Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Bishop Prakasam: Let Arulraj be Mr G.A. Raj

On his "New Life Society" website he wishes to be known as "Mr G.A. Raj"
Arulraj's preference for lay status should be facilitated as soon as possible

I started this blog the day after Arulraj's scamming website for "The New Life Society for the Poor and Handicapped" was brought to my attention. What I have written here gives anyone who is making an internet search connected with this "New Life Society" enough information to avoid being scammed, so this blog has served its primary purpose.

Maybe Arulraj will always be a scammer - that's up to him.  Nobody is born a scammer.  We choose whether we want to live honestly or whether we want to cheat others.  I wish Arulraj would choose a better life.  But it's up to him.

What is truly offensive, though, to any Catholic - and indeed to any decent human being - is to have someone scamming who is a priest.

And so the question posted in the sub-heading of the blog must be addressed:

How is it possible for a man to have a 'wife' and (at least) two children, to separate himself from his bishop for nearly 15 years, to be facing criminal charges for fraud, theft and other serious crimes, and even then to continue his scamming - and yet remain a Catholic priest?

With Arulraj's renewed scamming activities - online for all to see - his bishop must now surely address his status as a priest.  And if he does not, all Catholics are entitled to ask: why is he not doing something about Arulraj?

There is much more that could be said about Arulraj.  Perhaps one day I will post on this blog more evidence of his scamming activities. (I have enough evidence to keep me busy for a long time.) However, I would prefer not to. What has been posted is bad enough.  This blog was set up out of a sense of obligation to fellow Catholics and others who deserve better than to be scammed by a priest of the Diocese of Nellore who should have been dismissed from the clerical state long ago. I get no joy from posting what I have, and have no wish to post any more.  Whether or not more is posted depends on whether Arulraj continues to scam, and especially whether he continues to scam as a priest.  

This blog has highlighted the case of Arulraj, not that of Paulinraj, because I am not aware that Paulinraj is continuing to scam. Moreover, the case of Paulinraj is different from that of Arulraj.  Perhaps he might have been an honest and faithful priest if he hadn't been led astray by his uncle. Maybe there is still a chance that he could function as a priest. Unlike Arulraj, he at least does not  have (as far as I know - though not much would surprise me nowadays) responsibilities for a wife and children that are incompatible with continuing to function as a priest. Nevertheless he has been active systematically over many years in committing serious crimes that bring disgrace to him and dishonour to the priesthood. (And there is more to his crimes than has so far been publicly revealed.)  It is not sufficient for Bishop Prakasam to 'resolve' the matter by moving Paulinraj to a different part of the diocese (as parish priest with not only a care of souls but also with financial responsibilities) without any reparation for the serious harm that he has done.  Until there is an acknowledgement from Paulinraj of his serious wrongdoing, and a demonstration that he is truly sorry for what he is done and sincerely willing to make amends, how can he have any credibility functioning as a priest?

There are also aspects of Bishop Prakasam's handling of his two priests that I haven't raised here, that give me cause for concern. For now, I prefer not to raise them. I hope that when Bishop Prakasam reads this blog he may recognise the need for him to reconsider his policy of inaction.  Bishop Prakasam's inaction raises too many questions, as I informed him in an email two years ago (24 March 2010):

"As you acknowledge, I do understand the situation in India, but this in no way excuses your failure to discipline your priests. In particular, the fact that Arulraj (living with a woman who is publicly regarded as his 'wife', and with whom he has two children) has not yet been dismissed from the clerical state -- and, almost unimaginably, has not even been suspended from priestly ministry as is required by Canon Law* -- is nothing short of scandalous. To Catholics here, your failure to take action means you are giving your support and protection to your priests.  I am asked: Is the Bishop of Nellore a weak Bishop? Is he afraid to take action? Has he been intimidated by Arulraj and Paulinraj into not taking action? Have these priests got some sort of hold over him, so that he is effectively being blackmailed from taking action against them? Has the Bishop made an unworthy and shameful deal with the two priests, allowing them to continue in the priestly ministry if they give to the Diocese the money and properties at their disposal (when any criminal and civil cases against them have been concluded) obtained as a result of embezzling funds? Is the Bishop corrupt like his priests? When asked these questions I can only reply that I do not know the answers to any of them, but that I entirely agree with the questioners in deploring your inaction."
*According to Canon Law if a priest attempts marriage he incurs an automatic - latae sententiae - suspension.  If he is living as though he is married, then the bishop has to impose the suspension.

Can. 1394: 1. [...] a cleric who attempts marriage, even if only civilly, incurs a latae sententiae suspension. If, after warning, he has not reformed and continues to give scandal, he can be progressively punished by deprivations, or even by dismissal from the clerical state.

Can. 1395: 1. Apart from the case mentioned in can. 1394, a cleric living in concubinage, and a cleric who continues in some other external sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue which causes scandal, is to be punished with a suspension. To this, other penalties can progressively be added if after a warning he persists in the offence, until eventually he can be dismissed from the clerical state.
As though it were a defence of his inaction, Bishop Prakasam informed me, by email, as recently as 12 February 2012: "Fr. Arulraj denies of having contacted [sic] any Civil Marriage."

But in that case, Canon Law is crystal clear.  If there is doubt as to whether Arulraj has formally married, then given that he is known to be living as though he is married (with a 'wife' and children) then he "is to be punished with a suspension."  And the person who is to impose the suspension is the bishop.

Far from there being uncertainty as to how Bishop Prakasam should act, Canon Law is clear.  And on this matter, Canon Law reflects the opinion of just about every decent person who is surely appalled that someone like Arulraj - who has brought so much dishonour to the Catholic priesthood - could possibly remain a priest and be honoured with the title (still given to him by Bishop Prakasam in his February 2012 email) of "Fr" Arulraj. 

Not only should Arulraj have been suspended many years ago, but also his dismissal from the priesthood is long overdue. And the fact that, after all he has done, he continues to have the protection of the Bishop of Nellore inevitably raises the question: why?

When I met Bishop Prakasam in January 2007 I had the impression that he was a good and honest bishop. Of course, that doesn't count for a lot - for ten years I had believed that Arulraj and Paulinraj were good priests seeking to serve the poorest among whom they were working.  Two years ago I did not know the answers to the questions I raised in the email, reproduced above, to Bishop Prakasam.  I still do not know the answer to any of them.

For the sake of ensuring there is credibility not only in the presbyterate of the Diocese of Nellore, but also in the episcopate, I sincerely ask Bishop Prakasam: please resolve the scandal of "Father" Gali Arulraj now.