MUMBAI, India – An archbishop in India has called accusations by a priest of his archdiocese “baseless, concocted and lack[ing] authenticity.”

Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar was responding to a letter published by Father Kulakanta Dandasena on Nastik Nation, an website promoting atheism in India.

In his letter, Dandasena accuses the archdiocese of financial mismanagement and discrimination against clergy from a Dalit background – the lowest class in the Hindu caste system – and the priest makes allegations that the archbishop is involved in a “scandalous” relationship with a woman.

In a statement to the archdiocese, Barwa said the letter was “unchristian, cynical and divisive.”

“The blatant accusations articulated in the letter are made to tarnish the good reputation of the priests of the archdiocese and myself. To the best of my knowledge, the allegations are baseless, concocted and lack authenticity. I am shocked by the divisive aspersions raised against the priestly fraternity by [Father] Kulakanta in bluntly stating that the priests of the archdiocese are divided based of their ethnic origin,” the archbishop wrote.

Dandasena has been a priest in the archdiocese for 25 years, and in his letter complained about his frequent transfers between parishes and the refusal of the archbishop to allow him to practice in the legal profession.

Barwa said it was “very unfortunate on his part and unbecoming of him as a senior priest of the Archdiocese to make such an insensitive statement.”

“As we know the priests working in the diocese together with the bishop form a body and they have a responsibility to work together for the good of faithful. Any priest attempting to divide the presbyterium based on ethnic origin or language or caste is violating the promises he made at the time of his priestly ordination and renewed every year at the Chrism Mass,” Barwa continued.

The archbishop also noted that the letter was published by an atheistic website, saying it “raises questions on his intentions and integrity.”

“I consider this a serious aberration of the priestly commitment to follow Christ. I condemn his letter of criticising the archdiocese and its members as well as his publishing it in the secular and atheistic publication,” Barwa said.