UPDATE: The Seventh Open Letter on Fr. Pallath’s case


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-22-2001

Dear Friends, 

We would like to send you a copy of the seventh open letter sent by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to the Jesuit superior general in Rome regarding Fr. Pallath’s case. 

For further information, including this letter, please visit http://jjpallath.ahrchk.net. 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission 


[This is the seventh of a series of letters on the issues regarding the treatment of Fr. Pallath J. Joseph of the Kerala Province of Jesuits in India.] 

An Open Letter to: 
Rev. Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach 
Superior General 
Curia Generalize 
Compagnia di Gesu 
C.P. 6139 
00195 Roma Prati ITALY 
FAX: 39-06-686-8214 

July 16, 2001 

SEVENTH OPEN LETTER RE: Physical Assault, Slander through the Gutter Press, Filing of Fabricated Criminal Cases, Denial of Right to Livelihood and Other Matters Relating to Fr. Pallath J. Joseph Request for an Inquiry 

The Theme of the Seventh Letter: 
Two Types of Repression: The Cases of Jacques Dupuis, SJ, (a Belgian) and Pallath J. Joseph, SJ, (an Indian) 

Dear Rev. Fr. General, 

In the first and second open letters to you, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) raised some concerns from a moral and human rights point of view regarding all of the episodes relating to the case of Fr. Pallath J. Joseph of which you are aware. Our third letter to you outlined in detail why we as a human rights organisation are concerned about Fr. Pallath’s case; and in the fourth letter, we questioned the manner in which the leaders of the Jesuit order have dealt with this issue. In our fifth letter to you, we raised the issue of racism in regards to the treatment of Fr. Pallath by the Jesuit order in this case. Our sixth letter to you dealt with the use of common sense to resolve Fr. Pallath’s case. While it is not our intention to interfere with the affairs of your order, there are matters of public interest about which many people, including our commission, are quite concerned. They are as follows: 

(1) The physical assault of Fr. Pallath J. Joseph by two members of your order, together with several other hired thugs; 

(2) The throwing of the body of Fr. Pallath over the wall of the Jesuit’s premises and onto the road while he was in an unconscious or semiconscious state; 

(3) Slandering Fr. Pallath by some members of your order using a gutter magazine called Crime Star; 

(4) The filing of fabricated criminal complaints against Fr. Pallath with the view to have him arrested as a way to prevent him from entering a Jesuit house; 

(5) The failure of the Jesuit superiors to respect an agreement entered into between Fr. Pallath and the Jesuits in Kerala through the mediation of the bishop of Calicut; and 

(6) The failure to provide for the livelihood of Fr. Pallath after 33 years of service. 

You are aware of the case of 77-year-old Jacques Dupuis, SJ, who was subjected to a notification by the Vatican criticising his book Towards a Christian Theology of Christian Pluralism for being ambiguous and potentially misleading. He told the Jesuit magazine America that the two-and-a-half-year Vatican investigation of his book had caused him “very great suffering.?In the report, the Jesuit theologian said that the most painful part of the investigation, in addition to being initially accused of doctrinal error, was the Vatican requirement that he not actively pursue his theology or discuss the investigation publicly while it was in progress. Later he was asked to sign a special declaration of faith. This strategy is very similar to the treatment meted out to Fr. Tissa Balasuriya of Sri Lanka who was initially excommunicated and was then reinstated after a large international campaign in support of his position. 

The Vatican has, however, spared the Jesuit theologian from Belgium of any physical assault or assassination of his personal reputation. In modern-day Europe, of course, doing such things are unthinkable. If anyone took such action, it would inevitably lead to a secular court case. 

However, within a religious congregation in India, this is still possible. The acts narrated above recount how another Jesuit, Fr. Pallath, was subjected to such violent treatment by some superiors of his own order. Why was this possible in the Indian state of Kerala? 

Here we see that some achievements have occurred in Western civilisation against the violent treatment of people. Since the time that the secular jurist Cesare Beccaria (17381794) wrote his book against torture and uncivilised practices used in the administration of justice, many changes have taken place in Europe. Secular developments have had an impact on the practices in Christian institutions, and consequently, the physical and violent aspects of the Inquisition had to be abandoned. Today, however, moral and psychological suffering still sadly exists as the cases of Jacques Dupuis and Tissa Balasuriya and many others indicate. 

Unfortunately, these secular influences did not have much effect in altering the main religious tradition of modern IndiaBrahminism. All reformers have lamented this fact, but still the old system remains intact. Under Brahminism, all violence is justified, and the demonstration of this is visible in all parts of India. It was this dominant priestly tradition of Brahminism to which the Catholic priesthood in the country adapted. 

In this Brahmin tradition, there is no place for examining ideas as errors or any other space for critical reflection. Just take the stick and throw the fellow out. That is the theory, and that is the practice. Every conflict is trivialised. Violence and slander are justified and are used as easy ways of dealing with differences. 

Does Brahmin practice acquire any respectability when it happens in a Jesuit house? Will the Jesuits say that the suffering of Jacques Dupuis is worthy of condemnation and Fr. Pallath merely got what he deserves? 

As for us, a human rights organisation deriving its inspiration from the human rights ideals of our time, we consider both actions of the Vatican in Jacques Dupuis’s case and the actions of the Jesuits in Fr. Pallath’s case as equally despicable, and we condemn both actions. 

Sincerely yours, 

Basil Fernando 
Executive Director 
Asian Human Rights Commission 

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-22-2001
Countries : Sri Lanka,