Leaked conversation between accused Mysore prelate and Cardinal Oswald Gracias fuels fatherhood cover-up rumors
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. (Photo: Supplied)
Calls for a paternity test for an Indian Catholic bishop accused of sexual misconduct have become louder in the wake of a leaked conversation he had with Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai.
The conversation between Bishop Kannikadass Antony William of Mysore and Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, took place two years ago and discussed the possibility of the bishop taking a paternity test.
The discussion was leaked in July, with the media interpreting it as the cardinal trying to influence an outcome in favor of the accused bishop.
Some priests and lay leaders in Bishop William’s diocese in southern Karnataka state have accused him of fathering two children and having illicit relationships with women.
Bishop William took over the administration of the diocese in January 2017. Months after his consecration, 37 of his priests wrote to the Vatican seeking his removal, accusing him of fathering two children, keeping mistresses, and misappropriating Church funds.
Bishop William denied the allegations claiming that the priests were annoyed with him for transferring them from key positions as part of his effort to reform the diocese.
“We can control the media, control the doctors, control the publicity given to the whole thing"
Though the Vatican has not initiated any public action against Bishop William based on the allegations, his accusers have demanded that he undergo a paternity test to prove his innocence.
In the conversation, the cardinal is heard saying the test could be conducted at a Catholic hospital so “we can control the media, control the doctors, control the publicity given to the whole thing.”
The cardinal was also heard saying that he was speaking “on behalf of the Vatican.”
Bishop William agreed to undergo the test in the conversation.
The cardinal's comments were interpreted as his collusion with a Church-run hospital in influencing the result of a test in favor of Bishop William.
Cardinal Gracias denied the allegations but admitted that the leaked audio clip was part of a conversation he had with Bishop William in August 2020.
"Several people I know had been disturbed by the rumors going around"
The cardinal issued a video statement on Aug. 7 saying he never meant to control the outcome of a test, but had suggested the Catholic hospital as it was an "institution with credibility.”
The cardinal’s media office also released the unedited audio clip of the 14-minute conversation, which also has the "misinterpreted" quote of the cardinal.
Cardinal Gracias said that during the conversation he “urged Bishop William that it would be advisable for him to do a paternity test."
"I impressed on him that several people I know had been disturbed by the rumors going around,” he said
“This [sex allegation] was not good for the Church and the best way to end the controversy was this test. I said so two years back and I still think so,” said Cardinal Gracias.
Meanwhile, priests and others who accused Bishop William insist that he undergo a paternity test at a government facility -- the National Forensic Institute, Hyderabad -- rather than at any Church-managed hospital which will hold no legal value.
“The leaked conversation has become a weapon in the hands of Bishop William biters"
Justice Michael F. Saldanha, a retired high court judge who demanded the ouster of Bishop William in a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio on Aug. 10, appealed to the papal representative to issue a direction to Cardinal Gracias and Bishop William to step down immediately to save the Church from “complete destruction.”
The Catholic judge also questioned the legal validity of a paternity test at a Catholic hospital as suggested by Cardinal Gracias.“The National Forensic Institute, Hyderabad is the only legally authorized entity in the country to do paternity tests that follow the legal formalities in the country,” he said.
Church activists believe even after the unedited version was released and the cardinal explained the situation, many saw the conversation as an official attempt at a cover up and clear the accused bishop.
“The best way for the Church leadership to restore its credibility is by having a paternity test for Bishop William at a government facility,” said a Church official who did not want to be named.
“The leaked conversation has become a weapon in the hands of Bishop William biters and if they continue with this campaign it is going to damage the Church.
“If Cardinal Gracias can suggest Bishop William go for a paternity test at a Church hospital, and the latter is ready, then why not do it at a government lab where no one can raise a finger of accusation,” said the official.
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