Humiliation of Dalit priest alleged in Dindigul diocese

National Dalit Christian Watch questions action of Vicar General

National Dalit Christian Watch (NDCW), a non-governmental organisation working against caste discrimination in Indian churches, has alleged humiliation of a Vicar Forane (VF) of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dindigul, who is a Dalit, by members of a dominant caste who prevented his entry into Muthalagupatti church.

According to the fact-finding report of the organisation, the VF, Fr. Stanley Robinson, who is also the parish priest of St. Joseph Church in Dindigul, visited Muthalagupatti church last month for installing a new parish priest.

When he was about to enter the compound, a group of people from the dominant community showed black flags and raised slogans asking him to leave. The report, citing Fr. Stanley Robinson, said three priests from different parishes but belonging to the same community were also seen with the crowd, although they did not take part in the protest.

Though Vicar General (VG) Rev. Fr. Peter Raj, belonging to another dominant caste, was in the church, he reportedly ignored Fr. Stanley Robinson’s phone call and did not intervene.

Discouraged by the police present at the venue and the interim parish priest of Muthalagupatti that his entry into the church might escalate the situation, Fr. Stanley Robinson left the premises, the report said.

Apart from condemning the public and the three priests for allegedly conspiring to humiliate the Dalit priest, Rev. Fr. Vincent Manoharan, convenor, NDCW, questioned the action of the VG. “He took no steps to facilitate the entry of the VF. Instead, after the VF left, he conducted the installation ceremony, which must have actually been done by the VF as per conventions,” he told The Hindu.

“No permission had been obtained for a protest. Who called the police and why did they not try to disperse the protesters?,” he asked.

Acknowledging that Most. Rev. Thomas Paulsamy, Bishop of Dindigul, expressed regret to the fact-finding committee, the report, however, stressed the need to recognise the incident as caste discrimination and take appropriate action.

The report also said despite having a significant Dalit population, more than 80% of the parish priests in the diocese belonged to the particular dominant caste.

Pandiyan, an advocate and executive director of Social Awareness Society for Youths, who was part of the fact-finding committee, said the incident indicated the gap between the policy-level steps taken by the Catholic church to address caste discrimination and the ground reality.

When contacted, the office of Most. Rev. Thomas Paulsamy, who is the president of the commission looking into such issues at Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, said the opposition faced by the Dalit priest was due to a ‘private’ issue and not motivated by caste, and the issue had been settled amicably.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 12:37:22 PM |

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