Thursday, 25 April 2013

Pope Francis addresses the scandal of Gali Arulraj

Pope Francis:  "he has to leave the ministry."
Well, yes, the heading is perhaps a little misleading as I have no reason to think that Pope Francis has even heard of Gali Arulraj - though I suppose it might just be possible that he has been one of the readers of this blog from Argentina or Italy...

However, in a book published in 2012, Pope Francis makes it clear that someone like Arulraj cannot remain in the priesthood.  Speaking as Cardinal Bergoglio (as he was at that time), he addressed the general situation of a priest who has fathered just one child, not two (as is the more appalling case with Arulraj). He said:

If [a priest] comes and tells me that he got a woman pregnant, I listen. I try to help him have peace and little by little I try to help him realize that the natural law takes priority over his priesthood. So, he has to leave the ministry and should take care of that child, even if he chooses not to marry that woman. For just as that child has the right to have a mother, he has a right to the face of a father. I commit myself to arranging all the paperwork for him in Rome, but he has to leave everything.

For Pope Francis, leaving the priesthood is required as an obvious consequence of fathering a child, even if the priest were otherwise in good standing.  How much more so must it be required for a rogue priest like Arulraj who has fathered two children, separated himself from his bishop and diocese for 16 years (the years are constantly increasing), and who has been engaged in the long-term racket of scamming donations and embezzling more than one million pounds that were intended for disabled children (and for which he awaits trial, conviction and imprisonment).

It is now more than seven months since Bishop Prakasam of Nellore issued the long overdue decree of suspension.  I understand that he has still not even been in touch with the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, which is the relevant Congregation for arranging for priests to leave the clerical state.

Bishop Prakasam dragged his heels for nearly six years before eventually issuing the decree of suspension that should have been automatically issued.  The indications are that those heels are now being firmly dug in once again.

With Pope Francis's guidance, may we hope that the Congregation for the Clergy will act swiftly to resolve the scandal of Gali Arulraj - a scandal that his own bishop has, for unfathomable reasons, been unwilling to address.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Official - Gali Arulraj now suspended as a priest

This morning I received a copy of a public notice, issued by the Bishop of Nellore, Most Rev. Moses Prakasam, to "inform all the clergy, religious and people of God that Rev. Fr. Gali Arulraj was placed under suspension with effect from 06-09-12."
The full notice can be read clearly by clicking  [right click and 'open link in new tab'] on the image above.  Whereas a priest is sometimes given a partial suspension for offences that are less grave, it is to be noted that Arulraj's suspension is total: he is "prohibited from exercising all the acts of the power of Orders, power or governance and exercise of all the rights and functions attached to the office of the  Priesthood."  Arulraj "has no faculties and consequently he is not authorised to celebrate Holy Mass, hearing confessions or administration of any other sacraments or any other related ministries of Priesthood."
There remain serious concerns with regard to the amount of effort and the length of time it has taken to effect this suspension - a suspension which should have been declared many years ago.  It is only with this suspension that a canonical process leading to Arulraj's dismissal from the clerical state - which must surely be the outcome of the process - can now take place.  (That his dismissal remains necessary is indicated by the notice of suspension itself, which describes Arulraj respectfully- as a priest - as "Rev. Fr. Gali Arulraj." It is, however, clear even from the sanitised description of  Arulraj's shameful activities, which date back some 15 years - 15 years! -  that he does not merit this respectful title or any of the privileges attached to the clerical state.)  While it is to be hoped that the canonical process now advances without unnecessary delays this blog will remain active in case there are further concerns to raise.
For now, though, there is much reason to be grateful for the imposition of the suspension.  The scandal of Arulraj living a family life and fraudulently raising funds and then embezzling them from the poorest of the poor, and continuing to function as a Catholic priest,  has now been addressed by the Bishop of Nellore's actions.  May Bishop Prakasam now bring the scandal of Arulraj remaining a Catholic priest to its fitting conclusion.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Still waiting for the Bishop of Nellore

In recent weeks several people have contacted me inquring whether Bishop Moses Prakasam of the Diocese of Nellore responded to the email I sent him on 16 April in reply to his email of 2 April.  More importantly, they have asked whether he has at last taken action against his rogue priests, epseically against Gali Arulraj. 

In emails to me, dated 22 and 28 April, Bishop Prakasam said that he had not intended to cause offence by his email of 2 April.  He said that he was unable to reply to individuals who were writing to him, but wished to correspond directly with me and work on this directly with me. Bishop Prakasam asked me not to publish on this blog his correspondence with me. Although he did not answer the many points I made in my email of 16 April I assumed good will and sincerity on his part, and so (in spite of my previous experience with him) I accepted what he said at face value. Recognising that some things have to be said and done privately I told him I was willing not to publish our correspondence so long as it was clear that progress was being made.  The indications I received were that at long last Bishop Prakasam would deal properly with the scandal caused by allowing Arulraj to continue functioning as a priest.

Correspondence between us continued until 26 May, when Bishop Prakasam sent me an email in which he asked me to clarify a preposterous allegation made by Gali Arulraj. He also informed me that Arulraj denies being married or living in concubinage with a woman.  The way the email was written it almost seemed as though Arulraj's denial was enough to settle the matter!

In that email of 26 May, Bishop Prakasam said I could place a few lines from him on the website, reading:
"Gali Arulraj is not in communion with his Bishop and the Diocese of Nellore. None of his appeals for soliciting funds have neither the endorsement of his Bishop nor are part of the mission and works of the Diocese."

In my reply to Bishop Prakasam, dated 30 May, I said I would not publish his statement immediately because I thought he might wish to revise it.  I said to him: "You may choose to revise it for two main reasons: a) it does not provide any new information but repeats what you have said in the past, and b) what it says about Arulraj being "not in communion" is inaccurate and inevitably raises further questions, notably why Arulraj still has not been suspended."

I also responded to what the Bishop had said about Arulraj's preposterous allegation, and provided documentation from four separate public sources - one of which includes information given under affidavit -  as evidence that Gali Arulraj is publicly regarded as being the husband of Gangada Sujatha and the father of her two children.

I have received no response - not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement - from Bishop Prakasam.  Since then there has been silence from him

The evidence I gave to Bishop Prakasam was sufficient for him to suspend Arulraj immediately from functioning as a priest in any way.  More than that, given that Arulraj was denying being married when there was public evidence to the contrary, it required Bishop Prakasam to suspend him from all priestly activities. (See a previous post  which gives details of canon law on this.)

Indeed, Bishop Prakasam received sufficient information to suspend Arulraj  more than five and a half years ago, and the process to dismiss him from priestly ministry should have been concluded long ago. Instead, he is willing to let this scandalous situation with a priest of his diocese continue.

And the persistent question remains:  Why?

It is now three months since Bishop Prakasam's last email, and it seems clear to me that he has reverted to his policy of inaction. For the coming weeks I will be busy and will be unable to deal with queries about Arulraj.  This matter is not, however, forgotten.  And it will not be forgotten.  It will be resolved.

In the meantime, Bishop Prakasam has a final opportunity to demonstrate whether the emails he sent me in April and May were truly sincere and whether he is genuinely concerned to take action to put an end to the ongoing scandal of Gali Arulraj remaining a priest of the Diocese of Nellore. He could show his sincerity today by issuing a decree that Arulraj is suspended from all priestly ministry.  In the absence of concrete action there is only one conclusion to be drawn as to whether the Bishop of Nellore is sincere.

It seems to me that Bishop Prakasam has abused the good will of myself and others in Enable, and is taking us for a ride. There are several reasons why Bishop Prakasam might want to spin out this 'waiting game'  and they do no credit to him or the Diocese of Nellore. He should know by now that the scandal of Arulraj - and the additional scandal of  his own inaction - will be pursued to its fitting conclusion.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Blog poll conclusion: Arulraj unfit to be a priest

Is Gali Arulraj unfit to be a priest?                 
  217 (99%)
  1 (0%)

Change your vote
Votes so far: 218
Days left to vote: 224

[Votes on the poll this morning]

It has been brought to my attention that the number of votes on the blog poll has, mysteriously, been reduced at least three times during the past week.  The votes saying that Gali Arulraj is unfit to be a priest have gone beyond 230, and then mysteriously been reduced by 10 or 15 votes - and when they have gone beyond 230 again the number has inexplicably been reduced yet again.

This morning I noticed that the 'yes' vote had been dropped from last night's 231 to 217.  The 'no' vote had dropped from 2 to 1.

I assume that  Gali Arulraj was one of those who voted that he is fit to be a priest. Perhaps he was supported by Vatakili Paulinraj (his nephew and fellow priest of the Diocese of Nellore who is also charged with fraud, theft, etc. and awaiting trial) ? Or perhaps his 'wife' gave him her loyal support?  I had thought he might receive at least three votes - not that he is getting any sympathy from me after the dismal amount of support shown for him.

Given the inexplicable problem with the poll, and in order to avoid any accusation that I have unfairly slashed the 'no' vote in half, it seems right to bring the poll to an end now.

I should just add that I have no control over the poll itself.  It is managed by 'blogger' and I cannot increase or decrease any of the votes myself. As only one vote can be registered from each computer the poll cannot count the multiple votes of family members who would all have liked to indicate their objection to Arulraj remaining a priest.

The poll, however, which registered more than 250 'yes' votes, and only 2 'no' votes, reflects the overwhelming opinion that Gali Arulraj is unfit to be a priest.

Of course, I am not calling on Bishop Moses Prakasam of Nellore Diocese to resolve Gali Arulraj's priestly status in view of the blog poll.  The case for immediately suspending Arulraj and then concluding the canonical process for his dismissal from the priestly ministry stands on its own merits - and it is a compelling case. 

What I am truly trying to fathom though is this:  if it is so obvious to just about everyone else that Gali Arulraj is unfit to be a priest....why is it not obvious to the Bishop of Nellore?

[UPDATE - 9 May 2012: During the past week there have been some fluctuations in the poll figures even though the poll has been closed during that time.  The 'yes' votes have fluctuated between about 205 and 250.  I will keep the poll results up in the right hand column for now, as they give a general idea of how people voted, but I will remove them if the changes are so excessive as to give a distorted impression of the results.]

And it's down again

Gali Arulraj's scamming website for the bogus "New Life Society for the Poor and Handicapped"  went online again last Thursday.

By Saturday morning it was down again.  It's still down. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Gali Arulraj - a priest with no shame

Gali Arulraj's scamming website back online today - he has no shame
Gali Arulraj's scamming website for the bogus New Life Society for the Poor and Handicapped went online again today, having been taken down one month ago.

The website has been carefully constructed so that everything is in image form, preventing words from being traced by google or other search engines.  Most of the pages are entitled "Untitled Document" so they won't be picked up on search engines.  Does even one legitimate website go to such lengths to ensure that it won't be traced?!

Obviously, during the past month Arulraj must have been missing out on the funds he had been able to scam while it was up, and he decided it was worth taking the chance of putting it up again.

Yet again, he offensively uses photographs of disabled children who have never even heard of a so-called "New Life Society," let alone benefited from it - in order to enrich himself.

Yet again, he uses religious imagery: pictures of Jesus Christ and Blessed Theresa of Calcutta are prominently displayed - in order to deceive and steal from charitable Christians, especially those who are Catholics.

And this is done by a priest who flaunts his priestly credientials and insists on being called "Fr Gali Arulraj" when it suits his purposes, but at other times (as with his website) uses the subterfuge of calling himself  "Mr G A Raj."

All this is made worse by the fact that his bishop, Bishop Moses Prakasam of the Diocese of Nellore, has been fully informed of the situation and continues to do nothing about it.

Gali Arulraj remains a priest of the Diocese of Nellore who has not even been suspended from the priesthood, inspite of embezzling more than a million pounds, and having a 'wife' and (at least) two children.

Arulraj has the confidence to do whatever he likes because he knows his bishop will do nothing about it.

Bishop Prakasam, we know that Arulraj has no shame.  As the Bishop responsible for your errant priest: have you no shame too? 

Monday, 16 April 2012

A reply to Bishop Prakasam's general email

Bishop Moses Prakasam of the Diocese of Nellore
I have written today to Bishop Moses Prakasam, in response to the general email  he wrote on 2 April. My text is reproduced in full, below. 

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

Dear Bishop Prakasam,
Recognising how busy you would be during Holy Week and Easter I thought it would be better to wait until now before replying to the general email you sent on 2 April.
As you know, since our first meeting in January 2007, days after your installation as Bishop of Nellore, I have written to you countless times not only about the scandal caused by your two priests, Gali Arulraj and Vatakili Paulinraj, but also about the additional concern arising from your refusal to discipline them.
It was therefore with considerable disappointment and dismay that I read your general email.  I can hardly believe that, after more than five years of discussions with you – in person and in print – you can fail to grasp how much concern is caused by your inaction.  You begin your email saying that it is never your intention to offend anyone. And yet, the central part of your reply is extremely offensive.
The main part of your email is paragraph no. 3, which you break down into six parts. Here you treat shabbily those who have raised a legitimate concern with you.  Instead of addressing their complaint you level all manner of criticisms against your correspondents: you present them as being vengeful; you suggest they want to cast out Arulraj as a fugitive and wanderer; that like the elder brother of the prodigal son they are lacking generosity of spirit; moreover, that they are unwilling to pray for Arulraj’s repentance and that they don’t want him to receive forgiveness and mercy; that they are in effect throwing stones at him.
By contrast, you suggest that, unlike all of your correspondents, you are walking the path of love and mercy, forgiveness and hope.
With respect, Bishop Prakasam, what you have written is both offensive and ignorant. I know personally many of the hundreds of supporters of Enable who feel very badly betrayed by your priests as well as by your inaction.  I do not know a single person among them who thinks Arulraj is fit to remain a priest. Among the supporters of Enable are some of the most generous, loving, merciful and compassionate people you could hope to meet. To effectively slander them in the way you have done is nothing short of disgraceful, and I invite you to withdraw your ill-considered criticisms.
Of course, I cannot speak for the attitude of mind or spirit of each of your correspondents.  But, in fact, I do not need to. What you have been asked to address is not your correspondents’ (or my own) failings or sins but the scandalous actions of the two priests of your diocese, Arulraj and Paulinraj.  Not once do you even acknowledge that your correspondents have a legitimate grievance with respect to the actions of your two priests – as well as a legitimate grievance with respect to your allowing Arulraj (in particular) to continue to function as a priest.
It is easy to quote scriptural passages about searching out the lost sheep, and seeking to overcome evil with good, and to speak of love, mercy and forgiveness. And as it is easy to be deceived by empty words (which, as you will know, St Paul warns against – Eph 5:6),  I trust that you will be willing to demonstrate whether there is any substance in what you say by addressing the following points:
  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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)?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
  8. 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’)?
Bishop Prakasam, I have read your email several times, and I have reflected on it carefully. It clarifies that Gali Arulraj has not been excommunicated and that the matter under discussion is not one that affects only your local church but is of international concern.  Other than that, it is bitterly disappointing.  How easy it is to use the language of love, forgiveness and mercy – but how bitter it is to hear those words when they are devoid of real substance.  It is particularly disappointing to see a Bishop attempt to defend his inaction by suggesting that those criticizing him are really the ones to be censured for their (supposed) lack of mercy, forgiveness and charity. That is a shabby defence and I hope you will withdraw it.
Most of all, I am puzzled as to why you should have said in May 2007 that you were initiating a canonical process to bring about a conclusion to the status of Gali Arulraj – and yet since then you have done absolutely nothing to even suspend him from priestly ministry.  Were you being untruthful in what you said in May 2007? Or what happened that you should have changed your mind?
We expect our bishops to be men of honour, who are true to their word, who do not take lightly the gross misconduct of their priests, who are concerned about the dignity of the priesthood and the worthy celebration of the sacraments.  It has been a very unfortunate experience for myself and others in Enable to have been so badly deceived and betrayed by two priests of the Diocese of Nellore.  That you, as their bishop, should now give them your support, and be so indifferent to making amends, upholding justice, and restoring confidence in the priests of your diocese, would be considered by most reasonable people as beyond belief.
In your email you attempted to explain why, contrary to the requirements of canon law, you insist on letting Gali Arulraj function as a priest.  As you have decided to place yourself outside the framework of canon law then your judgments inevitably invite the scrutiny of others, and you have to be willing to answer the legitimate questions that have emerged from your defence of your (in)action.  I trust that you will be willing to address the specific questions asked of you in this letter.
I look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely,
Colin Harte