Given below is an Open Letter from chhotebhai,Convenor of Indian Catholic Forum (ICF) addressed to the Nuncio in New Delhi. In this letter chhotebhai has requested the Nuncio to stem a series of rotten events in Jalandhar, which began with the Frightening Franco Mulakkal as chhotebhai has rechristened him.
Simultaneously with the letter from chhotebhai, Frightening Franco Mulakkal has been chargesheeted as prominently reported in Mattersindia.com, NDTV.com, the hindubusinessline.com and other newspapers/journals. This was long awaited and many in the Laity feared that with money power, he might wriggle out of the situation and make merry again.
The Kerala police on April 9 submitted a chargesheet in the Magistrate's Court in Palai against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar accusing him of offences under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church in India, a bishop will be tried in a court for allegedly raping a nun.
The 74-page chargesheet prepared by the investigative team charged the 54-year-old prelate with illegal detention, raping a woman taking advantage of his official position, unnatural sex, repeated sexual abuse of the same woman, and criminal intimidation.
He could face life imprisonment if the charges are proved.
The police also have submitted 2,000-page supplementary documents containing confidential statements, says a press note from the Save Our Sisters (SOS) Action Council, an interfaith group that leads the campaign for the alleged rape victim nun.
The police have listed 83 witnesses in the case, including Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, notes the SOS that had in September last year organized a dharna (sit-in) demanding Bishop Mulakkal’s arrest.
Among other witnesses are Bishops Joseph Kallarangatt of Palai, Kurien Valiakandathil of Bhagalpur and Sebastian Vadakel of Ujjain. The police have listed 25 nuns and 11 priests as witnesses.
Seven magistrates have recorded the statements of 10 key witnesses. The police have submitted more than 30 documents, a laptop and a cell phone along with the chargesheet, the SOS note said.
While the Administrator of Jalandhar has asked all convents of Jesus Mary Congregation and others in Jalandhar to pray for the Frightening Franco Mulakkal in the hope that he escapes the noose of justice, we the People of God including the group of nuns are all waiting in bated breath on the outcome of the legal proceedings. We hope the judgment serves a stern warning to the Indian Church to stop its Culture of Silence and increasing mafia culture. As Valson Thampu wrote, too much money in the Indian Church is the root cause of all the rot that is taking place. However, it remains to be seen whether the Nuncio will act at all, given the scenario that the matter is now in the hands of law due to the formal chargesheet. Isaac Gomes, Associate Editor, Church Citizens' Voice.
9th April 2019
AN OPEN LETTER
Abp Giambattista Diquattro
Apotolic Nuncio to India
PLEASE STEM THE ROT IN JALANDHAR DIOCESE
We are grateful to you for taking action on our previous submissions regarding the removal of Franco Mulakkal (FM) from the episcopacy of Jalandhar Diocese (JD), and subsequently for preventing the transfer of the five nun witnesses in the alleged rape case.
The latest stink bomb to emerge from the same diocese is the 16 Crore Rupees (CR) cash haul from Antony Madessery (AM), a priest of that diocese a few days ago. This has again grabbed national headlines and brought shame and disgrace on the Catholic community in India. Permit me a recap of the events.
THE INCIDENT: On 29th March AM was caught by the Punjab Police with over 16 CR in cash. He claims that he had earlier deposited 14 CR in a bank, so the total amount involved is over 30 CR. By any standards this is a huge sum of money.
THE JUSTIFICATION: AM claims that he is legally and canonically permitted to do what he is doing, just like the Ambanis, the country’s richest family. Bp Agnelo Gracias, the Apostolic Administrator, states that Sahodhaya, the firm through which AM operates, together with three other priests, has got the permission of the diocese.
THE OBFUSCATION: AM has tried to obfuscate the main issue of his doing cash business amounting to 30 CR or more by claiming that the police “misappropriated” 6 CR of the cash seizure. He has also disputed the circumstances/ location from where the cash was seized. Significantly, he has not denied the amount of cash involved, which he claims is legitimate tax paid money.
THE IMPLICATIONS: Such a huge stash of cash is a transgression of several laws of the land.
The Model Code of Conduct is in force because of the Lok Sabha elections. As per its provisions one cannot carry more than Rs 10,000/- in cash.
As per provisions of the Income Tax Act one cannot transact business exceeding Rs 10,000/- in cash.
The modus operandi of AM and his firm Sahodhaya is in direct contravention of the provisions of the Competition Act 2002 that was enacted “to prevent activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India”. This Act replaced the Monopolies & Restrictive Trade Practices Act of 1969 that was meant “to curb the rise of concentration of wealth in a few hands by monopolistic practices”. Prima facie the way in which AM’s firm has been doing business, it attracts the provisions of the said Act.
CHURCH TEACHINGS: Canon Law states that “Clerics are forbidden to practice trade and commerce, either personally or through another, for their own or another’s benefit” (Can 286). Unfortunately AM has availed of the caveat that makes an exception “with the permission of the lawful ecclesiastical authority”. It is important to emphasise here that this is an exception that only proves the rule, that commerce or trade are forbidden for clerics. The concerned persons cannot hide behind the fig leaf of some “permission’. Canons 1286(1) and 1290 state that all financial dealings should be in accordance with the provisions of civil laws. This is obviously not the case here.
Canon Law also provides for the establishment of Diocesan Finance Committees (492) which should have at least three lay people, and Parish Finance Committees (537). Besides “Persons related to the bishop up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity are excluded from the Diocesan Finance Committee” (492:3). It is noteworthy that FM and the four priests that are partners in the firm Sahodhaya are all from Kerala. They could be related to the bishop. They are certainly his country cousins. Legal nuances apart, what is happening in JD is contrary to the spirit of Canon Law.
FEAR ELEMENT: there is an element of fear in all that is related to FM and JD. FM has been out on bail for several months, and the charge sheet in his case has not yet been filed. A lesser mortal would have been rotting in jail. He is out probably because of his influence and the impending elections. It is a matter of record that Rev Kuriakose Kattuthara, a priest of JD, who was a key testator against FM, was found dead in October 2018 under unsolved circumstances. The 5 sisters who are witnesses in the case, as also the alleged victim herself, have repeatedly stated that they fear for their lives. In the instant case AM is reportedly the Superior General of the Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation founded by FM. The alleged rape victim was also the Superior General of the Missionaries of Jesus (sisters), again coming under FM. All this cannot be mere coincidence. There seems to be a deep rooted conspiracy by very powerful persons.
CLERICALISM: Pope Francis has been repeatedly saying that clericalism is the biggest scourge in the church. A recent gathering of bishops and theologians in Varanasi said the same thing. What is happening in JD is the height of clericalism.
BREAKING NEWS: The Indian Express on 8th April has done an investigative report on the “Businessmen Priests of JD”. It states that AM and his gang, for want of a better word, have established 15 business enterprises in the last 10 years, and more particularly since FM became the bishop in 2013, with an annual turnover of about 60 CR. It also reveals the “open secret” that book publishers are giving donations to the management of church run schools. It is highly probable that both the suppliers and purchasers are all priests from Kerala, making this a potent nexus of vested interests. This must STOP.
In the light of the above we respectfully pray to you as under:
That Franco Mulakkal be immediately extradited from the geographical territory of Jalandhar diocese.
That the four priests, including Antony Madessery, who are partners in Sahodhaya, be immediately transferred to different remote parts of the diocese, to minimise further conspiracy and collusion.
That the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese be directed to issue a public notice unequivocally stating that the diocese has no contract or understanding with Sahodhaya, and all the institutions in the diocese are at complete liberty to avail of the supplies/ services from any agency of their choice.
That a canonical enquiry be ordered into the functioning of the Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus and Missionaries of Jesus (sisters) and if necessary they may be disbanded forthwith.
That the so-called “permission” granted to Sahodhaya and the other business entities being run by the priests, to undertake trade and commerce, be immediately revoked.
That immediate steps be taken for the establishment of a Diocesan Finance Committee and respective Parish Finance Committees as provided for in Canon Law.
That all contributions to the churches and their institutions in excess of Rs 1000/- be made by cheque or direct bank transfer, in order to ensure better accountability and transparency.
That the recruitment for the priesthood should not be limited or focussed on Kerala, as this is leading to nepotism and ethnic chauvinism that is a hindrance to the development of the Local Church.
In the interests of the Catholic community in India we hope and pray that swift action, as prayed, will be taken by you. Justice must not only be done, but it must also be seen to be done. Hence a word in acknowledgement will be deeply appreciated. One is also constrained to say that if remedial action is not taken then we will have to take up these matters with the concerned agencies of the State, because of their anti-social and anti-national nature.
- Bp Theodore Mascarenhas
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India
- Lancy D’Cunha
All India Catholic Union
- The Editors/ Bureau Chiefs of Catholic Journals/ Web Portals