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Not Canon Law but Law of the Land Applies: Former Justice Michael Saldanha to Vatican Diplomat in India

Mumbai: Former Justice of Bombay High Court and Karnataka High Court Michael Saldanha has questioned the silence of the Papal Internuncio to India (Vatican Diplomot to India) Giambattista Diquattro on issues of corruption and sexual abuse of Catholic Bishops and Archbishops in India.

Justice Michael Saldanha drew the attention of the Vatican Diplomat to the cases related to Coorg Disaster Relief Fund scam orchestrated by Archbishop Peter Machado and Bishop K A William and also the rape accusations against Bishop Franco Mulakkal:

For the first time after 1½ months Archbishop of Bengaluru has sent me a reply in which he highlights the fact that I am the virtual villain and that I have hurt him in his exalted status and that I have damaged his reputation and that of the Archdiocese. In Church terminology, I have been put in the position of  a ‘Maha Sinner’ and he very kindly says that I am forgiven, but that I must still compensate. I deny the charges and if a need arises, will establish every one of them.

This is not my personal case. There is a very big Professional Committee set upto examine not only this matter, but a host of criminal charges against the Mysuru Bishop and considerable headway has been made in that regard. My intervention was sought because I have lived in Bengaluru and because I know Mysuru exceedingly well and the same applies to Kodagu. I have a professional background, experience and global standing that few can compare with, as also a track record as a lawyer and in the Judiciary as also Academic field which are almost unparallel. I have impartially examined the charges against the Bishop along-with the evidence and recorded the impartial conclusion  that  not  only  these  but  several  other  very  grave  offences  are established. I have communicated this to the Archbishop, to the Cardinal and to the Internuncio, none of whom have acted.

In any other field take the higher Judiciary, the delinquent who would have immediately been asked to step down if he does not have the good sense to do so and since these are criminal offences asked to face trial before the State Prosecuting  Authorities.  His Holiness the Pope whom  I have immense admiration for has very clearly mandated that in case of sexual abuse the matter has to be reported to the Police and action according to law must follow. In Government service or private service the delinquent would immediately have been suspended, and dismissed from service. I had pointed all of this out to the three authorities who have failed to act for the last one year. It is not an obligation but a duty and if they continue to defy the law, the Government and the Courts will step in but that procedure will be ruthless, Former Justice Saldanha further expressed in the letter.

In the case of serious criminal offences it is not Canon Law but the law of the land which applies and that is when settled. I have reminded these three authorities of this position and even cautioned them that non action will bring about the end of the Church in this country. One has only to watch the developments in the Bishop Mulakkal case where the world is expressing horror at the fact that despite  having been chargesheeted and arrested on a charge of raping a religious i.e. Nun on as many as 13 occasions, he continues as a Bishop and that the Church will stand by him.

The victim – Nun has virtually been to hell and back with all the attacks and tortures coming from within the Church. A Bishop in this country has uncontrolled power and because of the Church Institutions which are all tax free, unthinkable wealth, most of it in cash. The victim – Nun has nothing the media has reported  the type of inducements held out to her and to the family and to the witnesses, but what is horrifying is the fact that she was shamed, ostracized, tortured and thrown on the street, until the Indian Judiciary intervened, that will be the pattern of the future.

It is impossible for me to understand how the Church at all times supports only the rich and the powerful and where the hierarchy is concerned there is a doctrine that says that ‘they can do no wrong’ – the Doctrine of infallibility that every  Christian  is  sworn  to  uphold –  that  they  can  do  no  wrong  which presupposes that they can commit no offences. There is no other explanation for how Mulakkal and William still continue to exercise power in office of Bishop.

I have amplified in writing to the Archbishop, to the Internuncio and to the Cardinal that under the laws of this country, intervention from them is a legal necessity, because conversely, the law presupposes that non-interference is not only collusion, but leads to escalation and aggravation as has happened in these cases. Whatever be the reasons or delays for intervention, this is the time for corrective action.

Letter to Cardinal & Internuncio - 24.07.2020 (1)

Savio Rodrigues

Savio Rodrigues Founder & Editor-in-Chief
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