. This new found space of leadership let the diocesan clergy grow in confidence as well as derive satisfaction of servicing God through an active pastoral ministry. The absence of the Jesuits during the hundred years of exile forced by the repression of the society provided enough time for the native clergy to rise to the occasion as leaders of catholic faith. Besides, the Jesuit College of Salcete, which became the diocesan Seminary in the Post-restoration era, continues to serve the Archdiocese with great distinction giving it number of diocesan priests. There might have been transition issues and these have to be researched so as to better understand how the absence of the Jesuits influenced the native clergy to the stature that they have reached today. This is why the diocesans often think that suppression was a divine intervention to launch the diocesan clergy in Goa. But there were some issues that lingered for a long time and impeded the pastoral ministry of the diocesan priests who held lower offices in the church. The financial administration reform of the Archdiocese by Archbishop Rahul N. Gonsalves tried to respond to the economics of diocesan clergy. The economics of the native priests fully favoured the parish priests and kept other assisting priests totally depended on their generosity. These unequal relations perhaps were one of the transition issues that was not attended in time as a result persisted even up to our days.

The Second Coming    

The second coming of the Jesuits post-restoration was not a glorious coming. Jesuits had suffered terribly and were also depleted in the size of their personnel.  Even when the then Archbishop of Goa opened the doors to the Jesuits, they could not come into the diocese because they lacked numbers.  Finally, the Jesuits retuned via Belgaum to Goa but remain displaced from their institutions, parishes and the land they held before the suppression. The condition has been same ever since and it has been very difficult for the Jesuits to reach heights that their confreres have reached elsewhere in the country. The pain of loss and trauma of the humiliating suppression seem to have afflicted the most the mother of the Jesuit province in the entire east and continues to afflict it even today. The fact that the Jesuits continue to be dispossessed of their past land resources become a persisting hurdle on the path of their growth. Most of the land resources are today administrated by the Archdiocese through the parish administrative bodies called the Fabricas and Confres. This dispossession coupled by the heavy psychological burden of their tragic expulsion from Goa seems to have crippled the apostolic mission of the Jesuits in Goa.  While the splendour of the past appears to have faded, fortunately its remnants and traces of it can ignite them to bloom to brightness again.

Memory and Forgetting

The Jesuits and diocesan relations are marked by memory and forgetting. The Jesuit side exhibits memories while the diocesan side exhibits forgetting or amnesia as chief determinants. The traces and remnants of the Jesuit past are almost everywhere. They evoke different response of individuals placed at different ends of the spectrum of these relations. These traces of the past seem to be literally traced from the past on the wings of memory by the Jesuits while the diocesan fail to relate to the traces and recognize the past. They are immersed in the present and show no concern for the lost past. Thus, the lost past of the Jesuits continue to remain forgotten and lost to the diocesan. This is perhaps the reason why there is very little interaction between the diocesan clergy and the Jesuits. The minimalist interaction reaches a climax of pastoral collaboration only during the feast of St. Francis Xavier, our Goycho Saib. St. Francis Xavier being the only Jesuit, who remained in Goa during the period of suppression, can become a point of encounter for the diocesan and Jesuits to build deep relations founded on mutual trust and collaboration. As the relations shift from closeness to distance after the Novena and Feast of Goycho Saib, the de-substantalization of the Jesuit contribution has to be addressed on both sides of these sensitive relations. Maybe new initiatives of dialogue and collaborations have to be set to infuse life in them.  A kind of loss of charism on the Jesuit side seem to push them into a de-substantial mode of being in Goa.   What we perhaps need is trans-substantalization of these relations, were the painful memories of the past are allowed to be integrated and healed by the Jesuits and responsible remembering on the part of the diocesan is brought about so that these traces of the past can re-member or bind the Jesuits and diocesan with chords that cannot be broken for the good of the Church.


Towards a Trans-substantialization of the Diocesan-Jesuit Relations

The traces from the past that we have examined manifests that the Jesuit –Diocesan relations are in a de-substantial mode of being. All relations are marked by an uneven struggle and may not be thought authentically in substantive terms. We cannot really have perfect relations. They are always in a weak mode. They exist in a complex de-substantial states and are in a constant search for a trans-substantialization or dynamic revival.  Hence, the challenge is to trace some way from the traces of the past to bring about a dynamic revival.

Facing de-substantializations

Both the diocesan and the Jesuits have to face different kinds of de-substantializations.  The weak thinking that we have tried to embrace here rejects all substantive thinking and militates against all forms of strong ontologies. Hence, facing de-substialization means coming to dwell with being. Everyone experiences life and being in a weak mode and has to come to terms with the weakening of reality. Being is given in traces, signs and relicts that it leaves behind. This means being is given in a de-substantial mode. It is through the openness to the broken actuality of life that we can stitch back the tethered relations of the diocesans and Jesuits.  This awareness of the brokenness on both sides can bring about mutual understanding and may assist both sides to move towards deeper and profound levels of collaboration.  Besides, attention to the de-substantive mode of life deflates the substantive thinking that clings to material resources and hence might assists the diocesan authorities to share some land-resources with the Jesuits to conduct their apostolic mission with greater freedoms. But above all, it will serve to initiate active pastoral collaboration of the diocese and the Jesuits. This has begun in a someway at the Pedru Arrupe, the spirituality centre of the Jesuits in Raia. But it mainly remains one sided. The Jesuits have begun to engage the diocesan as collaborators in their programmes. These important initiatives of the Jesuits need to be taken forward and new important partnerships in pastoral ministries have to be forged at the parish, deanery, region and diocese levels.

Tracing the traces of the Past

Tracing the traces of the past has a mimetic dimension. It involves tracing or coping models from the past. These models of conducting apostolic mission can be highly educative to both sides of the relations under our study. An example might illustrate it. In the absence of sociology and anthropology, a western epistemic grind viewed colonial societies as having three chief qualities: law, custom and ritual. This classification allowed caste system to enter catholic life as part of custom and it continues to impede catholic faith even today. This attention to the caste contaminated de-substantial mode of our catholic life can help us to trans-substantialize our discipleship. Similarly, both the diocesans and the Jesuits can draw inspiration from the broken past. Thus, for instance, a dark past where the native priests were banned from becoming Jesuit priests and a special Oratorian society was established under Padroado to accommodate the Brahmin priests can provide us some issues to understand and address caste today.[8] This sensitive look  in the past might assist the two sides to wage a new war on the remnants of  caste contaminated Catholicism in Goa and our country.  Thus, for instance, a study of the relicts of caste and Ganvkaria issue in Cuncolim which is still on the boil and is in search of resolution[9] , might lead us to its amicable solution. Maybe the Jesuits who have the merit of martyrdom in Cuncolim, have to enter the area to draw personal inspiration from the past sacrifices of their own members as well as serve the church in this area to come to terms with the past that is often exploited by the communal forces to stir hatred and pseudo-patriotism.

Academic Study of Jesuit-Diocesan Relations

The study that we have conducted does not seem to have precedents. Although it is by no means complete, it has opened a new academic widow that invites scholars to explore it from all angles. Both the presence and the absence of the Jesuit in Goa have impacted these relations that we study. Besides, these relations have made a strong impact on the church. Hence, we have to explore the potentials of this new academic grind that we have inaugurated here so that we may find ways to provide inspiration, direction and course correction to the present pastoral mission of the Church in Goa.  The expulsions of the Jesuits and other religious orders from the diocese have brought about a full flowering of the life and ministry of the native clergy. This means the absence of the Jesuits and other religious in Goa provided freedom and space for the local clergy to grow in pastoral leadership. The fact that Goa has a well established diocesan clergy may be a fruit of the suppression. The absence of the Jesuits and growth of the diocesan clergy has to be explored and studied. Besides, there are other issues that dog the church in Goa. Pastoral leadership of the Jesuits and other religious in the past had allowed caste to inhabit confrarias, celebration of feasts etc.  Unfortunately, caste lingers on even in our days afflicting authentic discipleship. Hence, a academic plunge in the past might provide ways of renewal of our confrarias and caste contaminated Christianity to a large extent. Knowledge is power and it can set us free. The expansion of this research can open salubrious spaces for fuller integration of both the diocesans and Jesuits to a total immersion in the apostolic action in our diocese.  This may lead us to seek healing to what may be called the disrupted subjects that continue to dispute. The trauma of the past certainly seeks recovery through repetition. This chain of disruption can be broken by wakeful awareness.  Hence, the research area that we are proposing is therapeutic too.  Besides, more light might arrive after an in depth study of these important relations and therefore, this special research area has to be explored with deep dedication for the good of the Church in Goa.


The study of the Diocesan-Jesuit relations that we have tried to enter in this paper is by no means complete. It has just opened vast possibilities for this vital area of research. These dynamic yet fragile relations are bound together by a common faith and theology. Besides, a common history as well as geography effectively determines/marks these relations. A deeper exploration of these relations promises immense mutual benefit to both the Jesuits and the diocesans and is a fundamental means of understanding the past disruption and present engagement.  Maybe a profound study of these relations is the way ahead for the Church in Goa. It will assist us understand and adequately respond to several of our long standing issues like cast-afflicted associations like the confrarias, celebrations of feasts  etc. Hence, an academic investment in the study of these relations has great promise.  Above all this study may help us to embrace the fragmented side of our life and as all history is graced, we maybe enabled to look back with the eyes of faith that would empower us to look forward with new energy and determination.



[1] Gianni Vattimo is leading Italian Philosopher. He has a significant impact on contemporary debates on hermeneutics,  philosophy and religion.  drawing from the work of Heidegger, Gadamer and Nietzsche, he has put the question of nihilism and views it in positive and affirmative light and tries to unleash the creative and transformative potential of hermeneutics.

[2] Heideggar abandons the logos tradition of ontological thinking in favour of ontopoetising thinking .  This thinking  focuses mainly on the poetic evocation of being as an appropriating event.  In doing so Heideggar Embraces an onto-poetical thinking and rejects all onto-logical thought. See // accessed on 8/5/2017.

[3] Andrzej Zawadzki,  Literature and Weak Thought, in Ryszard Nycz and Teresa Walas, Cross-Roads: Polish studies in Culture, Literary theory and History, Vol. 2 (New York: PL Academic Research, 2013), pp. 49-50.

[4] for a good summery of weak thought see Brian Schroeder, ‘Introduction’ in Silvia Benso and Brian Schroeder, Ed., Between Nihilism and Politics: the Hermeneutics of Giavnni Vattimo  (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010), pp. 1-11.

[5] Andrzej Zawadzki,  Literature and Weak Thought, p. 14.

[6] Goa province in the beginning comprised of the islands of Goa, some areas in the North and South India of Japan and China . In Goa the prominent places were the college of St. Paul, the Church of Bom Jesus, The Royal Hospital, the professed House, the Noviciate of Chorao and the college of Rachol, margay Hospital. Besides  there were parish residences in the entire of Salcete .

[7] It is well documented the immediate beneficiary of suppression was the Colonial State. See Charles Borges, The Economics of the Goa Jesuits 1542-1759: An Explanation of their Rise and Fall (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1994), p. 138.

[8] Angela Bareto Xavier and Ines G. Zupanov, Catholic Orientalism : Portuguese Empire and Indian Knowledge (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015), p.118.

[9] Charles Borges, The Economics of the Goa Jesuits 1542-1759, pp. 72-84.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao