Readers would recall an article (17 September 2018) WHEREABOUTS OF BISHOP FRANCO MULAKKAL OF JALANDHAR – QUO VADIS? It was written in the backdrop of Jalandhar Bishop's decision to step aside and Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas' (Catholic Bishops' Conference of India – CBCI) statement dated 15th September 2018 on CBCI's Pilatelike stance on Bishop Mulakkal. The statement read as follows:
Most Rev. Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX
Prot.854/GenSec2018 (3-b-10/CBCI-GC) 15.09.2018 15.09.2018
We wish to express our distress regarding the developments connected to the accusations against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar. Many have been asking why the CBCI is silent on the issue. We wish to reiterate what we have said earlier: The CBCI has no jurisdiction in the issue of individual Bishops. Besides, a police probe is on and one party has also approached the High Court. The law should take its course and once the police file their definitive report after their investigations, the competent Church authorities will definitely make necessary decisions. Silence should in no way be construed as siding with either of the two parties.
We have learnt that certain statements have been attributed to our President Cardinal Oswald Gracias that the Bishop of Jullunder should step down. We wish to clarify that he has made no such statement and wishes to disassociate himself from any such statement. The comments of the spokesperson of the Bombay Archdiocese are his personal comments and to be taken as such.
We pray that the truth will come out and that a just solution will be found. We request prayers for the Church at this difficult time.
Yours Sincerely in Our Lord.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India
I wrote on the 17th September that the pertinent point to note in the above statement is that "CBCI has not jurisdiction in the issue of individual bishops." How ridiculous and at the same time, naive. In every Association its members are accountable for their way of behaviour and they are pulled up, show-caused, suspended and even removed from membership for their behaviour against the stated objects of the Association which brings the Association into dispute.
If the CBCI has no jurisdiction in the issue of individual Bishops (who are its members), this means its member Bishops (around 180+ from the three rites) can get away with impunity, even licentious lifestyle. The Catholic Laity is really being taken for a ride by the CBCI. While it frames policies and laws of obeisance for the Laity, it is a law unto itself.
Regarding the Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas' CLARIFICATION on the statement of Cardinal Oswald Gracias that Bishop Mulakkal should step aside, why is he giving the clarification on behalf of the Cardinal? Can't the Cardinal speak out? Isaac Gomes, Asso. Editor, Church Citizens' Voice.
Now please read the Editorial in today's Statesman Kolkata on the above Pilate-like statement issued by the CBCI.
There is actually small need for a Biblical reference to link dereliction of duty with a display of moral cowardice; just over six decades back President John F. Kennedy had asserted that “those who do not speak when they should, they should lose their right altogether.” The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) runs the risk of forfeiting its claim to lead the Catholic Church in the country by the overly technical, wishy-washy statement it has just issued saying that the law should takes its own course in Bishop Mulakkal affair. The statement went beyond the CBCI “washing its hands off” the diseased development by claiming “it had no jurisdiction over individual bishops,” and declared that a reported statement from Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai that Bishop Mulakkal should step aside had been made in a personal capacity – unlinked with his high position in the Conference.
At a point in time when the faithful are looking to their religious leaders to help them weather unprecedented turbulence, the CBCI has let down the people. The affairs of the Church had traditionally been isolated and insulated from common law – divine law and authority took precedence, it was contended. Now the CBCI has turned the position upside down by abdicating a spiritual duty to play a role in a raging controversy. Can the CBCI now claim, for example, the inviolate secrecy of the confessional or fail to recognise judicially granted divorce? The orchestrated defence of the Bishop of Jalandhar (a lowly counter-attack, some would say) has far-reaching implications from a legal perspective, and has simultaneously eroded the credibility of the Clergy’s leadership. All controversies could now be referred to the courts. No doubt the allegations against the Bishop are too serious to be adjudicated anywhere but a court of law, and he is fully entitled to establish his innocence, but did the CBCI not a have a moral role to play?
While some sections of the Church leadership have flayed the handful of nuns who are publicly demanding Mulakkal’s arrest, little attempt has been made by the CBCI, or any other body to rein-in the vicious campaign of character assassination against the nun who has alleged that she was sexually exploited. The CBCI should have publicly admonished the Missionaries of Jesus; among the most recent charges is that the nun had once wanted to quit the convent to get married. If that were a crime to be squarely condemned there would be many vacant places in the pews.
The squabble has been permitted to descend to a brawl in the streets. And that is where the CBCI, either collectively or courtesy individual bishops, has betrayed the congregation. It points to leadership failure. The Church in India must look within, ask itself whether the likes of Simon Pimenta, Dursisamy Lourdasamy, Valerian Gracias or Angelo Fernandes would have permitted such sordidness to go viral.