Bishop stirs trouble after he adopts 26-year-old

October 15th, 2008 - 6:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi, Oct 15 (IANS) A bishop in Kerala has stirred controversy by adopting a 26-year-old woman, prompting the archbishop of the area to hold an inquiry after priests in his diocese made a complaint. The issue of 58-year-old Kochi bishop John Thattumkal adopting a 26-year-old woman has been probed by the Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of the Verapoly Archdiocese near Kochi and the report has been sent to the Vatican.

The archbishop was told about the adoption after some priests in the Latin Catholic Diocese of Kochi came out against Thattumkal’s action saying that it was against Canon Law. The affairs of the church are run under the Canon Law, an elaborate system of church jurisprudence, which bounds a Catholic priest to celibacy.

“The bishop is a priest. Catholic priests are not allowed to have a family of their own. He is a father figure to all those in his diocese. When a bishop adopts somebody, he becomes a father to that particular person. This I think is against the law of the church,” a Catholic priest told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The bishop is reported to have told the priests of his diocese that he had adopted the woman, from a non-Catholic Christian family in the central Kerala district of Pathanamthitta, as a measure of spiritual renewal.

He is reported to have met the woman during a pilgrimage to Europe last April.

“The bishop introduced the woman to some of us at a meeting. He also showed us the document of her legal adoption,” said a priest who reported the matter to Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil told IANS.

Though Catholic priests here believe the action of the bishop is a violation of the church law and has no precedence, Thattumkal justified his move arguing that there had been instances where priests and bishops had adopted children.

“I have only filial love towards the spiritually gifted girl. She has never been allowed to live in the bishop’s house. She had only stayed with her father at the guest house near the bishop’s house. She had occasionally accompanied me in my car for the holy mass and other religious celebrations,” Thattumkal was quoted as saying in Mathrubhoomi newspaper.

Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) spokesperson Stephen Alathara said the archbishop and the Apostolic Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) to India Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana were abreast of the development and had submitted their reports to the Vatican. Action against the bishop, if any, would be initiated based on these reports.

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