Rites Controversy: An Entangled History of Normativity Between the East and the West

Conflicting Normativities in the Malabar Rites Controversy: Jurisdictional Assertions and the Determination of "Factum"

by Paolo Aranha (Istituto Italiano di Studi Germanici)




The Malabar Rites controversy is a conflict that exploded at the beginning of the eighteenth century in relation to the Jesuit South Indian missions of Madurai, Mysore and the Carnatic. The issues at stake concerned the extent to which Roman Catholicism could be adapted to the local social hierarchies. While the dominant opinion among the Jesuits was that radical adaptations were unavoidable, other missionaries believed that the very purity of the Faith was jeopardised.

As the Malabar Rites were denounced to the Holy See, it became essential to verify the specific nature of the controverted rites. This presentation will offer an overview of the jurisdictional conflicts on the determination of the authority legitimised to discover and assess the factual data (the factum) concerning the Malabar Rites. I will present the terms of the conflict between Propaganda Fide and the Portuguese Padroado around the eighteenth century, as well as the role played by the English and French East India Companies in relation to the Catholic missions on the Coromandel Coast.


Paolo Aranha is a research fellow of the Istituto Italiano di Studi Germanici. He has published a book on the history of Latin Christianity in India in the 16th century, as well as essays on the Malabar Rites controversy and the history of the Catholic missions in India. 


This lecture is part of the lecture series Rites Controversy: An Entangled History of Normativity Between the East and the West, co-hosted by two Max Planck Partner Groups (Beijing, Trento) and their home department Historical Regimes of Normativity at MPI.


The session is held in English and takes place online.

Organised by

Fupeng Li, Benedetta Albani, Manuela Bragagnolo

Sandra Röseler