The Syro Malabar Catholic Church, which has been at the centre of a series of rows involving Bishop Franco Mulakkal and Cardinal George Mar Alencherry, has now come out with a bizarre statement, saying that the parishioners have decided to boycott the media. In the December edition of their monthly newsletter called Catholicasabha, the Church published an article titled ‘Sabhaykkethire Goodalochana: Viswasikal Madhyamangal Behishkarikum’ (Conspiracy against Church: Devotees will boycott media). The article even called out a newspaper and a television channel, which supposedly "conspired" against the church.
The article states that the parishioners have decided to boycott the media. And, this seemed to have been written not as a direction from the Church, but as if it is presenting the decision on behalf of the devotees. According to the article, the media houses have “made it a habit to humiliate” the functioning of the church, its leadership and “hurt” the emotions of the devotees.
In the article, the Church goes on to justify its decision to use the image of Bishop Franco Mulakkal in its November edition. “The propaganda of the media is that using the image of Bishop Franco Mulakkal along with other Bishops is a huge sin,” it said.
In November, the Thrissur archdiocese of the Church celebrated Franco Mulakkal by publishing his photograph in their annual Catholic calendar issued by the church.
“They (the media) were not able to tolerate the Church's act of issuing the notice of disciplinary action to the one who led anti-church activities,” it said, referring to Father Augustine Vattolly, who had exposed the irregularities in a mysterious land deal by the Syro-Malabar Church, and spearheaded a dharna at the Thiruvananthapuram Secretariat in the name of ‘Save our Sisters’, against Franco.
Bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Church Franco Mulakkal was arrested in September for raping a nun. “Bishop Franco Mulakkal is an accused. Although he is abstaining from responsibilities, he is still a bishop. He will be a bishop until it is proven in a court or in the church system that he has committed the crime,” the article read.
“The Indian judiciary's core mantra is to not punish an innocent person. But certain media outlets act as courts, which is an offence as per the constitution,” it added.
The article also referred to the ISRO espionage case to further ridicule the media, saying that the media published false stories to loot its readers.
Also, in an attempt to extenuate the allegations against the heads of the Church, it even mentioned some of the sexual harassment complaints against the top brass in some of the media houses.
“The media is supplying blasphemy, anti-Chruch propaganda and obscene and false stories to increase their business. They are spreading poison and this has to be resisted. The media spitting venom is a danger to family and society. Such media houses should be boycotted; such television channels should be turned off; such newspapers should be kept away from houses and offices; such media should not be promoted; they should not be advertised,” the article says.
The same edition has another bizarre article, which asks the devotees to be vigilant of the “conspiring moves” and fabricated cases, framed to destroy the Church and to taint the priests.
“Of late, women would come to the church in the pretext of visiting priests and later file sexual harassment complaints at police stations after they return. It has been learnt that a section of people has been enquiring about the land deals of the parishes with the devotees and has been working across the state to file misleading against the church,” the article says.