Swindling Church Funds: Mangalore Bishop in Dock
   13-Mar-2019
Ten Commandents says, ‘Thou shall not steal!’ But when the Shepherd himself disobey the Commandments, what can his docile sheeps do except look helplessly on? A bishop and his parish priests of Kulshekar Holy Cross Church have been caught swindling Church funds to fuel their benami lands and luxury property purchases in their own names
 Offering frees us from death and frees us from wandering in the darkness. For, in fact, offering is for the one who practices it, precious treasure in the eyes of God” proclaims a Biblical saying inscribed in front of the Holy Cross Church at Kulshekar in Mangalore. Ironically it seems that the bishops and fathers of the very same Church wandered into the darkness and squandered away the precious treasure (offerings) of the Church to satisfy their personal greed and welfare.
 
 
Holy Cross Church Kulshekar in Mangalore 
 
Though such allegations of fund mismanagement and corruption is not new to the Church, this case from the coastal town has shocked Church-goers. A Bishop, fathers and priests of the Church have now been accused of swindling church funds to the tune of Rs. 5 crore. The amount received by the church by the way of offerings was meant to fund construction activities of the Church. The Church is located in a quaint locality of Kulshekar on the outskirts of Mangalore. Though similar allegations were made earlier, neither the administrators of the Church nor the Mangalore Diocese took cognizance of the issue. This is the first time that the scam has come out in the open, due to the efforts of an activist, Robert Rosario, of the same church.
 
 
Bishop Aloysius Paul DSouza 
 
Robert Rosario is a social activist who had raised the issue of corruption and mismanagement of funds in the church almost 25 years ago. He has been fighting his lone battle since then though no one came forward to support him, mostly out of fear and clout of the accused. The first accused is Father Valerian Pinto, the former Parish Priest of the Kulshekar Church. However, the other accused include Bishop Rev Aloysius Paul D’Souza who is the erstwhile Bishop of the Mangalore Diocese. A prominent figure of the Roman Catholic Church in India, Rev Aloysius Paul D’Souza was the Bishop of Mangalore for 22 long years till 2018. His brother Fr. Charles D'Souza is a pastor in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi. Along with him, 10 others have been accused in the case. On 26th February, the Second Judicial Magistrate of First Class (JMFC) court ordered registration of a complaint against the Bishop and others. The order came almost 2 years, after Robert Rosario filed the complaint against the accused on April 5th, 2017. The court also issued summons to the accused to appear before the Magistrate on March 29th when the case will be heard next.
 
 
Robert Rosario (Case Complainant) 
 
In his complaint Robert has accused that the funds meant for renovation of a hall and the park in the premises were misappropriated. He has also accused them of committing other financial irregularities. Along with the bishop and the parish priest, the other accused include many prominent people explaining why the registration of the complaint took such a long time. These include Father Anil Lobo, Father Denis Moras Prabhu, Advocate MP Noronha, Francis Pinto, Frederick Mendonca, Susheel Noronha, Walter Pinto and Celistine Saldanha. The charges against the accused include misappropriation of property, dealings in stolen property, concealment of property, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, forgery, and falsification of financial records.
Speaking to Organiser in Mangaluru, Robert Rosario says that this has been his fight against corruption in the church from more than 25 years. “I have always fought against corruption inside the Church and misappropriation of funds. Though it was a single-handed fight against the might and clout of the accused, I wanted to bring out to the public domain. The funds collected from donors and offerings are meant for construction activities of the church. However, fake bills with bloated price were forged by the accused and pocked the money. The ill-gotten money has been used for buying ‘benami’ land and property”, accuses Robert.
Rs. 5 crore that came to knowledge is just a tip of the iceberg to what might have actually been swindled. It is difficult to track the donations as they are maintained by the Priests and Bishops
He says that Rs. 5 crore that came to his knowledge is just a small amount compared to what might have actually been swindled. It is difficult to track the donations as these records are maintained by the Priests and Bishops, who are themselves accused in this case, he says. Though the Church had instituted an enquiry committee to look into the allegations, nothing much came out of it as all the accused held the same positions as earlier and no punishments were given. Complaints on the irregularities were made to the central diocese and upto the Vatican too and as expected nothing happened. That is the clout they enjoy, says Robert.
 
When asked about the way the Church and the accused targeted him as he had exposed their financial irregularities, Robert says, “Sunday masses are supposed to read and understand the Bible. But such Sunday Masses were used by the priest to bolster their image and target their opponents. In my case, the priest used Sunday mass to instigate Church-goers against me and hence many people were against me.” On being asked if others supported him in his fight, he says, “I was targeted within the church initially as not many believed the involvement of the bishop or the priest. Now since my fight has been going on for decades, many are convinced of the misdeeds of these people and how the Bishop tried to hush up the matter.”
 
Detailing the difficulties he faced when pursuing the case, Robert informs that though the case was filed in April 2017, the hearing were postponed on one pretext or the other. “The earlier Magistrate himself was corrupt and was close to the accused. I have even filed a case of corruption against the earlier Magistrate too”, says Robert highlighting the nexus between the judiciary and the accused in delaying the hearings and ordering of the complaint. He narrated how he was mentally harassed and made to wait by the Magistrate.
 
The clout they enjoy has ensured that such cases do not come out in the open. In most instances of corruption the cases are deferred indefinitely so that the complainant gets demoralized and withdraws. Unless such cases are highlighted people like Robert Rosario will be fighting a lonely battle.