Church Authorities Neglect Natural Justice, Kingdom Values
By Father Anand Muttungal
The Catholic Church in India is grabbing headlines these days for wrong reasons giving ample opportunities to those opposed to it to question about the values and principles it preaches. The suicide of Salomi, the wife of Professor T J Joseph whose hand was chopped off by Muslim fundamentalists for an alleged error in setting question paper for his students in Church run Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala state.
The very fact of the college management’s refusal to reinstate him even after court cleared his name from the alleged charges makes to believe the allegation that the college management too sided with the fundamentalists and removed him from service. Salomi would not have taken the cruel step, if the college management had acted positively, at least, after the court order, if not before respecting the law of the land. Even now, the higher authorities of the Church have not taken any action against its college authorities whose failure to reinstate the Professor even after court exonerated from his all alleged charges that forced the house wife to commit suicide. After widespread media criticism and public opinion against the college management, it relented, but by then, the damages were done beyond repair. If his reinstatement was possible legally then why hesitated to this extend? Why should not police initiate suo motto or public demand for registering abetment of suicide case against the erring authorities?
In yet another shocking incident, two Catholic priests and a lay person were arrested for allegedly killing a Catholic priest, Father K J Thomas, who was the Rector of a major seminary in Bangalore, Karnataka state. What seems to be an interesting turn of events in the arrest of priests in the priest’s murder case, other priests sympathetic with the arrested priests are now accusing their Archbishop of Bangalore in public for implicating them (arrested priests) in the crime. But they have not put up any evidence to support their allegations. The Church needs to take these allegations seriously as it involves serious criminal issue demanding investigation. If the allegations lack evidence then punitive measures needs to be initiated against the offenders.
The above instances are fresh in our memories among a series of such brazen violations of law and allegations of immoral activities by the people who vowed to stand for “Kingdom values” even at the cost of their lives. The laxity of the Church to face independent enquiries has caused serious damages. There are classical cases of such nature where in the Archbishop of Bhopal along with two of his priests are facing criminal charges for attempting to poison a fellow priest. Besides these, there are a few cases of Church authorities also facing charges of corruption and sexual abuses among other host of charges.
The rise in crime involving religious persons seems to be a gradual breakdown of the administration of the Church as a whole. The resentment among the religious persons and the laity when not addressed within time. The recent incidents tend us to believe that it gradually paves way for such violent reactions of taking lives. The Church mechanism of addressing complaints seems to be totally paralysed with no one taking responsibility on issues that crop up between priests, priests-bishops, nuns-priests and Church hierarchy and laity and a host of other issues for the effective functioning of the Holy Catholic Church.
Despite such heinous charges against the Church authorities, the Church has not taken action against them instead letting them to carry on with their same duties in the same positions. According to the principle of natural justice and the law, when a person is accused of heinous crimes, he/she is forced to stay away from the very office at least until the completion of the probe. But when it comes to the Catholic Church, it seldom follow even such established public practices leaving one to wonder how will it preach the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ? If the Church continues to function in this fashion, it may not be too far that the laity and committed priests distance themselves from the Church authorities and take recourse in the civil law.