UPDATE: The Thirteenth Open Letter on the Issues Regarding Fr. Pallath’s Case


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-34-2001
ISSUES: Administration of justice,

Update on Urgent Appeal 27 August 2001


UP-34-2001 (RE: UA12/01: Jesuit Priest Abused by His Own Order


UPDATE: The Thirteenth Open Letter on the Issues Regarding Fr. Pallath’s Case



Dear Friends,


We would like to send you a copy of the 13th 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



Thirteenth Open Letter to Jesuit Superior

(This is the thirteenth of a series of letters on the issues regarding the treatment of Fr. Pallath J. Joseph of the Kerala Province of Jesuits in India.)


August 27, 2001


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


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 Thirteenth Letter:

With All Too Mighty Local Superiors and All Too Silent International Superiors, Where Do Subordinate Religious and Priests Turn?


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. In our seventh letter, we compared the cases of Belgian Jesuit Jacques Dupuis and Fr. Pallath. Our eighth letter noted the lack of justice that has transpired in dealing with Fr. Pallath’s case and questioned whether this conformed with the central place of love in Jesuit teaching and Christian theology. The danger of overemphasising obedience that is reflected in the German saying Bevel ist bevel – an Order is an order – that laid the foundation for Nazi fascism during World War II and that appears to be playing a role in Fr. Pallath’s case was highlighted in our ninth letter. In our 10th letter, we referred to your continuing silence in responding to Fr. Pallath’s case, a lack of action that we noted fosters impunity in this serious matter. Our 11th letter contained Fr. Pallath’s call for an inquiry into his dismissal and his reply to a version of the facts below by a person called “Tamara Joseph,?a version that is believed, in fact, to be authored by the Jesuits in Kerala. Lastly, our 12th letter compared a characteristic common to Brahmin priests in India – the use of cunning – and the behaviour of some Jesuit priests in Kerala who appear to have absorbed this characteristic of Brahminism and used it in response to 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.


Priests and religious commit their lives to seeking liberation for themselves and others. Various religions define this liberation in different ways.


It is also a part of the history of religions that these men and women, having taken to the path of liberation, often get trapped by organisational networks they form or join. Then the very means created to foster liberation easily turns into oppression. Instead of a joyful search for greater humanity and holiness, the seeker after liberation finds bitterness and infighting.


This outcome, of course, some may say is all too human. The problem really is when there is no way out. Then those who suffer most are the subordinates who comprise the majority. The power-holders, called the superiors, have all the power, and the subordinates have none. This order of things is then often called the “will of God.?


The case of Fr. Pallath is just one such incident. The complaints against the oppression of the superiors is all too common. This is specially so in South Asia. Almost everyone can mention a case known to him or her about a person who was ill-treated in this way. There are many such publicly known cases and many others that are known only to those who know the individuals concerned.


As a result, this search for human rights in the world’s religions, including the Church, has become quite a common theme on all continents. This is so in Asia too.


Despite such protests, breaking these forms of oppression have not been easy. Sometimes breaking the types of oppression that exist in secular society have proven to be much easier. In fact, the 20th century achieved many forms of liberation in many countries throughout the world. Asia can boast of its own share.


This incapacity to make room for change raises many questions about the so-called religious orders. Why can there not be another approach to matters of discipline? Secular society has established openness on these matters as a fundamental principle of a civilised society. The idea of receiving a fair trial is based on this notion of openness.


The related question is why do local superiors enjoy such exclusive privileges in dealing with the highest international leaders of their organisation. Is it the accepted theory that the international superior is God’s representative for the whole order and the local superior is God’s representative for the locality and the rest in God’s design are meant to obey only? If this is so, there is nothing religious about it. This is just authoritarianism and very crude theorising meant to promote an easy domination over others. Surely, God is not against democracy.


I conclude this letter with the request made by Fr. Pallath on August 13, 2001, that was transmitted to you previously:


“Now that the Jesuit authorities have come up with ‘Thamara Joseph’s’ version as their own official version and there are diametrically opposite versions on many issues and incidents, it is the bound duty of the Jesuits to establish the veracity of my dismissal. I suggest that a mutually agreeable three-member commission, without preconditions, investigate the entire incident and find out the truth. If the Society of Jesus agrees to this proposal, I shall withdraw all of the cases, both criminal and civil, and shall suspend all agitations and follow the verdict of the commission.”


Sincerely yours,



Basil Fernando

Executive Director

Asian Human Rights Commission

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-34-2001
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Administration of justice,