In his plea to the Court, to be exempted from deposing in the 2004 Ribandar Church case proceedings, Archbishop of Goa Filipe Neri Ferrao has accused me of having sought to have him summoned only to embarrass him. The Archbishop has however not substantiated this allegation. May I clarify that I have always held Rev Ferrao in high esteem not because he is related to me but also for the warm and upright individual he is as a person.
However, in an era of transparency and accountability, there should not be a cover up. In the affairs of the Ribandar Church in 2004 the Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao chose to look the other way, though I had personally met him and had given him complete details of the misdemeanour of his priest Father Newton Rodrigues. As the head of the Catholic Church he ought to have cracked the whip and cleansed our Parish.
We can only sympathise with the Archbishop for the state of the helplessness that he finds himself in. The Archdiocese of Goa is not immune to the malady of factionalism, groupism and thirst for power that afflicts other institutions. Furthermore, the unholy nexus between the Church and the politicians does more damage than good.
Fifteen of Ribandar’s parishioners have had to face the brunt of a false case filed by the Ribandar Church. We have spent seven long years defending the alleged trespass that never happened. The Police took 33 months to investigate a petty case like this. This case was the only tool that the authorities could use to harass me, but it will not cow me down from standing for what is right. By the grace of Almighty God, my determination, perseverance and patience shall always be of steel.
The Ribandar Church case speaks for itself. We have been persecuted for standing by a 13 year old girl who was allegedly molested on church premises by the then Parish Priest, Father Newton Rodrigues, who has now moved to Canada. He has shied away from and dodged the Court cleverly. In fact, he had an opportunity to vindicate himself but chose not to, because he might not have been able to. This resulting inference is not a whimsical conjecture.
The law requires that the Prosecution proves every case beyond reasonable doubt. But if even an iota of evidence is established that I had in any way breached the law on 16th August 2004 at the Ribandar Church I would volunteer to face the most stringent punishment.
The proceedings of the 2004 Ribandar Church case will soon come to an end. But the memories of this seven year ordeal will not easily fade. Definitely remembered will be His Grace the Archbishop of Goa for failing to gracefully comply with the Court summons, a duty which is required of every citizen.
Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao may have chosen to remain mum on the affairs at the Ribandar church but he definitely cannot, for too long, be a mere spectator to the alleged corruption in the administration of the Catholic Church, in areas of finance, property, artifacts and various other scandals. As the dirt beneath the carpets is oozing out, like every other Catholic I can only wish, the Reverend Archbishop of Goa all the very best in any clean-up operation he may decide to embark on. Archbishop Ferrao may be embarrassed to have me in his long list of relatives. There is nothing I can do about it. “You can chose your friends but not your relatives” as the saying goes.
– Aires Rodrigues