By Matters India Reporter
Mysuru, Nov 6, 2019: A group of parishioners has supported Bishop K A William of Mysore after 37 priests of the diocese wrote to Pope Francis demanding the prelate’s dismissal.
The parishioners on November 5 shouted slogans in support of Bishop William when a laity group from Mumbai, Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC), came to Mysuru (formerly Mysore) to protest against the prelate.
The local Catholics questioned the veracity of the allegations and held a meeting at the Bishop’s House on Mother Teresa Road. Tension prevailed after they tried to prevent media persons from recording the meeting but police intervened and pacified them, reports The Times of India.
AOCC general secretary Melwyn Fernandes said they came to Mysuru after learning about four women ‘s complaint against Bishop William in the last two-and-a-half years. The association also alleged that the bishop has fathered two children, a charge first raised by the 37 priests in their July 27 letter to the Pope.
The association had called for a press conference at the Mysuru District Journalists Association to explain their allegations but they weren’t allowed to hold the meet due to lack of supporting documents. Later, the association members spoke to media at a nearby park.
The priests from various parishes of the diocese in the Karnataka state had earlier accused the bishop of sexual misconduct, criminal activities and kidnapping.
Their main allegation is that the bishop has a child from his relationship with a woman.
The laity association says the child is studying in a school on the outskirts of Mysuru. However, the woman has not spoken out or corroborated the allegations.
Another woman, who had worked in the diocese, accused through a video clip Father Leslie Morris, a diocesan priest, of making sexual advances. She has also alleged that Bishop William supported the priest.
“I was called to the office after my field work at around 6 pm on the pretext of giving a report of what I had been doing. At that time, he [Leslie Morris] was grazing himself against me lustfully. Later, he directly approached me for sex, and said, ‘only if you compromise with me, you will have a job.’ I decided to quit my job thereafter, in May 2018,” the woman’s video alleged.
She also alleged that her life was in danger. “Some men came to my new workplace in July 2018 and made me accompany them after I got a threat call from the bishop. The men took me to a car and wiped all the data on my phone. Then they offered to give me money,” she alleged.
Speaking to reporters on November 5 at his residence, Bishop William dismissed the allegations as false. “I feel sorry for the accusers, because without even contacting me or trying to know the truth they have published this in the media. We could have avoided this damage by having a discussion,” he said.
The bishop also said everything said about him and Father Morris was “a complete lie. If you examine this, you will understand it is a concocted story.” “If given to a producer, a film can be made of this.”
He said an “unhappy group” was behind the allegations to malign the Catholic community’s image and that he was willing for any discussion.
Bishop William said: “There is no truth in the allegations and I suspect a group is behind it because of administrative reforms I introduced after taking two and a half years ago. There is procedure for selection of bishop and it takes a long time. If the allegations of sexual misconduct were true, I wouldn’t have been selected as the bishop…”
The accusers, however, demand that the bishop should take a paternity test. “If he is not the father of the child, why should he refuse the test? We demand that he take the test in Mumbai as he has too much influence here,” says Joseph Sodder, a lawyer who is part of the case.
AOCC member Robert Rosario on November 5 filed a complaint against the bishop at the Lashkar police station in Mysuru accusing him of kidnapping, sexual assault, intimidation, land grabbing, criminal conspiracy, and attempt to murder.
The First Information Report is yet to be filed, and an investigation is ongoing. Rosario has had a case against him previously for spreading communal hatred during the assembly elections in May.
The priests’ letter urged the Pope to immediately remove Bishop William. The letter alleges that the prelate has “strong connections with the politicians of criminal record, corrupt police officials and corrupt bureaucrats. It is highly worrisome that he has also connections with the underworld.”
AOCC activist Robert Rosario claimed they have come from Mumbai, Bengaluru and Mangaluru after they learnt about the alleged misdeeds of Bishop William. “We were following up a claim about the transfer of the bishop’s car within a few months of purchase. Later, we heard about other wrongdoings.” He claimed the matter has also been brought to the notice of Pope Francis.