Our struggle is heading into a new direction now. We are humbled by the overwhelming support which we are receiving from the church community in this matter.  At this juncture we are putting together a set of frequently asked questions and its answers for the entire community for your kind information to clarify any questions outstanding.

We have formatted this document in four separate sections as below;

 

FAQ&A - Legal letters

A. Regarding the Malayalam Holy Mass issue and our meeting with Auxiliary Bishop on last ‘Pesaha Vyazham’

B. Regarding the child abuse allegations around the ‘Thirunal’ celebration

C. Regarding the legal notices which the three parishioners received from the church

D. Regarding our policy on discussion to resolve the issue

 

A.  Regarding the Malayalam Holy Mass issue and our meeting with Auxiliary Bishop on last ‘Pesaha Vyazham’

 1. When was the idea of “Malayalam” mass for children put forward for the very first time?

This matter came up around the timeframe, when the St. Malabar Church community moved to our new/current church in Milpitas.

2. How was the difference in opinion resolved (if any), on the “Malayalam v/s English” existed?

During a General Body in 2010, the parish community voted in favor of English and Malayalam Holy Mass for children on alternate Sundays. On October 7, 2012, then Vicar Kurian Achan reiterated the same after the Sunday Holy Mass.

3. How many years/months did this situation continue, without any problem?

More than 5 years, until the current Vicar took charge.

4. Was there any notice sent to parishioners on stopping Malayalam mass for Children?

No. Additionally, the Malayalam choir by the kids had also been stopped without any notice.

5. Did the parishioners try to speak to the Vicar for reinstating the Malayalam Qurbana and what was the outcome?

A number of people from our community contacted Vicar over phone and in person multiple times, for more than a year, but he was very reluctant to reinstate Malayalam Qurbana for children.

6. What was the response from the Bishop, when the parishioners approached the Diocese?

Our Auxiliary Bishop had visited us two months prior to his Holy week visit. That time, a group of families (approximately 20 parishioners) personally met his Excellency and put forth their humble request to have Malayalam Mass for kids on alternate Sundays. Bishop had mentioned that ‘unity of the parish’ is important and such issues should be resolved in the parish itself.

7. How many times did you talk to Auxiliary Bishop before his April visit?

Multiple times by email and an hour long phone conversation around the first week of March 2017, in which the Auxiliary Bishop asked us to send the petition with the signatures which we had collected from the church community to the Bishop and Auxiliary Bishop. He also had agreed to discuss the matter in Curia prior to his planned Nor Cal visit.

8. Did the Church try to arrange a meeting with Bishop before ‘Pesaha Vyazham’ during his one week stay in Bay Area and Sacramento?

No one from the Parish who holds a position in our parish council or trustees contacted us.

9. Did anyone else try to arrange a private meeting?

Yes, one among the parishioners and a well-wisher tried to arrange a private meeting at his office/residence. His condition was that the attendees should be of his choice (maximum two people).

10. Did you accept his offer? If not, why?

No, we did not accept the offer as we felt it was ethically incorrect. Moreover, the parishioners were promised by the Achan, during the previous ‘pothuyogam’, that they would get an opportunity to meet the Bishop when he visits us during Holy Week.

11. Who arranged the meeting during the evening of “Pesaha Vyazham”?

We got a call from one of the trustees at 10.30 AM on Thursday, April 13th 2017 (Pesaha Vyazham) to come and meet with the Bishop at 5.30 PM at the church. There was no restriction on the number of attendees that could attend the meeting.  

12. Was the Meeting started on the proposed time of 5:30 PM on ‘Pesaha Vyazham’?

No. Unfortunately, our Bishop came a little late and the meeting started at 5:50 PM.

13. Was the Bishop imprisoned or confined?

No. The Bishop was never imprisoned or confined during the meeting.

14. Was the meeting peaceful?

The meeting was peaceful. However, there were arguments with officials of our church and voices were loud towards the end.

15. Was the Holy Mass delayed on ‘Pesaha Vyazham’? If yes, why?

Yes. The meeting started late and the discussion lasted more than it was anticipated.

16. Did the Bishop announce anything in the Holy Mass about Achan’s promise about Malayalam Mass?

No. Bishop neither informed anything in the Holy Mass nor communicated to anybody after the Holy Mass.

17. Was it a planned move on ‘Pesaha Vyazham’ to show your requests on a Placard?

No. It was just a reflex action from the disappointing decision from the Bishop. (In fact, the placards were made at a local FedEx Kinkos, after meeting the Bishop).

Question to Parishioners- Do you believe that our Bishop was imprisoned on ‘Pesaha Vyazham’?

 

B.  Regarding the child abuse allegations around the ‘Thirunal’ celebration

1. When was the Thirunal?

April 23, 2017

2. Did the parishioner targeted by the ‘child abuse’ allegation argue with anyone during the event?

Yes. The said parishioner did raise his voice in support of the children who were denied food from the stall which was supposed to be served free of charge.

3. Did the said parishioner push a minor?

No

4. Did the said parishioner snatch any coupons from the minor or anyone?

No

5. When did the said parishioner come to know that there was a child abuse allegation in his name?

April 29, 2017 (There was an emergency parish council meeting on this day to discuss about the ‘child abuse’ allegation during which the council appointed a six member ‘inquiry-committee’)

6. What were the actions taken by the ‘’inquiry-committee’?

On April 30th, the said parishioner was called in and interrogated by the ‘inquiry-committee’. Few other parishioners were also questioned.

7. Did the Vicar try to contact the said parishioner after the interrogation of ‘inquiry-committee’?

As per the request of the emergency parish council meeting conducted on May 5th, the Vicar met with the said parishioner on May 6th (First Holy Communion Day). The Vicar promised him that there will be a resolution soon on this matter but the Vicar never contacted the parishioner until this point.

8. Church officials claim that the said parishioner initiated the legal action. What is the truth behind it?

On April 30th, the said parishioner sent an email to the Trustees to get a copy of the complaint; however they didn’t respond. The said parishioner spoke to one of the Trustees by phone, on May 1st for about an hour. He was informed that, everything was forwarded to a legal firm and he was advised to find an attorney to represent him.

9. Did the said parishioner meet any attorneys?

As per the advice from the Trustee, the said parishioner contacted an attorney, through his friend, to get an advice in this matter. He was advised by the attorney that he has the right to get the copy of the complaint. The said parishioner had approached trustees again on May 2nd and they replied on ‘Church’s letterhead’ that the matter is with a legal firm and the trustee reiterated that the copy can only be obtained through an attorney.

Question to Parishioners - Do you believe that a crime such as criminal conspiracy (CA PC 182), false imprisonment (CA PC 236), disturbing worship (CA PC 302 ) or Assault and Battery (CA PC 246), which was alleged against the three parishioners in the legal notice is true?

 

C.  Regarding the legal notices which the three parishioners received from the church

1. When did the three parishioners get the legal notices from Church’s Attorney

They received the letter (dated 12th June) on the 20th of June by certified mail and email.

2. Did the Church get permission from Parish Council or “Pothuyogam’ to send these letters?

No. The church neither sought permission nor informed the Parish Council and ‘Pothuyogam’ prior to sending these legal letters.

3. Did the Church inform or contact the three victims beforehand that they were going to be served legal letters?

No. There was not even a phone call or email from the church regarding the legal letters.

4. What was their action after receiving these letters?

They remained silent for three months anticipating uproar from the community.

5. Did the parishioners make any objections initially?E

No. They did not object at first as most of the parishioners were unaware of the legal letters.

6. How did parishioners and the public come to know about this?

They came to know about this when the victims, their friends and family started a Sit in Prayer and Fasting at the vicinity of the church on Sunday, the 10th of September. In addition, a non-profit-organization under the name Syro Malabar Laities for Justice has been formed by the parishioners for seeking justice and to raise awareness.

Question to Parishioners- Do you believe that Church’s legal letters to its Parishioners should have been avoided?

 

D.  Regarding our policy on discussion to resolve the issue

1. Are we open for discussions?

Anytime! We have been approaching this matter with grave concerns as individuals and as an organization. We also know that the struggle that we are going through affect us, our families and the whole community.

2. Did the victims meet the Chancellor of Chicago Diocese Johnykutty Achan when he was here in Milpitas, a couple of weeks back?

Yes. They had a long conversation around these issues and possible solutions on Tuesday 09/26/27 from 6 to 9.30 PM in Milpitas.

3. Did we get a chance to discuss this matter with other priests nearby?

Yes, many times. We discussed this matter per his requests.

4. Did we talk to any other parishioners who tried to solve this issue?

We discussed this matter with due diligence with anyone who sincerely tried to solve this matter.

5.  Are you open for further discussions?

Absolutely! We are always open to any kind of discussions with anyone in this matter as we have nothing to hide. We will continue this path forward until we get justice.

Question to Parishioners- Do you think that any discussions to resolve a matter should be sincere and from the heart?

 

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Martin Luther King, Jr.