By Jose Kavi
New Delhi, Nov 22, 2018: A Syro-Malabar archdiocese has threatened to act against a priest who it alleges incites sedition and hatred against Church authorities and associates with extremist and atheistic groups.
“Some of them are said to be groups which plot against the Church, harm good morals and injure religion/Church,” says a letter Bishop Jacob Manathodath, apostolic administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly, wrote to Father Augustine Vattoly, convener of the “Save Our Sisters” Action Council.
The council is an umbrella organization for various groups supporting Catholic nuns against abuses.
After listing a number of offences of Father Vattoly, the letter says, “You are hereby warned about the consequences of the above mentioned and similar actions.”
Bishop Manathodath has asked Father Vattoly to give in writing his explanations for the various allegations against him by November 25. “Unless I get a satisfactory explanation, I will have to proceed with disciplinary action against you on this matter as per the norms of the Catholic Church,” the prelate warns.
The bishop wants the priest to take the letter in the “right spirit” and “reform yourself after the Heart of Jesus, the High Priest.”
The letter came to light only on November 21 although it was dated November 11, just three days before Father Vattoly organized a sit-in in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala.
The Nov. 14 protest outside the Kerala government’s secretariat building demanded the cancellation of bail granted to a bishop accused of raping a nun. Former Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan opened the protest.
Stating that such actions from a priest will “seriously injure the good of the Church” and cause scandal among the faithful, the letter asked Father Vattoly not to organize or attend the sit-in or similar protests. “Disobedience will incur ecclesiastical actions per norms of Church laws,” it warns.
Father Vattoly declined to comment on the apostolic administrator’s letter, but had gone ahead with the secretariat sit-in where he shared his apprehensions about the probe being conducted against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, the rape accused.
The priest came to limelight in September when his movement organized a sit-in in front of the Kerala High Court in Kochi to demand Bishop Mulakkal’s arrest. Thousands of people, including five nuns from the alleged rape victim’s congregation, had joined the sit-in that began on September 8.
They called it off on September 22, a day after the bishop was arrested and sent to jail.
However, the Kerala High Court granted bail to Bishop Mulakkal on October 15.
The archdiocese’s letter “shows how the Catholic Church is not ready for dissent,” the ndtv.com quoted unnamed Church observer.
“Even the nuns are part of the Church and have been crying for justice. The higher authorities in the Church don’t realize that ordinary people in the Church can see things through. Father Vattoly will be responding to the notice but won’t react publicly at this point,” he added.
The letter also says Father Vattoly does not offer Mass daily as required of a priest or “commemorate” the name of the Church’s major archbishop in Mass or Divine Office as stipulated by the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches.
It also accused him of taking the lead to make the “scandalous presentation of the statue of Pieta” showing a nun instead of Jesus in the lap of Mother Mary.
“This is profanation of a sacred object that calls for punishment” in accordance with the Oriental Code, the letter warns.