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The Vatican faces harsh criticism against the double standards on ethics and morality for India.

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

The Vatican faces harsh criticism against the double standards on ethics and morality on the Real Estate scandal In India. Time to Change the Colonial Mindset? Two Real Estate Scandals and Two Outcomes: Time to Change the Colonial Mindset of Holy See and administration of Pope Francis

Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Becciu: Time to Change the Colonial Mindset towards India. Two Real Estate Scandals and Two Outcomes

Paulose Variyath

Two parallel legal systems and two notions of justice are not acceptable in modern society. Last week, the Supreme Court of India came down heavily on one of the states warning that there cannot exist one law for the rich and one for the poor. In fact, two sets of laws and two notions of justice are relics of colonialism. In the New Testament, we read that Jesus was sentenced to death by a Roman Governor even after finding nothing against Him. The sentence was given to satiate the popular demand that “it would be better that one person died for the people” (John 18:14). Unlike Jesus, a Roman Citizen was entitled to a whole range of rights including a fair and reasonable procedure before condemnation. One could see St. Paul invoking his rights as a Roman citizen more than once (Acts 16: 37-38; Acts 22: 25-28 and Acts 25). According to Church tradition, while St. Paul was beheaded, St. Peter was crucified. The difference in the mode of execution was because St. Paul was a Roman citizen and St. Peter was not. He was a Roman Subject and not a citizen. Roman citizens were exempted from the cruel, prolonged, undignified, and painstaking punishment of crucifixion.

During European colonialism in the 18th and 19th Centuries, one could see these two parallel legal systems operating in colonies and areas beyond Christendom. In countries like Siam (Thailand), China etc. which were not under direct control of the colonial powers, the European citizens were not subjected to the ‘uncivilized’ and ‘barbaric’ laws of the natives. They had the privilege to be governed by their own ‘civilized’ ‘modern’ laws even when they were outside their own countries. There were courts manned by European judges, enforcing European laws in these countries.

While reading about the recent actions of the Vatican, one is reminded of these parallel legal systems and different notions of justice of colonial times. Cardinal Angelo Beccicu, a powerful Cardinal in the Vatican hierarchy, was forced to resign in connection with a real estate investment in London. Later, he was indicted by a Vatican Tribunal on charges including embezzlement, abuse of office, extortion, and fraud. The Vatican demonstrated its high moral values through this decision. It was made very clear, however powerful you were, you would be held accountable for your actions. The decision by Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Beccicu and to refer the matter to a Tribunal by laymen was hailed by everyone. One commentator noted, “the very fact the Pope was ready to sanction the indictment and trial of a cardinal who was not only a senior member of the Vatican hierarchy, but also by his own account a friend of Francis, signals again his clear intention that when it comes to financial wrongdoing, he's prepared to take unprecedented action to clean up the Church's reputation.”

Photo/credit Public domain

Criminal offence accused by Indian courts Major Archbishop Cardinal Alencherry steps down. Antony Karyil took appointed as Arch episcopal vicar

But in a similar real estate scandal involving the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alenchery, Vatican had a different standard to apply. As Cardinal Alenchery was the head of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese in Kerala, India by virtue of his position as the Major Archbishop, he was involved in land dealings that resulted in multi-million dollar losses to the Archdiocese. An investigation by a reputed international auditing firm constituted under Vatican’s direction, found many irregularities in the land deal. It was found that canonical bodies were not consulted and there were violations of not only Canon law but also the secular laws of the land. The Income Tax Department in India under the federal government investigated these deals and imposed heavy fines on the Archdiocese. In addition, it suspended the tax exemption status of the Archdiocese for five years for the irregularities committed. There are many criminal cases pending against the Cardinal in various criminal courts in Kerala, India. One would have expected the Vatican to apply the same standards that was applied in Cardinal Beccicu’s case. One would have thought that Cardinal Alenchery would have been asked to resign and make reparations for the loss. But the Vatican has allowed the continuation of Cardinal Alenchery as the Major Archbishop and has directed the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly to sell its own properties to restore the losses. In addition, what was widely interpreted as a punishment, two Auxiliary Bishops who objected to the real estate dealings of Cardinal Alenchery were transferred out of the Archdiocese.

India is no more a colony but India is a Republic. The Vatican forgets the Truth but deal with India as colony of Western Mindset, covering up the injustice and scandals

Can somebody be faulted for doubting that Vatican has different standards, notions of justice and legal systems when it comes to Europe and Asia? Can someone be blamed if s/he thinks that Vatican has a standard based on transparency, morality and dignity for the Europeans and one based on opaqueness, arbitrariness, and authoritarianism of for the Asians. Colonialism might have ended but it is too early for the colonial mindset to change!

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