Indian cardinal denies cover-up to shield bishop charged with fathering a child

Cardinal Osvald Gracias of India at a press briefing on the Synod of Bishops in Vatican City Oct 22 2015 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 10 22 15 Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay speaks at a Vatican press conference, Oct. 22, 2015. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias adamantly denied allegations that he attempted to arrange for a fake paternity test for a scandal-plagued bishop accused of secretly fathering a child, among other charges.

In a video statement posted on the Archdiocese of Bombay’s YouTube channel Sunday, Gracias said that a 2020 recording of a telephone conversation with Bishop Kannikass Antony William of Mysore had been “mischievously edited” to give the impression that the cardinal had tried to cover up the scandal.

The recording in question, originally posted by the website Church Militant, had been circulating on social media among Indian Catholics, according to various news accounts.

In the video, Gracias said that he was “distressed” to learn of the rumors, which he said he “categorically, emphatically and totally” denied.

He said that an unedited version of the recorded conversation would show that he was attempting to arrange for a paternity test in a reputable Catholic hospital.

“I did have a conversation with Bishop William in August 2020. During the conversation I urged Bishop William that it was advisable for him to undergo a paternity test. I impressed upon him that several people I know have been disturbed [by] the rumors going around the church and that the best way to end the controversy was to take this test,” he said.

“At no time did I suggest that we can control the outcome of the test,” said Gracias.

Gracias was appointed archbishop of Bombay by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, and made a cardinal in 2007. Pope Francis appointed him to the Council of Cardinals in 2013.

In 2021 a Vatican investigation was launched into charges of misconduct by William, the bishop accused of fathering a child. The investigation, which has thus far not resulted in any actions from the Vatican, was prompted by a 2019 letter to Pope Francis from 37 priests from William’s diocese. In the letter the priests called for the bishop's removal, citing charges of sexual misconduct and the misappropriation of Church funds.

William was later accused of arranging for the immediate transfer of the 37 to remote villages.

In 2020, former Bombay judge Micheal Saldanha sent a letter to Gracias accusing William of “letting loose a virtual reign of terror” in the Diocese of Mysore, the Deccan Herald reported.  

Saldanha charged that the bishop was responsible for the deaths of four priests, in “two murders, one hanging, and one so-called accident.”

In 2021, a group of 113 people, including 22 priests, calling themselves the Save Mysore Diocese Action Committee, wrote to Cardinal Luis Tagle, prefect of Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to demand that William step down as bishop.

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