MUMBAI, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - Outraged lay leaders are demanding the resignation of a cardinal close to Pope Francis after Church Militant published a recording of a confidential phone call between the cardinal and a scandal-plagued bishop.
In the phone call, Bombay's cardinal-archbishop urges Mysore's bishop, K.A. 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."
Bishop William is accused of the murder of four priests, rape, sodomy, embezzlement and fathering children through multiple mistresses and is the subject of a Vatican investigation.
Three days after the recording was released, in what some call a diversionary tactic, Cdl. Gracias issued a statement against conservative diocesan cleric Fr. Conrad Saldanha noting the cardinal does not approve of the retreats preached by the priest during his current sabbatical leave.
Blaise Gomes, spokesperson for the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC), Mumbai, told Church Militant Gracias' statement scapegoating Saldanha was timed to deflect attention from the "growing vociferous demands" for the cardinal's resignation.
"He is a very good priest who doesn't take any nonsense from Cdl. Gracias," Gomes noted. "He has fought the heterodox theology being taught in the seminary and church in Mumbai — first as a layman, then as a seminarian and now as a priest — and is being punished for his witness."
Gomes said Saldanha was a popular retreat preacher and continued to preach while on sabbatical. The priest has written a book titled Synod on Synodality: The Death Knell of the Church, which exposes the Protestant, Marxist and humanist errors of Pope Francis' pet project.
The spokesman said the cardinal was flooded with emails asking him to quit, and Dominic Lobo — a member of the AOCC managing committee — had told Gracias he would continue to write an email every day to the chancery until the cardinal steps down.
Meanwhile, clergy in the Bombay and Bangalore archdiocesan chanceries told Church Militant the release of the phone call had visibly shaken the cardinal as thousands of Catholics continued to share the story in dozens of WhatsApp groups across India.
Gracias flew to Bangalore for the National Synodal Synthesis, a July 26–28 summit that's part of Pope Francis' Synod on Synodality initiative, as Church Militant's story was being circulated in a WhatsApp group comprised of 600 priests from Karnataka.
The audio also went global after it was relayed to 40,000 members in a WhatsApp group run by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). In India, the clip was circulating among laity and clergy in Mumbai, Mangalore, Mysore, Goa and Kerala, a source said.
In a strongly worded open letter to India's apostolic nuncio published Wednesday, the former president of the All India Catholic Union, Allan de Noronha (also known as Chhotebhai), asked nuncio Abp. Leopoldo Girelli why the DNA paternity test "ordered by the Vatican almost two years ago … has not been conducted?"
Chhotebhai copied his letter titled "Heads Must Roll" to all 277 Catholic bishops in India, writing: "Things have now come to a point of no return with the Church Militant portal going public with the audio recording of the telephonic conversation between Cdl. Gracias and Bp. K.A. William of Mysore."
The lay leader revealed he himself had received a copy of the recording and had warned Gracias and the apostolic nuncio in a confidential email "all hell will break loose" if the audio becomes public. The cardinal said he would not comment on the matter as it was under investigation, Chhotebhai noted.
"It defies all logic and jurisprudence that Cdl. [Luis Antonio] Tagle, as prefect of Propaganda Fide, that has jurisdiction over the Church in India, ordered Bp. William to undergo a paternity test," but "despite a lapse of almost two years, no action has been seen to have been taken!" he added.
Chhotebhai also provided detailed evidence of a continuing sexual relationship between William and his alleged mistress, demonstrating how the prelate's paramour — a poverty-stricken divorcée named Sunita H. suddenly became extremely wealthy after "coming into contact with William."
In 2019, a POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) court ordered Mumbai police to investigate accusations that Cdl. Gracias and his two auxiliary bishops, Dominic Savio Fernandes and John Rodrigues, covered up a case of clerical sodomite rape.
Fr. Lawrence Johnson, a priest serving under Gracias, was found guilty last December of aggravated penetrative sexual assault and sexual harassment and sentenced to "rigorous imprisonment for life," Church Militant reported.
Gomes revealed the priest had served at several suburban parishes, including Our Lady of Lourdes, Orlem; St. Anthony's Church, Malwani; St. Anthony's Church, Mankhurd; Our Lady of the Rosary, Goregaon; and Sacred Heart Church, Vashi.
"There were reports of him preying on boys in almost all these parishes, but the abuse was always quickly hushed up, and Fr. Johnson was transferred," Gomes said, noting Gracias was aware of the abuse of minor boys but continued to protect the homopredator priest.
"The cardinal is supposed to have spent approximately 10 million rupees of diocesan money on legal fees to pay Avinash Rasal — one of India's top criminal lawyers — to defend Lawrence, who raped the 12-year-old boy till he bled from his anus," the AOCC spokesman said.
"If this same money was compensated to the sodomized altar boy and his family, they would have blessed you," Gomes wrote Thursday in an email to Cdl. Gracias.
Gracias was, at the time, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences.
In 2018, Gracias blessed an LGBTQ+ hotline sponsored by fashion designer Wendell Rodricks and Ruby Almeida of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics in Mumbai.
In 2015, the cardinal gave an interview to homosexual propagandist Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the heterodox LGBTQ+ New Ways Ministry, acknowledging "a gay association asked me if I would say Mass for them."
"I said, 'Absolutely. No difficulty whatsoever. I said to them they should keep in mind [now] that they would suddenly be coming out into the open,'" Gracias said in the interview. "For me, it's not a problem."