George Neduparambil has hit the bull’s eye in his recommendation to address Bishop William-like malaise. Having been a banker for many years, he has recommended Financial Reform in our churches. While in full agreement with him, my suggestion is take away finance from Bishops and Parish Priests and see the metamorphosis in their behaviour. All their glitz and glaze will evaporate! Both Diocesan Finance Committes (DFCs) and Parish Finance Committees (PFCs) should have elected (not handpicked by Bishop and Parish Priests) Lay members who are well-conversant with accounts & finance. In DFC the Bishop/Archbishop should not be a member of the Committee. Similarly in PFCs, the Parish Priest should not be member. After all, their main job is to smell their sheep and feed them. They will however get a copy of all accounts – both before and after audit. Their financial needs will be decided by the Finance Committees as per Canon Law and law of the land.
To ensure impartiality and to prevent defalcation of funds (to pay off underworld mafia as mentioned in the legal notice of Justice Saldanha, Bishops/Archbishops and Parish Priests, should not be signatories to bank accounts. These should be operated by the joint signatories picked out from members of respective Finance Committees. A resolution should be passed to that effect, one copy to be given to banks. All receipts and expenses should be accounted for by making vouchers and getting them regularly approved. Payment Vouchers should be approved first before making any payments, other than extreme exigencies up to pre-defined limit say to Rs 2,000.
In this context it is pertinent to bring up the topic of Catholic Association of Bengal (CAoB). Established in 1911, this 109 year-old Lay Catholic Association was registered with Registrar of Societies, Government of West Bengal on 24th July 2008 by the then President (two-time immediate Past President of All-India Catholic Union – AICU) and Secretary-General (currently Treasurer of AICU). When in September 2018 the new office bearers were elected, they found after taking over office, no accounts and important correspondence files, including the Minutes, for the past financial years. Especially, no hard or soft copies of the accounts and any vouchers for 2015-2018 were handed over to them. Even the cheques and receipt books were handed over after repeated persistence. When Dairies were lodged with the police for these gross deliberate discrepancies, the outgoing Treasurer and her husband put up a brave front and her husband (erstwhile CAoB President-for-nine-years and two-term immediate Past President of AICU) had the temerity to write to the current President of CAoB that audits were done based on statements and missing vouchers were not a big deal – they can be RECONSTRUCTED! I would be happy to get a clarification from George Neduparambil who has had a long stint as a banker whether this RECONSTRUCTION of voucher years after the event is permissible. Just imagine this suggestion came from him after he was Showcaused by the current President for his hand in another scam over and above financial matters!. It was revealed on an enquiry with the Registrar of Societies, that Catholic Association of Bengal was registered in another name as CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION OF BENGAL, KOLKATA! The enquiry was taken up when the original documents of CAoB's registration in 2008 were not traceable in CAoB office. It was also found that while Catholic Association of Bengal was registered with the Suffix KOLKATA, with the Income Tax authorities it was registered as CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION OF BENGAL, for IT returns and Eligibility Certificate for 80G Exemption! The PAN Card AAAAC6116C bears the name CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION OF BENGAL. Doesn't this glaring discrepancy put the Association in a Constitutional crisis?
No wonder the Returns for the last ten years were not filed with the Registrar of Societies, Government of West Bengal, due to this dual identity of the Association. By the way, in 2011 a gala programme was held by same erstwhile President-Secretary General combine, at St Xavier's College Auditorium to celebrate 100 years of CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION OF BENGAL!
To put a stop to a repeat of the Mysore Bishop scandal of sex and murder, George Neduparambil, a seasoned banker, has suggested implementation of financial transparency by streamlining finance committees and ensuring their accountability to the Laity. In the context of CAoB, the same financial and operational transparency was found missing by the newly elected (in Septemebr 2018) office bearers. While they are still struggling to put the missing pieces together, the Archbishop of Calcutta, who is also the Ex-Officio Chairman of the Association, is openly siding with the perpetrators of decade-old malpractice. He has written letters to the current President of CAoB (the first lady president in 109 year-old history of the Association) to WITHDRAW all police diaries and Show Cause / Suspension Notices, and patch up with the erstwhile corrupt office bearers.
The million dollar question therefore, for the Archbishop of Calcutta, is "What is your interest in trying to shield the miscreants who are on all your Core Committees?" Is he using them for money laundering?