Monday, October 29, 2012

Wedding of Joemon/Jainy Thundathil in Texas

Here is yet another example of plain stupidity of Syro Malabar Diocese of Chicago. I wonder when the Bishop and the priests are going to realize that they are in the US not in Kerala. Please see the second posting to see the legal notice.

"Weddings and funerals should not be used for extortion, retaliation and manipulation by church officials;instead, the church officials should be the ones to provide assistance and guidance in preparing the couple spiritually for the altar. It certainly appears that this is not a matter of faith, but is just a matter of "dollars"" - James and Lizzy Thundathil

Kalyana Kuri – Extortion by Syro-Malabar Clergy 

I keep on hearing multiple rumors regarding the Issues of my son Joemon’s wedding. This is my humble attempt to clarify the facts to the public.

Joemon and Jainy had decided to get married and went to book St.Theresa Catholic (Latin) Church on September 30, 2011. They were referred to Fr. Jose Tharayil, who is the assistant vicar at St.Theresa’s. He showed interest towards conducting their marriage and gave the appropriate forms to complete. He even made the comment that "since you are a parishioner at St. Theresa Church you don’t have to go through all the Syro-Malabar process". They booked the church and reception hall to have the wedding on 10/06/2012. We went to India for the "Orapeeru" in November 2011.

On January 17
th 2012, Fr.Jose Tharayil called our home and said that he needs permission from Fr. Jose Illikunnumpurath (pastor of St.Mary’s Knanaya Catholic Church in Houston) in order to perform the marriage ceremony. Joemon attended Latin-rite churches his entire life and had his religious education and sacraments from there. Since Joemon was the child of parents from the Syro-Malabar Rite, Fr.Tharayil said that Joemon had to do the marriage in the Syro-Malabar Rite and therefore, needed a delegation letter (kuri) from the local Knanaya priest, even though he is not a member of the Knanaya church. Joemon met Fr.Illikunnumpurath on March 2nd, 2012 for the letter. Fr.Illikunnumpurath said that he himself had no problem giving him the letter but the parish council had decided not to give anyone a letter unless they paid $ 3000 towards the church building fund. Fr.Illikunnumpurath himself agreed that forcing money from the people to provide marriage permission is not right but the parish council was forcing him to do it. However, Fr.Illikunnumpurath did not make an attempt to correct the parish council. 

My husband and I met with Fr. Jose Tharayil to discuss this issue, and he stated that he would get into trouble if he performed the marriage without the letter from Fr.Illikunnumpurath. I repeatedly asked Fr. Jose Tharayil whether he needed any other letters, and if the betrothal is a requirement for this wedding. He indicated that the betrothal is not required to have the wedding in America, but if we decided to have the betrothal, we may need a letter from Fr. Illikunnumpurath. On March 6, 2012, my husband talked to Fr.Illikunnumpurath and he agreed to give the letter without any problem. We made an appointment with Fr.Illikunnumpurath and met with him on March 10, 2012. Fr.Illikunnumpurath stated that he would give us the letter at a later time. However, it was becoming clear to us that he was starting to play games like the Kerala government employees do when they don’t get paid off with bribes. Joemon was very frustrated with these broken promises and unfair treatment from the priest. After meeting Fr.illikunnumpurath, Joemon came home and told his brother, "You better find an American girl to marry, so that you don’t have to go through this nonsense."

Joemon had sent a letter To Bishop Angadiath asking for his help regarding this issue, along with copies to Bishop Moolakkattu and Bishop Pandarasseril. He did not get any reply. He sent a second letter to Bishop Angadiath stating that if he is not getting help from the Bishop, then he may need to seek further help. This time Mar Angadiath sent a reply letter and also talked to Joemon on the telephone. According to his letter, money is not required for marriage permission, but is a tradition in India to help the church

during such occasions. He said that there won’t be any more problems and that he talked to Fr.Illikunnumpuarth to provide the letter and would appreciate it if he donates any amount to the church.

After all of this, Joemon talked to Fr.Illikunnumpurath; this time, Fr Illikunnumpurath stated that after the betrothal/engagement, he needs to announce the wedding in the church (villichu chollu), and then only he can give the letter. However, he still talked about the money stating that the parish council is forcing him to get the money, as if he has no part in it. When we went to see Fr.Tharayil later, we could see that his tone had completely changed and that he was now supporting Fr.Illikunnumpuarath. Jainy talked to Fr.Willie, the pastor of her local Latin-Rite parish in New York, and he said that a betrothal/engagement is not a sacrament and therefore, did not need any permission from the Syro-Malabar diocese in order to perform the ceremony and that he was happy to do their engagement. Jainy was not comfortable to go to Fr. Tharackal (Knanaya priest at New York) because of the bad experience her family had during her sister’s and cousin’s weddings. She went to see Fr.Tharackal with her brother-in-law anyway and asked him about the necessary steps and documents she needed in order to get married. She also mentioned to him that Fr. Willie had agreed to conduct her engagement (othu kalyanam). Fr.Tharackal did not say anything at that time and said that he may also be able to come for the engagement. Joemon talked to Fr. Illikunnumpurath about the engagement and told him that Fr.Willie will be there for sure and that Fr.Tharackal may also attend. The engagement took place at Jainy’s local parish by Fr.Willie on June 23
rd, 2012. The next day Jainy found out that there was an email from Fr.Tharackal dated a couple days before stating that Fr.Willie conducting the engagement is not valid and nobody is going accept his betrothal/engagement letter. 

Jainy sent a letter to Bishop Angadiath about this issue and requested that he either give permission for her wedding or permit her to change her rite to Latin. She sent the letter two different times but she never received a reply. Fr. Illikunnumpurath also said that Fr.Willie’s engagement is not valid.

By this time, the wedding date was closely approaching and still, no Syro-Malabar priest was willing to help. Finally Joemon went to see Fr.Reynolds, the pastor of our local parish St.Theresa Church (Latin Rite) and explained all these issues and gave an application to forward to change his rite to Latin (which he was exposed to all his life). Fr.Reynolds stated that changing the rite will be a long process and there won’t be enough time before the wedding. He himself called the Syro-malabar Bishop’s house in Chicago and talked to Fr.Antony Thundathil, the Vicar General, who said that he can give the permission. After one week he sent an email to Fr.Reynolds stating that there is no problem and will send the permission within one week and to go ahead with the wedding process. Again another week passed but nothing happened. Joemon called Fr.Reynolds again and he replied that he talked to Fr.Thundathil and also Bishop Angadiath and both agreed that there is no problem and that Fr. Reynolds should consider this as an oral permission. Fr. Reynolds considered the verbal permission from Bishop Angadiath sufficient to proceed with the wedding. As such, Fr. Reynolds instructed Fr.Tharayil to go ahead and proceed with the wedding preparations. Fr. Reynolds also sent an email to Fr. Tharayil asking him to follow up with the Syro-Malabar Diocese in Chicago regarding the written permission if he really needed it in addition to the oral permission.

By this time, there was less than 2 weeks left before the wedding date. We went to see Fr. Tharayil to finalize the wedding program and he said that he was not going to perform the wedding without the written permission and he was not willing to follow up with the Syro-Malabar diocese in Chicago as Fr.Reynolds advised. He also said he didn’t have any interest in doing Joemon’s wedding and that we can find any other priest to perform the ceremony. At this point, we didn’t have any other choice left other than seeking legal assistance to have his wedding at the church.

At this point Joemon approached Attorney Mr. Joseph Mathew (Paramel) for legal assistance in resolving this issue. Mr. Mathew was willing to help, even though he knew there would be criticism from the community. Mr. Mathew sent a pre-suit notice to Bishop Angadiath and Fr. Illikunnumpurath. As soon as they received the notice, everything started moving in the right direction. Fr. Willie’s engagement letter was acceptable to the Syro-Malabar priests. Mar Angadiath talked to Mr. Joseph and told him that the permission letter was ready and can be picked up from Fr. Illikunnumpurath. Mr. Mathew picked up the permission letter from Fr.Illikunnumpurath and gave it to us.

While Joemon and Jainy were going through extreme stress due to Syro-Malabar issues, I was praying to God daily to help them to keep their faith in God. Thank God for rewarding my prayer. For us, it would have been much easier to pay the $3000 and have peace of mind, but we would have supported corruption and Injustice. Our entire family showed the courage to stand for justice and we hope this will help the future generation.

I think it is time for everybody to wake up and see what is going on with the Syro-Malabar Church. A wedding should be the happiest day in a couple’s life. Lots of prayers and sacrifices of the parents, relatives, and friends are behind every wedding ceremony. Weddings and funerals should not be used for extortion, retaliation, and manipulation by church officials; instead the church officials should be the ones to provide assistance and guidance in preparing the couple spiritually for the altar. It certainly appears that this is not a matter of faith, but is just a matter of "Dollars". It is important to see that the pastor of our Latin parish was much more helpful than the Assistant Pastor, who is one of "OUR OWN"!

This is not going to be an isolated event that just my family had to deal with. The Syro-Malabar clergy will continue this practice for future weddings of all of our children. We need to think hard - Is this the new morality and conscience of the Syro-Malabar "Shepherds" of the 21st century? Is this the environment and path that we should allow our children and youngsters to have to go through? Should we allow ourselves to be threatened and bullied? After these kinds of experiences, will our children want to stay connected to the Catholic faith in which we have raised them? In my humble opinion, based on this horrible experience, OUR FAITH MAY BE BETTER SERVED IN THE LATIN RITE.


Mrs. Lissy James Thundathil

Houston, Texas  \

October 23, 2012


  1. The whole story is stinking, first, of the greed of the priests concerned and their ignorance of the laws of the church. Second, of the lack of courage on the part of the parents and their son and daughter about to get married. At the very first indication from theside of the priests that thy expected a donation to issue the "curi", the parents as well as their kids ought to have shown the courage to break all ties with the sect that was not in the least God-oriented, but purely money-oriented. If people living in a free society as in the US, can't show so much courage, then how would one expect an improvement in the situation of the church, lead by so corrupt priests? Is is a shame that believers still cling to a church that has become so incorrigible. But if they want to be stricltly traditional in every way, nothing in the world is going to save them.

  2. The above comment was my first reaction after reading the story. The legal notice to the bishop and the priest concerned was not legible at that time. Now that is has been posted in a legible form, I think it is the proper thing to do, instead of letting the culprits go free. Every such instance should be brought before law as it is the only way to teach them sense and manners. Wish all the best to the bold parents.

  3. The Shepherd!!

    Now the time has come to think hard. I used to wonder about the meaning of what Mr. Joseph Amlathungal told me about “Jesus and our clergy”. As you know we get these letters from bishops (Idaya lekhanam), a letter from the Shepherd to the Sheep. The Jr. Shepherd (vicar) reads this in the church in Sunday mass, where we go to worship GOD. There will be nothing good in these letters for the sheep. Only for the Shepherd’s benefits. (Mostly asking money)
    Sir Joseph says that the wording of “shepherd and Sheep “were added to the bible by our clergy. Because Jesus was a great philosopher and genius. He will not use these absurd words in his teachings. Now just think about it. Why the shepherd should have these sheep? He wants to take the fur for his own use and sell it. Kill and eat it for his pleasure, milk it for himself and his children and sell the sheep for money. Now Jesus will never say that to us. He had none of these intentions. But our clergy is behaving just as a shepherd. Most of our people are conditioned, to become sheep in front of these so called shepherds from the day we were all born, by our parents and these shepherds.
    Now you know why they asking the money?

    Go girl, Lissy