The Church is plunged into turmoil as a priest adopts a woman, reports KA SHAJI
The church has called the incident a black magic ritual. The faithful are up in arms. Ironically, Bishop Thattunkal was suspended just a few weeks after the elevation to sainthood of Kerala’s Sister Alphonsa, the first Indian woman to be so canonised.
Sources in the church state that the Vatican only rarely suspends bishops. Thattunkal is now being kept off administrative functions of the Cochin diocese. His charge is being handed to Daniel Acharuparamabil, the bishop of Verapoly. An angry Pope Benedict XVI also ordered a detailed inquiry by a threemember panel of bishops. The only concession from the Vatican is that Thattunkal can remain a bishop until the final verdict.
In September Thattunkal adopted the 26-year-old graduate from Pathanamthitta district in South Kerala. The Bishop had met the woman during a pilgrimage abroad in April and ‘convinced’ of her ‘extraordinary spiritual powers’. Back home, the woman began to advise him on administrative matters at the diocese. According to the bishop, her predictions helped him trace and punish priests embezzling church funds. The bishop then adopted the woman as his daughter at the local registrar’s office.
AFTER THE ADOPTION, the woman stayed in a guest house within the Bishop House compound in Fort Kochi. She, however, left it after it became an issue among a section of priests in the Cochin diocese.
Many faithful are not satisfied with the suspension and are sending memorandums to the Vatican asking for punitive action, up to defrocking or removal from the post of bishop.
Thattunkal has apologised to the community for the controversy. He says he has not made any mistake but will abide by any decision of the Church.
The woman told TEHELKA that she considered the 60-year-old bishop as her grandfather and called herself his spiritual daughter.
“In this issue, we are confronted with fundamental questions of faith and moral errors that are against Catholic law. That is why we have instituted the three-member enquiry committee,’’ said Father Stephen Althara, a spokesperson for the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC). The inquiry committee is headed by Francis Kalarakal, the Bishop of Kottapuram. The other members are Sebastian Thekethecheril, Bishop of Vijayapuram and Dr Vincent Samuel, the Bishop of Neyattinakara. Sources say that the committee will take up to three months to complete its task.