The Ernakulam- Angalamali Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Mar Jacob Manathodath has issued another letter to Father Augustine Vattoly, who was a prominent face of the nuns’ protests seeking action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal. The Church has asked Father Augustine to step down as the general convener of Save Our Sisters (SOS), the movement that spearheaded the protests. He has also been directed to take charge as a parish priest.
This comes weeks after Fr Vattoly submitted a response to Mar Jacob Manathodath’s letter on November 11, warning the former of punitive action for speaking out against the church. In the latest letter to Fr Vattoly on December 29, Jacob Manathodath pointed out that the Church will neither proceed with a detailed enquiry on Fr Vattoly nor take disciplinary action against him as he has “expressed regret and sought apologies” in his response letter.
“You shall, however, relinquish your position as Convener of SOS. You have already expressed your readiness to do so. You shall not engage further in any activities connected therewith or with the AMT (Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency) or other such associations. You shall not issue statements that will malign the Church and hierarchy. You do understand that such actions hurt our faithful quite deeply,” Mar Jacob Manathodath wrote in the letter.
“You may be able to justify your actions in the light of your convictions. It is equally important that being a priest of the Catholic Church, you respect those in authority and abide by its guidance and directions,” he says.
The Apostolic Administrator also requested Fr Vattoly to “spend a few weeks in prayer to change his mind”.
According to Jacob Manathodath, the diocese was initially planning to relieve Fr Vattoly from his present ministry and entrust him with a new assignment in the Archdiocese in March 2019. “However, as per your request to give you one year to wind up your commitments at Vathuruthy, I let you continue your ministries over there for one year from today (Saturday),” the letter read.
In the meantime, Fr Vattoly has also been asked to provide in writing the ministries he is engaged in at Vathuruthy and its neighbourhood in Kochi.
On November 11, the Syro Malabar Church had issued a letter to Fr Augustine, accusing him of violating various codes of conducts of the Canon law and inciting sedition and hatred against ecclesiastical authorities.
After the Church sought an explanation from Fr Vattoly, the latter submitted his reply, quoting the bible and letters from various popes.
Responding to the latest letter, Fr Vattoly tells TNM, “I did not do anything to destroy the name of the Church. In fact, my actions have only highlighted the values of the Catholic Church. The church leadership blindly believes Bishop Franco and is making attempts to oust the poor nuns. I think this is a sin by the Church leadership.”
Riju Kanjookkaran, leader of Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency (AMT), says, “The diocese’s directive that Fr Vattoly should not engage in any activities connected with the AMT or other such associations only goes on to show that the Apostolic Administrator also fears our intervention. We suspect that the decision shows that the Administrator and the Church are trying to hide something from society.”