MYSURU, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - In southwest India, Bp. Kannikadass William Antony of the diocese of Mysuru is denying accusations of sexual and financial corruption.
A group of 37 Mysuru priests has written a letter petitioning Pope Francis to intervene in the diocese, demanding that Bp. William be removed over alleged criminal sexual misconduct and misappropriation of funds.
"The dark age of our diocese began [when] the current Bishop was brought in," the priests told Francis. "We regret and feel sorry to say that we have got a person who is most immoral, corrupt, unspiritual, materialist, worldly, ill-reputed, disrespected and a dictator as bishop of Mysuru."
The bishop "has strong connections with the politicians of criminal record, corrupt police officials and corrupt bureaucrats," they added. "It is highly worrisome that he has also connections with the underworld."
The clerics accused William of sexual involvement with a female diocesan staffer. They claimed the bishop seduced and sired a son with the woman, whose husband left her after he learned of the affair. They also alleged the incident is part of a larger pattern of sexual exploitation and corruption.
In their letter, William's accusers recounted an alleged affair with an Anglo-Indian woman, saying the bishop impregnated her before she was "shifted abroad."
In another incident, the priests describe Bp. William being caught at his home in bed with another female diocesan employee.
They added that he showered his conquests with "luxuries," rewarding their submission with houses as well as placement inside "diocesan institutions."
The priests also suggested that Bp. William is party to illegal real estate deals involving kickbacks — properties that are reportedly under litigation.
For his part, Bp. William insists that he is innocent, and suggests that the very fact that he was appointed bishop of the diocese proves that the allegations against him are false.
"There is no truth in the allegations and I suspect a group is behind it because of administrative reforms I introduced after taking two and a half years ago," William said recently. "There is procedure for selection of bishop and it takes a long time; if the allegations of sexual misconduct were true, I wouldn't have been selected as the bishop."
On Thursday, he reiterated that the accusations against him are without merit.
"The allegations are baseless, I have not misused money. ... I am ready to face them legally and I am ready for investigation," said William.
The bishop has his backers — on Tuesday, a throng gathered at his chancery in a demonstration of support — but other Mysuru Catholics are siding with the 37 priests.
In a press release this week, Melwyn Fernandes of the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) underscored the gravity of the allegations against William.
"This is an issue involving crimes of moral turpitude by Bp. William of Mysuru, involving financial irregularities [and] sexual misconduct," said Fernandes.
"We have come to know that there are as many as four women who have raised complaints against the Bishop in the last two-and-a-half years," he added.
Members of AOCC also alleged that William has fathered two children, one of whom they claim is a student at a school on the outskirts of Mysuru. His alleged mistress has neither corroborated nor denied the allegation.