A Catholic bishop in Kerala has landed in trouble after adopting a young woman in Kochi in defiance of the Church’s Canon Law.
Fifty-eight-year-old Bishop John Thattungal of Cochin stunned a meeting of priests of his diocese October 1 when he made the controversial announcement that he had adopted a 26-year-old woman, one of the four daughters of an Orthodox Church priest from Pathnamthitta district, Church sources said.
He also claimed that he had the consent of the woman’s family for adoption, which was carried out at the sub-registrar office in Mattanchery here, September 15. The woman was residing at a home-stay inside the Bishop’s House compound for a while, but left for Pathanamthitta after the controversy surfaced.
The bishop had reportedly met her during a pilgrimage abroad along with her parents a few months ago.
President of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of Verapoly, has questioned the decision of Thattungal and submitted a report to the papal ambassador to India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana. The report has been forwarded to the Vatican for action.
Archbishop Acharuparambil's action followed a representation made by the laity and priests of other parishes in Cochin diocese.
Thattungal was quoted by a local newspaper as saying that he had only "fatherly love" for the woman in whom he found “spiritual enlightenment”. He had reportedly been impressed by her “spirituality and divine experience” during the holy journey.
However, the priests of his diocese term his claims as senseless and against the Church laws and tradition. They also questioned his moral and ecclesiastical right to adopt a laywoman.
Bishop Thattungal too hit back at his critics, saying he was being victimised by vested interests for unearthing some frauds. But Acharuparambil denied there was a lobby working against the Cochin bishop.
Canon Law bars Catholic priests from going for adoption because of the financial and moral liabilities it would invite. Any bishop or priest violating the Law is defrocked.