MUMBAI, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - A veteran high court judge is charging a leading cardinal with "criminal conspiracy" for attempting "to procure a fabricated and false" DNA paternity test certificate for "illegal purposes."
Justice Michael F. Saldanha wrote to India's apostolic nuncio, Abp. Leopoldo Girelli, on Monday stating Bombay's cardinal-archbishop, Oswald Gracias, is guilty of a "serious criminal offense, punishable with 10 years rigorous imprisonment."
Citing Church Militant's exposé of a leaked phone call between Cdl. Gracias and Mysore's scandal-plagued bishop K. A. William, the judge noted the conversation "has gone viral in this country, as also in Europe, North America and the rest of the world."
In the recorded phone call, Cdl. Gracias — a key ally of Pope Francis — urges Bp. William, to take a paternity DNA test, assuring him "we can control the media, control the doctors [and] control the publicity given to the whole thing."
William, who is the subject of a Vatican investigation, is accused of fathering illegitimate children through four mistresses and of rape, sodomy, embezzlement and orchestrating the murder of four priests from the diocese of Mysore who opposed him.
Saldanha notes the phone recording "is 100% authentic because both these persons are public figures, and there are enough voice samples for conducting a forensic voice verification, which has already been done."
"In my case, where I know both these persons personally; where I am an experienced criminal lawyer and where voice identification is one of my specialties, I have vouched for the authenticity of the recording," writes Saldanha.
The judge also refers to the cardinal's attempt to arrange the DNA test at St. John's Medical College, a prestigious Catholic hospital in Bangalore, noting India's Supreme Court permits only the National Forensic Institute, Hyderabad, to legally conduct paternity tests.
The jurist also explains the "foolproof" Supreme Court rules require samples from the father and the offspring to be done "under court and police supervision" and records "to be preserved in safe custody and produced before the designated court, which will scrutinize them and accept or reject the results."
Saldanha, a practicing Catholic and former judge in the Karnataka and Bombay high courts, elaborates:
I have informed the head of St. John's Hospital, which Cdl. Gracias refers to as "our own institution" and warned them that if any bogus testing is done and a false certificate issued that the matter will be taken up with the government of India for withdrawal of the licence of the Hospital to function. The matter is very serious — and so are the consequences.
"The Church at various levels is totally defiant and disregards Indian law, and any such defiance in this case would be suicidal," the judge adds.
Saldanha also explains he has "independently" investigated the charges of Bp. William's fathering a son from his fourth mistress and "found that it is totally and completely established that William is the father of the boy in question."
"As of now I am still concerned with damage control, and the only way to put an end to a total annihilation of the Church in this country will be through a direction to both these persons to step down from office," the judge pleads, noting the cardinal is well past the retirement age and both Gracias and William suffer from serious health problems.
This is "apart from what the Vatican news correspondent [Church Militant's Rome correspondent] described on TV [Church Militant's Evening News] as a truckload of incriminating evidence against him, which includes very serious criminal offenses," Saldanha adds.
The Indian government has also permitted the privately-run DNA Forensics Laboratory in New Delhi to carry out legal DNA tests to resolve paternity and maternity disputes.
However, the laboratory categorically states the test "must be carried out under the proper chain of custody" for it to be legally admissible in court and "the sample collection for the DNA test must be carried out in front of the judge or in the presence of a court-appointed representative."
Neither Gracias nor William have denied the veracity of the confidential phone call.
Several priests in the archdioceses of Bombay and Mysore, however, have verified the authenticity of the recording obtained by Church Militant, with one priest from Mumbai calling the evidence "ironclad."
Earlier, Church Militant asked the cardinal if he had taken the initiative in asking Bp. William to take a paternity test so allegations against him could be refuted.
Gracias replied: "You know that Rome had instituted an inquiry commission to look into the matter, so it will not be proper for me to comment. The nuncio would be a better person, and he may be in the know of things."
Church Militant contacted apostolic nuncio Abp. Leopoldo Girelli for comment but received no response as of press time.