UPDATE (INDIA): Who scuttled their desire to re-consider the decision?


Urgent Appeal Case: P-42-2002

UPDATE (INDIA): Who scuttled their desire to re-consider the decision?



Regarding Fr. Pallath’s hunger strike, we are sending you the following updates in order to draw your continuous attention.

Thank you.
Urgent Appeals Desk

Asian Human Rights Commission


Did the Jesuits of Kerala admit Fr. Pallath’s dismissal as wrong?

Who scuttled their desire to re-consider the decision?

Tell tale letters come to light

The coming to light of two revealing letters provide ample evidence to the fact that the Kerala Jesuits not only veered around to the conclusion that Fr. Pallath’s dismissal was indeed \”flawed – juridically, morally and religiously\”, but wanted to reconsider the whole issue ‘with complete Ignition indifference’ and be ‘open to every possibility, what ever the cost’.

It has now become evident that the Jesuit Kerala Provincial did write to the society’s highest authorities in Rome exploring the possibility of reviewing the dismissal of Fr. Pallath. His letter was prompted by the fervent plea by two senior most Jesuits – one Fr. Jose Pulickan, a highly respected retreat preacher, himself a former provincial and Fr. Kottukapilly, who has consistently taken the position that Fr. Pallath’s dismissal and the events that followed are among the darkest blots on the image of the Jesuit society.

The letter-dated 17/4/2002 was written to the Provincial for consideration at the special consultation convened by the Provincial on 20/4/2002. It is reliably learned that Fr. Pulikkan, highly regarded as a soft spoken, erudite scholar presented the letter himself at the consultation.

\”We believe that the course of actions taken by the Province against P.J (as Fr.Pallath is popularly known in the Jesuit circles) culminating in his dismissal, as well as some actions after the dismissal were juridically, morally or religiously flawed; that this failure on the part of the Province has deeply hurt it, that it is spiritually bleeding it\”, notes the letter.

Obviously, the discussions that followed at the consultation could not duck the issue anymore, coming as it did from none other than Fr. Pulickan, arguably among the most respected of the Kerala Jesuits. Fr. Provincial was forced to write to the Jesuit authorities in Rome exploring the possibility of a review of Fr. Pallath’s dismissal. The copy of this letter is unavailable. But the response to this letter of the Provincial, from Fr. Julian Fernando of the Jesuit curia in Rome, gives enough glimpses in to its contents and the desperate bid of the Jesuits in Rome as well, to cover up their totally unjustifiable act:

It is very important that what ever is done for a healing process should not give the seriously incorrect and potentially harmful impression that the decision of dismissal was \”Juridically (or canonically) flawed\”, and the Kerala province should re-examine this issue with \”indifference\”, warns Fr. Julian. The quotations in the letter (by Julian Fernandez himself), it may be noted, are an exact lift from Fr. Pulikkan’s letter, making it obvious that Fr. Provincial could not ignore the sentiments of the Jesuit community anymore and felt compelled to write to the Jesuit headquarters to try and re-examine the issue.

What is of as much significance is that while the letter from the Jesuit authorities in Rome dated 22nd April tries to put a stamp of disapproval on re-opening the issue of Fr. Pallath’s dismissal, (to that effect the opinion of the Procurator General is furnished, which forms the larger part of the communiqué? it does not rule out all other measures to heal the wounds caused by the dismissal and the events that followed. In fact the letter says as much, that it is indeed the prerogative of the provincial. \”If the Kerala provincial wishes to encourage conversation that looks to the healing of the province in a forward looking manner (rather than once again uselessly re-visiting the past and its wounds) that may be his prerogative”, the letter makes explicit.

What is becoming all the more exposed is the ridiculous stand of the Jesuits: Against mounting pressure from the members of their own community they write to the higher authorities to re-consider the decision. The higher ups say no, but add that everything other than review of the dismissal will fall within the Provincial’s prerogative (as part of the efforts to heal the wounds). Now the argument touted by the Jesuit superiors against showing even a ‘modicum of equity and charity’ to a 55 year old man whom they utilized maximally for 35 years before throwing him on the streets, is that they have been prevented from doing so by the authorities in Rome.

Who is saying what and when? More importantly, in the midst of all this where is the Provincial Fr. John Manipadam? Enough to give credence to the argument of a large number of Jesuits that he is prisoner to a caucus that is determined to bring the Jesuits to shame. Is his letter to Rome asking for a review of Pallath’s dismissal one rare instance when he managed to break free from the caucus and truly present the aspiratins of the Jesuits of the Province? If so it is a shame that the Jesuit higher ups in Rome failed to seize the initiative.

– By Prerana Thomas
Human rights activists decide to intensify stir

Against the totally inhuman attitude of the Jesuits towards Fr. Pallath’s hunger strike, necessitated by their willful violation of the terms of a signed agreement, human rights activists have decided to intensify the agitation. Tomorrow morning will see protest action by farmers organizations before St. Michael’s school Kannur – a prestigious Jesuit institution. From tomorrow evening, several cultural organizations will jointly hold a night vigil before the seat of Jesuit power in Kerala – Christ Hall, Calicut. Meanwhile, several priests and religious under the banner of CPCI and Forum of Religious have decided to hold protest action before several Jesuit houses this weekend.

Since his unequivocal statement yesterday before the police commissioner, several organizations, including Yuvajanavedi, the Confederation of Human Rights Organizations of Kerala (CHRO), and the Swaraj movement have pledged support for Pallath’s cause and urged the Jesuit authorities to see the writing on the wall and concede Fr. Pallath’s just demands.
Jesuits mock a dying man

The only negotiator that Jesuit leaders in Kerala can trust is the police. Consequently, the chief negotiator for the Jesuits has become the police commissioner. For a Jesuit organisation claiming to be present for hundreds years in Kerala not to be able to find anyone to negotiate on their behalf, except the police commissioner, is itself a sad indictment of the religious order. Community leaders have been with Fr. Pallath, however, and it is they who have represented him.

The final offer of the Jesuit leaders was an insult added to injuryan offer to pay two month’s rent! This deliberate mockery of the negotiations was a deliberate demonstration of their attitude that “we can care less what happens to Fr. Pallath.”

The indications are that they want Fr. Pallath to die. Why?

1. He has embarrassed the organisation too much, and his death will bring an end to this continuous embarrassment.

2. They have to insist that their organisation does not bow to pressure. The voice of the people has no place in it.

3. The Jesuits may talk about justice on matters outside of their organisation, but inside, they do not recognise such a principle. Even Fr. Arrupe, the former Jesuit superior general in Rome, was marginalised within the organisation in the latter part of his life due to his passionate interest in justice.

4. They cannot admit that they make mistakes. This is much different than the recent experience elsewhere in the Catholic Church. The pope himself has apologised several times for the wrongs committed by the Church in the past. On the issue of paedophile priests, some action has been taken. In the case of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya’s excommunication, it was lifted within just one year. But the Jesuits are different. Based on a military style of leadership, if they take any action, they consider it valid forever. This is what the Rev. Gregory Naik, the Jesuit regional secretary for South Asia based in Rome, has essentially been writing to many people.

5. Fr. Pallath has filed several criminal cases against some Jesuits. Their sensitivity regarding these cases is evident when they constantly have requested the withdrawal of these complaints by Fr. Pallath. If the complainant dies, then the cases will not go to court.

6. There is the special Kerala factor too. In this state of India whose population is predominantly Catholic, the Church is part of the power structure. The Church, police and bureaucracy are well knitted together. The novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy exposes this unity, this “touchable solidarity.” Moreover, the tradition is to completely crush any challenge that shakes this solidarity. In this novel, Velulha, a paravan, or low caste person is mercilessly beaten and killed by Kerala’s touchable police to protect the touchable from embarrassment and challenges. Fr. Pallath too faces this same wall of blind and heartless prejudice.

7. There is nothing for the Jesuit leaders to gain by saving Fr. Pallath’s life. However, they have many petty advantages to gain by his death. They want to have the last laugh, however short it may last!

– By Basil Fernando


Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : P-42-2002
Countries : India,