MUMBAI, India — Nearly a month after a Catholic bishop facing fire from his own priests for corruption and fathering a child as well as being accused of intimidating a survivor of sexual harassment, police last Friday registered what amounts to an initial complaint against Bishop Kannikadass William Antony of the diocese of Mysuru in southwestern India.
William, 54, has been accused of kidnapping, criminal intimidation and “outraging the modesty of a woman,” but has yet to be formally indicted or arrested.
On November 5, a charge was filed against the bishop by Robert Rosario, representing the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC), a citizen’s group. It came after a video of a woman surfaced last March alleging that Antony had threatened her after she accused another priest of sexual harassment.
In the video, the woman, who formerly worked in the diocese, alleged that she was harassed by a priest, Leslie Moras, and later was allegedly threatened by the bishop when he attempted to report the misconduct.
“I was called to the office after my field work at around 6:00 p.m., on the pretext of giving a report of what I had been doing. At that time, he [Leslie Moras] was grazing himself against me lustfully. Later, he directly approached me for sex, and said, ‘only if you compromise yourself with me you will have a job.’”
“I decided to quit my job thereafter, in May 2018,” said the woman, who has not been publicly identified.
She further alleged, “Some men came to my new workplace in July 2018 and made me accompany them after I got a threatening call from the bishop. The men took me to a car, wiped all the data on my phone, and offered to give me money.”
While the victim herself did not file a police complaint against William, the citizen’s group chose to take up the matter. To date, no report has been registered against Moras.
On November 12, police met with the victim. She provided a written version of events, stating that she stands by the video which she made accusing the bishop of various offenses. However, she has yet to make a formal statement.
Police spokespersons have said that they will begin questioning the bishop when the victim makes a statement sworn before a magistrate.
While allegations of the police shielding the bishop have surfaced, officials said the delay in registering a complaint was due to a desire to give the victim adequate time to make a statement, not wanting to pressure her.
Speaking to the Indian news program “TheNewsMinute”, Robert Rosario, the complainant, alleged, “They don’t want to take a case against a powerful person.”
“I had to put pressure on the police by writing to the commissioner several times before they took the complaint,” Rosario said.
Rosario is no stranger to the local court system. He has a case registered against him for spreading “communal hatred” during 2018 Assembly Elections.
Dismissing the allegations, the accused priest said Friday, “Who has made the complaint? The complaint should be made by the victim herself, or it is not valid.”
William was contacted several times for a statement, but he did not respond. In a meeting with the press earlier this month, he denied the allegations leveled against him and Moras.
The complaint against William comes after 37 priests from different parishes in the Mysore diocese wrote a letter to the Vatican seeking his removal.
They accused Antony of land-grabbing, corruption and also fathering a child, which is taboo for a Catholic priest. The priests alleged that Antony “has strong connections with politicians of criminal record, corrupt police officials and corrupt bureaucrats. It is highly worrisome that he has also connections with the underworld.”
“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 immoral, corrupt, unspiritual, materialist, worldly, ill-reputed, disrespected and a dictator as bishop of Mysuru.”
William maintains his innocence.
“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,” he said at the time.