Archbishop denies Indian bishop asked to give DNA sample in investigation

Archbishop denies Indian bishop asked to give DNA sample in investigation

St. Philomena's Cathedral in Mysore, India. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)

A Catholic archbishop in India is denying that a Vatican-appointed investigation team asked a bishop to submit a DNA test after accusations he fathered two children.

MUMBAI, India – A Catholic archbishop in India is denying that a Vatican-appointed investigation team asked a bishop to submit a DNA test after accusations he fathered two children.

A group calling itself the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) wrote a letter on May 15 to Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli — the recently appointed Vatican ambassador to India and Nepal — claiming that Bishop K.A. William of Mysore was asked to get a DNA at St John’s Hospital in Bengaluru.

“AOCC strongly objects to Bishop William’s paternity or DNA test being conducted in any Catholic hospitals in India,” said Melwyn Fernandes, the group’s general secretary. “We know from earlier experiences that influential clergymen who are in support of him can manipulate the reports of the tests conducted in Catholic hospitals.”

William took office at the beginning of 2017. Later that year, 37 priests from the diocese wrote to the Vatican accusing him of fathering two children, keeping mistresses and misappropriating church funds. The bishop strongly denies the accusations, and said the priests were retaliating over a diocesan reorganization which say them transferred from their parishes.

However, in May 2020 former Bombay High Court justice Micheal Saldanha sent a letter to Church leaders in India accusing William of a “reign of terror” that included murdering dissenting priests.

“Following the deaths of four priests – two murders, one hanging and one so-called accident, the Bishop of Mysore has let loose a virtual reign of terror in the diocese,” the former judge wrote.

“He has used the underworld mafia and protection from the local police… it has already resulted in as much as 23 percent of the Catholic laity leaving the church. For the last one year, this man has been asked to leave, but he defiantly carries on terrorizing,” the letter continues.

Earlier this year, the Vatican appointed a three-member team to investigate the accusations.

The AOCC claims “Vatican sources” told them the team oversaw a DNA test for William at the Bangalore hospital.

However, the point man for that investigation, Archbishop Leo Cornelio, denies the allegations.

“It is not our job. First of all, we have to give the report and when there is a reasonable doubt, the Vatican will ask him to do it. We are not authorized to do anything,” he told Crux.

“Our job is fact finding and reporting. The truth has to be verified because people may allege a lot of things, but you do not know what is true and what is false. That is why we are interviewing a lot of people and finding out the ground reality and working on that,” Cornelio said.

He said the AOCC “is making their own comments and expressing their own views, nothing of the facts.”

“They are writing to the Nuncio, who is expected by the end of May, and only suppositions and comments are being made,” the archbishop added.

“Who has said that there will be a DNA test? We have not authority. The commission is not authorized to order that; it is beyond the brief of the commission.  The Vatican has to decide what has to be done, only after the report,” he said.

Cornelio said the report is divided into two phases, with the first part being conducted from March 2-11.

“We mostly interviewed many people, particularly priests, some religious and lay people in Mysore,” he said.

“We were to do the second phase in the first half of May, but the second wave of COVID-19 happened, and in many states, including Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, a lockdown became effective,” he said.

The timing for the second phase of the investigation is still to be decided.

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