The Bishop Gallela Prasad affair sowing divisions
by Nirmala Carvalho

Three Reddy upper caste priests are accused of attacking a Dalit bishop. They were suspended by the bishop himself; however, all three, currently out on bail, were reinstated by his successor.

 


Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The case of three Reddy upper caste priests is sowing division and causing rifts among Indian Catholics. The three clergymen are accused of attacking a Dalit bishop.

As a result of their action, they were suspended by the attacked bishop, but were reinstated by his successor. Currently, all three are out on bail. The Holy See has intervened in the affair.

On 24 April 2016, three upper caste priests were reportedly involved in a premeditated attack against Bishop Gallela Prasad (pictured), the former ordinary bishop of Cuddapah, as he was returning from a religious service in the diocese.

On 21 May 2016, Bishop Gallela Prasad, a Dalit, suspended the three Reddy upper caste priests. On 10 December 2018, Pope Francis accepted Bishop Prasad’s resignation; he was facing a lawsuit in which he was charged of embezzling diocesan funds in order to lead a life of luxury with his alleged wife and child.

The Holy Father appointed Bishop Gali Bali as apostolic administrator of Cuddapah, who on 17 July reinstated Fathers Nalladimmu Raja Reddy, Lingala Vijaymohan Reddy and Sanivarappu Marreddy, and gave them parishes.

For Jesuit a X J Bosco SJ, a Dalit human rights activist, speaking to AsiaNews, the appointment of Fr Sanivarappu Marreddy “only reveals the caste mindset and corruption in the Church.”

A letter by Bishop Gali Bali, dated 11 July 2020, states that “the Holy See evaluated your request (Father Marreddy’s)” about the “case concerning the suspension imposed on you by the former Bishop Gallela Prasad, based on ‘falsely alleged offences’.”

“We know very well how the Church hierarchy works,” notes A X J Bosco. “Without the recommendation, support and consent of Bishop Gali Bali, the Holy See would not have revoked the suspension in such a serious case and would not have asked him to appoint Fr Marreddy.

"Appointing the three Reddy priests in this scandalous criminal case, while the case is still pending in court, is nothing short of shocking and smells of caste prejudice, cherished and perpetuated even today by casteist bishops and priests.

“I like to pose a challenge: I know that Reddies want to follow Jesus sincerely, but often the devil succeeds in enticing them into caste discrimination and caste politics. Let them drop the suffix Reddy from their names. This may be very painful for them, but it will show their sincerity in following Jesus who proclaimed the Kingdom of God in which we love one another as equals.”

Mgr Sarat Chandra Nayak, chairman of the Commission for Scheduled Castes (SC)/other backward castes (BC) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), spoke to AsiaNews about the reinstatement of the three upper caste priests who were arrested and are currently out on bail.

"There are three issues here: civil legality, ecclesial-canonical legality and pastoral prudence and sensitivity,” he said.

“First of all, it is better to look at the issue in terms of legality, be it civil or canonical, in order to reach justice based on the truth. A crime has no caste, religion, gender, authority, nationality for an equitable decision, even if these may weigh on the matter.

“It was widely reported that the priests physically assaulted the bishop and that the bishop suspended them for this. There is no justification for taking the law into one's own hands, be it in society or in the Church.

“Physical assault is a crime in both civil and canon law. In both civil and ecclesiastical society, the legal system of justice must be respected and pursued in order to obtain justice.

“Bishop Gali Bali's letter clearly states that the Holy See, after evaluating the application and supporting documents from the concerned suspended priests, authorised him to ‘make the appropriate decision’ on the matter.

“Therefore, I prudently and religiously presume that the Holy See has evaluated the matter with all seriousness, including by listening to Archbishop Gallela Prasad, whatever his present state may be.

“Before one can analyse and question Bishop Gali Bali's decision, one needs to know if the Holy See has come to the conclusion that the said allegation against the priests was false so as to ask Bishop Gali Bali to make the appropriate decision.

“It does not look so, since the Holy See found it necessary to ‘strongly’ advise the priests to lead an exemplary life, cooperating fully with the diocesan authorities and bearing an authentic witness to true reconciliation and ecclesial communion.

“If Bishop Gali Bali was left with the task of judging the veracity of the allegation and make the appropriate decision, it is expected that he has supporting facts and witnesses, beyond a reasonable doubt, to conclude that the suspension was based on ‘falsely alleged offences’.

“Church and civil law are certainly separate. However, except in matters of faith and morals, civil law prevails over Church law when there is a conflict between the two. The matter is before a civil court and the three priests are out on bail.

“Bishop Gali Bali, the apostolic administrator of Cuddapah, not only postponed the suspension, but also reinstated them [the priests] as pastors under Canon 1356. I assume he consulted Bishop Gallela Prasad before the suspension was remitted as required by Canon 1356. 2.

“When the matter is before a court, reinstating priests to pastoral responsibilities before allegation can be considered an ‘appropriate decision’ by a seasoned bishop like Gali Bali, although others may see pastoral prudence extended beyond the limit.

“I have not visited the Diocese of Cuddapah, but I am aware that there is a caste problem there, just as in many other dioceses in India. The alleged assault on the bishop and the subsequent incidents are heavily loaded with caste feelings and sentiments.

“Not dancing to caste music is a great challenge, and only for bishops and superiors; one cannot remain naive in the face of deeply rooted caste mindsets and practices that cripple the humanity of the so-called upper castes and crush the dignity of Dalits.”

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