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MUMBAI, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - Indian Catholics are trashing a top cardinal's statement in which the prelate claims that a leaked phone call between him and a rogue bishop was "mischievously edited."
In a video released on Vianney Sunday, Bombay's cardinal archbishop, Oswald Gracias, denied colluding with Mysore's bishop K. A. William to "control" the outcome of a DNA paternity test.
Two years ago, the Vatican ordered William to take a DNA test after the bishop was accused of fathering illegitimate children with multiple mistresses, murdering four priests, rape, kidnapping and embezzlement. It is unclear if William ever complied with the directive.
In his video, the cardinal did not name Church Militant, even though it was the Detroit-based apostolate alone that obtained the 15-minute phone call, edited it for length and published it on July 22.
Diocesan insiders told Church Militant that Gracias had spent two weeks desperately consulting his media team, lawyers and senior laymen for advice on how to respond to the media exposé. A Catholic lawyer advised the cardinal to "sack Bp. William and then gracefully resign."
On Monday, Mumbai-based lay-Catholic Edward Ferrao wrote to Gracias noting that the cardinal's statement "has given a fresh news cycle to the story, and, therefore, Church Militant has published the entire recording, and it shows that it's not doctored or mischievously edited."
"Yes, definitely editorially edited, but it does not vindicate you nor does it vindicate Bp. William; but it definitely vindicates Church Militant," Ferrao added. The letter went viral on hundreds of lay and clerical Catholic WhatsApp groups in India.
Ferrao, who said he has been attending the cardinal's "online Mass and catechism sessions since the lockdown," blasted the cardinal's contradictory statement in the video and phone call, noting that, in the leaked phone conversation, Gracias had said that he could "control the media, control the doctors and publicity."
"It fully suggests a cover-up," Ferrao emphasized, revealing he was unaware of Church Militant's exposé but stumbled across it only after doing a Google search when he heard the cardinal's rationalization for the leaked phone call.
"And, sadly, those of us who had no clue about the story are now aware of it and are thoroughly confused as to why a person of your stature is playing games," Ferrao remarked.
The letter writer also asked why the cardinal said he would give the public the impression that the DNA test was carried out at the insistence of Bp. William, even though it was clear that the Mysore bishop was reluctant to submit to the test.
"Although you said that your office would provide the full recording of the conversation, this morning, Church Militant published the entire recording, unedited," Ferrao added.
Catholics on social media complained that the cardinal had not released the phone call but asked interested parties to write to his "media team" if they wanted a copy.
"If you claim that you are speaking on behalf of the Holy See, then it means that you are acting as a neutral party," Ferrao wrote. "However, in your closing comments, you tell Bp. William that 'I am for you, and I have told Rome that I believe you.'"
Therefore, my question is, if you are speaking on behalf of the Holy See, then where is your objectivity? In these two statements alone, you have alluded that Bp.William is innocent, especially when he is an object of an ongoing investigation, and it also suggests that you are influencing the investigation.
In Mysore, Fr. Anthappa, of Infant Jesus Church in Nanjungud, penned a scathing column titled "The Commencement of the Catholic Church's Catastrophe in India."
The priest quoted Sir Walter Scott's dictum, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when, first, we practice to deceive."
"Remaining silent would have brought more respect to him instead of justifying himself by his digital rejoinder," Fr. Anthappa stressed, insisting that there was no tampering with phone recordings, and that the cardinal's "effrontery" and "escapism" was a gimmick "to buy time."
The faithful priest, one of the 37 signatories to a confidential letter to Pope Francis, elaborated:
Umpteen number of wakeup calls were given to the hierarchy. Procrastination is the fashion of the Vatican. A long funeral is more dangerous than death itself. Long silence will bury the issue itself. This is what exactly has happened to the diocese of Mysore.
Meanwhile, in a robust opinion piece, Mumbai-based veteran journalist Martin D'Souza asked Cdl. Gracias, "Why can't you then make a whip of cords and drive away those fornicators within your Church premises? Why is it that good priests who expose fornicators are driven out of parishes and the corrupt ones protected by the heads?"
"To any ordinary viewer, your clarification was a sad display on camera. One faithful said, 'What a disappointing witness to a watching world.' I couldn't agree more," D'Souza, editor of Opening Doorz, wrote.
"You are so fearful: 'Anybody with you? Is anybody with you? Line is safe, line is safe, no?' It is precisely things like these that chisel away the faith of many. As the head of the Catholic Church in India, I expect you to have a little more faith than me," D'Souza added.
"I fully agree he is lying, as he does not know how to get out of this terrible mess," a senior priest, who has been a close associate of the cardinal, admitted on condition of anonymity. The priest said that Gracias is "a weak leader who will never admit he is wrong."
Indian Catholics who spoke to Church Militant said that the Bombay archdiocese had disabled the comments section for the cardinal's video on YouTube, and they were unable to express their opinions in response to the statement.
The archdiocese did not upload the Cdl. Gracias' video statement on its Facebook page or on its Twitter feed.