|Bishop Moses Prakasam of the Diocese of Nellore|
In summary, my reply takes issue with the offensive focus of Bishop Prakasam's email, which instead of addressing the situation of his priests Gali Arulraj and Vatakili Paulinraj, makes unjustified judgments about, and criticisms of, the motives and attitudes of the correspondents and supporters of Enable he is addressing.
Questioning whether Bishop Prakasam's words are empty rhetoric or actually have substance, I raise a series of questions, challenging whether it is truly loving and merciful of the bishop not to suspend Arulraj but to let him continue to function as a priest.
In particular, I remind Bishop Prakasam that in May 2007 he had said that he was going to initiate a canonical process to bring a conclusion to the status of Gali Arulraj. I ask him whether he was being untruthful then, or whether something happened after that date to make him change his mind to the extent that he is unwilling now even to suspend Arulraj from priestly ministry.
I look forward to receiving Bishop Prakasam's answers to the pertinent questions I have asked him.
Reply to Bishop Prakasam's general email
- You speak of forgiveness and mercy. Have Arulraj and Paulinraj acknowledged their gross wrongdoing with respect to embezzling in excess of one million pounds, and abusing their positions as priests in order to enrich themselves. You suggest that your correspondents are unwilling to forgive. But have Arulraj and Paulinraj acknowledged their crimes and their sins and sought forgiveness and mercy?
- As far as I am aware there has been no indication whatsoever that either priest has acknowledged their wrongdoing and sought forgiveness. Moreover, given the gravity and the public nature of their offences there would be a need for them to make a public demonstration of their contrition, and a willingness to make amends to those they have wronged. This includes donors from Enable and other agencies whose donations were embezzled, as well as the many hundreds of disabled children who suffered serious deprivation as a result of their thieving. Can you please tell me what sign either Arulraj or Paulinraj has given you to indicate contrition and a willingness to make amends? And can you please tell me what sort of action you believe is necessary for them to demonstrate that they sincerely wish to make amends for what they have done?
- In the absence of contrition and willingness to make amends, do you really believe that it is fitting for Arulraj and Paulinraj to exercise either a public ministry as parish priest (as is currently the case with Paulinraj) or an ‘unofficial’ ministry (as has been the case with Arulraj since 1997/1998)?
- You criticise your correspondents for lacking love and mercy. Given the reality of what is involved in the priestly offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, and the reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, how loving and merciful is it to ignore the sacrilegious priestly actions of Gali Arulraj, when he has been living a way of life for many years that the Church identifies as being ‘mortal sin’? Is it not, in fact, loving and merciful and fatherly to suspend Arulraj from any priestly ministry for the good of his own soul?
- Do you truly believe it is acceptable not only for Gali Arulraj to exercise his priestly faculties ‘unofficially’ now, but that he might even eventually resume an official ministry? If you do not, why have you not even suspended him from ministry now and initiated (if not concluded) the process leading to his dismissal from the priesthood?
- If you do believe it is possible for Arulraj to one day resume an official priestly ministry, where is your concern and compassion for the woman regarded as his ‘wife’ and also for the children he has fathered? Has not Arulraj chosen a new way of life which brings responsibilities to provide for his ‘wife’ and children? Given the choices he has freely made, should you not be encouraging and assisting him to live a good and honest 'lay man's' life as a husband and father, rather than perpetuating the scandal of his being a priest with a ‘wife’ and children, who is ‘earning a living’ by embezzling funds intended for charitable purposes?
- You say “I shall continue my efforts of going out in search of the lost sheep.” According to your correspondence with me, you have not met Arulraj even once since you became the Bishop of Nellore in January 2007. You told me that he has refused to meet you. Your words about seeking the lost sheep sound to me like empty rhetoric, designed to suggest that, unlike your correspondents, you are concerned about Arulraj’s wellbeing. Perhaps you can give some idea of the efforts you have made in searching out the lost sheep, Arulraj? Perhaps you could also explain why it is not possible to suspend Arulraj from all priestly ministry while also seeking him out as a lost sheep?
- I find your last remark about overcoming evil with goodness particularly offensive. In May 2006, when Arulraj realised that Enable was on the verge of discovering his embezzling, he closed down the centres for disabled children. A few months later he gathered together some of the children to give the semblance of caring for them after he received adverse media publicity in India. Your predecessor, Bishop Balaswamy, told me that he sought to overcome evil with goodness, by showing the diocese’s commitment towards helping some of the children adversely affected. Enable entered a commitment with the diocese in November 2006 to fund a small project for which the diocese had responsibility. It was understood that the number of children being supported would be quite small, but Enable undertook to fund it for an initial two year period and then to review the situation. By May 2007, less than four months after your installation as bishop you had unilaterally closed down the project without even discussing it with Enable. Where was your compassion for the children who, having been so badly let down by Arulraj were subsequently ‘dumped’ by the diocese? Why were you so keen to abandon the attempt by Bishop Balaswamy to overcome the evil of Arulraj’s action by the Diocese (with Enable) doing good for at least some of the affected children? Perhaps you could tell me what you did to ensure the wellbeing of those children adversely affected by your decision (though I doubt if you will given that I understand your answer to this question would be ‘nothing’)?