In a mind-boggling scandal that is set to rock the Vatican, a Cardinal close to Pope Francis has been accused of fabricating evidence and shielding an Indian Bishop accused of rape, abduction, fathering children through illicit affairs and murder.
Mysore Diocese Bishop Kannikadass William Antony has been accused of fathering children through illicit affairs with four mistresses and murdering four priests who opposed him.
The four priests namely – Father William Albuquerque, Father Raja Kannu, Father Raphael Colaco and Father Joseph Saldanha – were allegedly murdered by Bishop Williams and his men.
According to a report by Church Militant, the body of Fr. Raja Kannu was found hanging from a fan in his rectory in Palaya located 22 miles from Mysore. Fr. Albuquerque reportedly died under mysterious circumstances later in the day after he was summoned to the Bishop’s residence and served with a legal notice. Similarly, Fr. Saldanha was found dead in front of his rectory.
A letter dated 5th July 2022 sent by one Father Gnana Prakash of Mysore Diocese to India’s Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli charged Bishop William of raping, sodomizing, kidnapping, embezzling funds and murdering people.
According to the report by Church Militant, a Vatican Commission comprising of three Bishops began examining evidence against Bishop William in February 2021, after 37 priests from the Mysore Diocese wrote to Pope Francis on July 20, 2019. Bishop William was appointed by Pope Francis in 2017.
The priests had demanded the resignation of Bishop William stating that he continued to have relations with his mistress and had fathered children through multiple illicit affairs. The four priests who were murdered were among the 37 signatories to the letter demanding Bishop William’s resignation.
The recent letter sent by Father Gnanaprakash also notes that 11 priests and a layperson from Mysore Diocese had traveled to New Delhi in April 2022 to meet with Girelli pleading for action against Bishop William.
However, instead of initiating action against the accused, it has come to light that the Catholic Church is trying to cover the tracks of Bishop William.
In a leaked phone conversation released by Church Militant, Bombay’s Cardinal-Archbishop Oswald Gracias (who is a key ally of Pope Francis) can be heard telling the accused Bishop William that he will arrange for the paternal DNA test to be conducted at a Catholic hospital so that they can control the media, doctors, and the ensuing publicity.
Asking if the ‘phone line is safe’, the Cardinal goes on to say “Rome has suggested as a sort of.. has asked.. but I thought.. I have suggested we’ll do it in a way which doesn’t set a precedent. And I’ll check with lawyers, etc. But before finally we move, I wanted to talk to you first. Nuncio, actually Nuncio should be talking.. but he’s so hesitant and he’s so diffident and so I told him…Would you be ready to go for a paternity test?” to which Bishop William replies “Personally, I have nothing against. But I don’t want shame on me and the Church”.
The Cardinal goes on to says that they’re trying to avoid embarassment to the Church, Vatican, and for Bishop William himself.
“Now, before we do it, I will check with the lawyers. Going to protect you, protect the child also no?”, the Cardinal asks the accused Bishop.
The Cardinal also says that he is trying to avoid a precedent with the Bishop’s case as then everybody else will ask “we want this, we want that” and ‘pressurize’ Rome.
“I’m trying to say that I discussed with Nuncio. I discussed also with Rome, I discussed it earlier. But now Rome has given me directions. Now, if you’re willing.” the Cardinal says to the Bishop.
“Personally I was thinking we’ll go to St. John’s, our own college, so we can control the media, control the doctors, control the publicity given to the whole thing. And it’s a credible organization no? So, so, they don’t get it out.”, the Cardinal tells the accused Bishop.
The Cardinal further goes on to give hopes to the Bishop that once he ‘comes out completely’, he can be projected as a hero who suffered much.
“What I’ve told Rome that if you really, if you come out like completely, we can then publicize and you’ll come out like a hero and a martyr. Everybody will say you’re a martyr, who suffered so much unfairly, the Church.. I’ll prove that.”, the Cardinal who is close to Pope Francis tells the accused Bishop.
The Cardinal openly admitted to Bishop Williams that he intervened in Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s case as well. Bishop Franco of Jalandhar Diocese is the first Catholic bishop in India to be arrested for raping a nun 13 times between 2014 and 2016. He was acquitted by a Kerala district court in January 2022.
“Even Franco’s thing, finally I had to intervene with the Holy See (the central government of the Catholic Church) and you know, if only.. we could have saved all the pain and anguish and suffering for him if they had listened to me earlier.” the Cardinal tells the Bishop in the leaked audio.
“Don’t trust anybody. We don’t know, you know, in these things. You don’t know who’s playing a game, who’s behind what. It could all be a trick to trap you also,” the Cardinal further adds.
“Let’s put a closure to this because after the lockdown, there’ll be, again, a big hullaballoo,” Cardinal Gracias tells the accused Bishop.
Bishop William tells the Cardinal that the former’s lawyer is giving a beautiful explanation to Saldanha and that there is “absolutely no problem in the diocese” but he is being victimized by one Father. Gilbert Aranha and a couple of bishops in Karnataka.
“These few people want to put me to shame, they accuse me for (sic) murder. They accuse me for (sic) … what you call … finance misappropriation, all, all, all.”, Bishop William tells the Cardinal.
Retired Bombay High Court judge Justice Michael Francis Saldanha has come down heavy on the Church hierarchy for making “every conceivable effort” to “kill the complaint”.
“The fact that the Catholic Church has covered up for William for six years and encouraged him in counterattacking and hitting back at those who had complained is an unpardonable crime on the part of the Church at all levels, starting from this country up to Rome,” Saldanha was quoted saying in the report by Church Militant.
Reportedly, the Cardinal mentions Justice Saldanha 4 times in the 15-minute leaked audio, saying he knows the judge personally and that the judge has been constantly phoning him and requesting a meeting. The Cardinal tells Bishop William to take the DNA test as Justice Saldanha “will start publishing his letters once the lockdown is over.”
The Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) — a lay organization fighting to root out corruption in the Indian Church — had told Church Militant that it strongly objected to Bishop William’s DNA test being conducted in a Catholic hospital as the report would most certainly be manipulated.
Justice Saldanha has charged Cardinal Oswald Gracias of “criminal conspiracy” for attempting “to procure a fabricated and false” DNA paternity test certificate for “illegal purposes.”
He has written to India’s apostolic nuncio on Monday stating that Bombay’s cardinal archbishop, Oswald Gracias, is guilty of a “serious criminal offense” which is punishable with 10 years rigorous imprisonment. He has also vouched for the authenticity of the leaked phone conversation.
Justice Saldanha has also stated that he “independently” investigated the charges of Bishop William fathering a boy born through his fourth mistress and found it to be true.
He also warned the St. John’s hospital which the Cardinal called “our own institution” that if any bogus testing is done and a false certificate is issued the matter would be taken up with the government of Bharat urging for the withdrawal of the hospital’s license.
(This article was first published on The Commune on August 4, and has been republished with consent)