Ex-Bombay High Court Justice accuses Bishop of Mysore of murders, sexual misconduct

Updated: Jun 07, 2020, 06:57 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Legal notice sent to Bishop of Mysore for sexual misconduct, priest deaths and illegal transfers; Archbishop of Bengaluru also named for "covering up" his crimes

(From left to right) Michael F Saldhana, former Justice of the Bombay High Court; Dr Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bengaluru and KA William, Bishop of Mysore
(From left to right) Michael F Saldhana, former Justice of the Bombay High Court; Dr Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bengaluru and KA William, Bishop of Mysore

Former Justice of the Bombay High Court Michael F Saldhana has accused the Bishop of Mysore KA William of "letting loose a virtual reign of terror" in the Diocese of Mysore, and accused his immediate superior, the Archbishop of Bangalore Dr Peter Machado, of "colluding with him and covering up even for murders".

Justice Saldhana made these accusations in a formal legal notice that was sent to both the clerics, on May 29. Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) President Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who is also the Archbishop of Bombay, was copied on it. "Following the deaths of four priests (two murders, one hanging and one so-called accident) the Bishop of Mysore has let loose a virtual reign of terror in the Diocese," read the notice. "He has used the underworld mafia and protection from the local police… it has already resulted in as much as 23% of the Catholic Laity leaving the church. For the last one year, this man has been asked to leave, but he defiantly carries on terrorising," the notice further stated.

Justice Saldhana wrote that Bishop William's immediate superior "the Archbishop of Bangalore should have removed him at least eight months back, but is colluding with him" and covering up the murders. According to Saldhana, Bishop Machado has ignored 17 written complaints "fully backed by evidence," all of which, have come from "men of credibility," a majority of them being priests. Apart from this, there is also a mention of Bishop Machado having ignored "19 written complaints… in cases that have brought shame, disgrace and ridicule to the Diocese." He added that the complaints to the Cardinal in Mumbai, the internuncio in Delhi and the Catholic Bishops Conference was also disregarded.

Under the subheading "William's latest atrocity," Justice Saldhana wrote that on May 28, Bishop William had called an urgent meeting on a 12-hour notice "and in three minutes, pronounced a transfer order, which can be defined as revenge transfers targeting the priests who had complained against him, and sending eminent scholars to remote villages where there is not even drinking water." This transfer was allegedly against 37 priests, who had complained about him earlier in 2019. The notice further read: "The whole country is fighting for survival and everything is on hold. The governments, the courts, and the administration have suspended all activity. No transfers should have been undertaken at this point of time."

In the notice, Justice Saldhana has demanded revoking of the illegal transfer order. "If this does not happen within 12 hours, then some drastic steps will have to follow." Bishop William, along with Father Leslie Moras, were involved in the 2019 Mysore Church sex scandal when a woman, who worked in their church, had allegedly accused them of seeking sexual favours. On July 20, 2019, a group of 37 priests from the Mysuru Diocese had written a letter to Pope Francis requesting urgent intervention in the affairs of Bishop William, and had demanded that he be removed.

Speaking with mid-day, Justice Saldhana said that he had spoken to the 37 priests, who are the complainants and could vouch for their credibility. "There has been unabated womanising by this man and evidence has been produced. There are also instances of him defaulting on church money. Each time he had a problem with a woman, there were large payoffs."

Melwyn Fernandes, secretary of Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC), who has been trying to highlight Bishop William's alleged misbehaviour since last year, said: "There are allegations of murders of priests being camouflaged as accidents. I call upon the Archbishop of Bangalore Peter Machado and CBCI President Cardinal Oswald Gracias to immediately suspend the Bishop of Mysore and to get the police to institute a high-level inquiry into the murders of innocent priests, as well as the transfers."

When mid-day reached out to Archbishop Machado, he said: "Normally, when such matters come to me, I pass them on to my higher authorities in Delhi. I have already escalated the issue."

Despite repeated calls and messages, Bishop William remained unavailable for comment. Meanwhile, Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for cardinal Gracias said that he was not aware of the issue. Cardinal Gracias, too, was unavailable for comment.

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