Pallath's struggle ends on the biggest possible morale
booster: Ex-Provincial Fr. Pulikal's damning indictment of the
Kerala Jesuit superiors
In what is possibly the the most devastating of blows on the
edifice of lies the Kerala Jesuit authorities had errected to
hoodwink the public about the hunger strike of Fr. Pallath, Fr.
Pulikkal, well known retreat preacher, Director of the Ignatian
Retreat centre at Pariyaram and above all one of the most revered
and respected of provincials the Kerala Jesuit Province has seen,
has made public his damning indictment of the Kerala Jesuits'
handling of the Pallath issue.
Read the full text of Fr. Pulikkal's letter given below.
An update from EE services - Calicut
June 15, 2002.
In mid April, Kottukappilly and I wrote a letter to the
Provincial about the PJ Joseph problem. It was in view of the
special consult going to be held. In it we said that the two of
us are perhaps the people in the Province who know PJ's side of
the problem best; that in the light of that knowledge we believed
that the way the Province had handled the case was flawed in many
instances; that through some suitable mechanism the Province must
listen to PJ's complaints. The Provincial's (P) reply to us,
based on communication from Rome, restricted itself to one point:
PJ's dismissal cannot be reconsidered. We had not suggested
reconsideration of the dismissal. THE point of our letter was
that we must LISTEN - a word used thrice in the short letter.
That was ignored. The Provincial informed the Province Meet of
our letter and his reply. (Since he has done that, we are showing
our letter to those who ask about it.)
Dissenting from an official position of the Province is not at
all easy for me. And P J Joseph: from the knowledge I have about
him I would rather ask him to discern if he has a vocation to
priesthood and to the Society rather than be his ardent
supporter. Why then do I speak up for PJ and criticize the
Provincial? Allow me to outline my reasons, for those who might
be interested in the question.
1. When the Provincials saw that PJ's last vows were pending
for a long time, they should have attended to that urgently.
Instead they went on entrusting important works to him. The
message he was given over the years through such appointments and
laudatory letters was that he was very much appreciated and
valued - despite the problem with the last vows.
2. As Provincial, and as a member of the SM Farm community
since '93, I knew well the limitations of PJ. And so in various
contexts I had mentioned to the Provincials that Samskriti (S)
must have on its governing body and general body Jesuits who are
competent to critique Samskriti, interact with and challenge PJ.
This was not done. Nor did PJ have an understanding local
superior during those crucial years.
3. The Provincial, Fr. Murickan, encouraged PJ to be in
contact with the young people of the Province and to encourage
them to opt for social and cultural ministries. Later PJ was
unfairly criticized as patronizing the young. The young people
who have any kind of sympathy for PJ are now frowned upon by the
4. PJ has criticized our institutions with unnecessary
severity - as being anti-poor, anti-dalit, etc. But it must be
remembered that his predecessors in the social action work - and
even some in the pastoral work - were accused of doing more or
less the same thing.
5. The central issue in the long battle between the Procurator
and PJ was the advances of money PJ was asking and the Procurator
was refusing. In a meeting of the Provincial, the Consult and the
GB of Samskriti, through a careful unraveling of the facts it
became clear that the advances PJ was asking were on the money
which would be soon coming for Samskriti through the Procurator
from the agencies, and that the Procurator had not understood
this. PJ desperately needed money to pay the salaries of the
employees of Samskriti. It was in this context he is said to have
used threats and abuse. The Procurator should share the blame as
also the Provincial who had not taken the trouble to study the
6. The Procurator's job is to help the Province in managing
the finances and keeping the accounts. As an official close to
the Provincial a certain reticence is expected of him in public
forums. But during the past few years, our Proc was freely
expressing himself on policies of the Province, questioning the
religious integrity of individual Jesuits, emotionally and
sometimes sarcastically using a 'we' and 'you' language. All this
aggravated the PJ problem. Even after the dismissal of PJ the
Procurator has made statements to the press about the moral and
religious defects of PJ.
7. At PJ's suggestion the Province bought the ILLAM. Then PJ
wanted some of the activities of S to continue in the Farm
itself. In his typical fashion he campaigned for it. This has
been cited against him. However it must be noted that more than
one meeting of the concerned Province forums endorsed PJ's stand.
8. The Superior of the community accused PJ of instigating
outsiders against members of the community. A commission
appointed by him found the charge unfounded. In another case the
Superior himself did not co-operate with the investigation. It is
important to remember this since the conflicts in the community
have strongly influenced the course of events in this case.
9. The P finally decided that all the activities of S should
be shifted to the ILLAM. It was not an easy job; the illam was
not in a fit condition. The Provincial made no time-schedule for
the shift, made no arrangement for PJ's stay elsewhere.
10. Instead he suddenly announced the transfer of PJ. In the
context it looked like a punishment for the 'troubles' PJ was
creating. There was no prior discussion of the transfer. As far
as the future of Samskriti was concerned the decision was a
surprise. As far as PJ's feelings were concerned it was very
insensitive. PJ raised the objection in conscience - a step
allowed by our rules and taken by some others in the Province
11. After much interaction PJ accepted the transfer, and wrote
a very conciliatory letter to the Provincial, with my help: it
was in good faith that he had objected to the transfer; having
made his point he was now ready to go; he would like to have some
time for reflection, etc. and prepare himself for his last vows,
where should he go? To my mind, the Provincial's reply was not a
gracious or forgiving one. It was unnecessarily peremptory. I
have always thought that there the Provincial missed a wonderful
opportunity. Reacting to the letter, PJ refused to quit
12. Later at the intervention of some of us he handed over the
charge of S to E J Thomas.
13. Dominic George came up with the idea of a comprehensive
dialogue of reconciliation between the Provincial, the Consulters
and PJ, with Dominic, Thayil and Pulickal and facilitators. In
the meeting PJ said that he was not ready for any reconciliation
because the transfer was unfairly imposed on him; he would
cooperate to solve the problems connected with the accounts of S,
the camera, etc; he wants to be left alone for some time to
reflect etc. Dominic George, Thayil and I suggested to the
Provincial that he be allowed to do that.
That PJ did not go along with the idea of reconciliation in
that meeting has been mentioned as a point against him. I don't
think it is fair to do that. It was a privately initiated
meeting. What PJ refused to do was to have a 'spiritual
reconciliation' with the Provincial. He was very willing to
cooperate in all practical matters.
14. PJ had certainly become bellicose towards the Procurator.
However he has all along said that he would satisfactorily
explain every point in Samskriti accounts to an impartial person.
This checking by an impartial person was not done (if it was, the
results have not been made public). And Province has spread the
impression that PJ has thoroughly mismanaged the accounts or even
siphoned off money from Samskriti.
15. After the 'reconciliation' meeting, things seem to have
fast fouled up between the Provincial and PJ. The next thing that
I hear is that the P and ordered PJ to go to Frs Puthumana and
Kunumpuram in Patna to receive counseling. Assigning counselors
to grown up persons is just not done normally. Doing that to PJ
at that juncture was insensitive in the extreme. PJ seems to have
reacted to the idea angrily.
16. The Provincial informed him that he was proceeding with
the dismissal of PJ from the Society. PJ wrote letters to the P
and to the General. In one which he wrote with my help he said
his aggressive temperament, which had served him well to be
creative in ministries and to face the challenges in them, had
also led him wrong sometimes - he was sorry; he wants to go for a
renewal program including a long retreat; he was ready to be
re-assigned anywhere in Kerala or in another Province; the only
request he was making was that he be allowed to continue as a
I hoped against hope that this would be a turning point in
But the Provincial said PJ's expression of regret smacked of
insincerity, and that anyway the letter was too late.
17. The dismissal was given. The events that followed are well
18. I turn to one series of happenings. 1. Already some time
before the dismissal of PJ a Jesuit - not a Consulter - told me:
he had the Provincial's file on PJ; would I tell him something
more about some incidents in PJ's life when I was Provincial?
Obviously I would not, because I consider that a breach of
confidentiality. 2. As things were hotting up in Christ Hall at
PJ's refusal to move out, the Superior of SM Farm said that a
lawyer sent by the Provincial's office was here with documents on
PJ's observance of the three vows in order to show PJ's lay
friends in Pariyaram what sort of a person PJ really was. The
lawyer went also to Mattul with the same purpose. 3. Around this
time PJ had started saying that letters and photographs were
stolen from his room in Christ Hall. 4. The Clarist Sisters of
Mananthawadi have said the following: a man claiming to be a
lawyer sent by the Jesuit P's office told one of their sisters
that he had with him her letters to PJ and they would be made
public if she did not persuade PJ to leave Christ Hall. 5. Some
time later an article appears in the periodical called Crime
alleging immoral relationship between PJ and a nun, finding fault
with him for being ungrateful to the Society.
Putting these facts together I cannot but conclude that
confidential information and documents have been used by the
Provincial in a highly improper way against PJ.
19. In the special consult on the 20th of last April it was
said by the Provincial that PJ's latest agitation was in
violation of the agreement in the mediation group of Oct., '01. I
said: the agreement of Oct. '1, to which the Province is party,
stated that a committee would examine the legal possibility of
re-admitting PJ to the Soc; then the mediation group would
examine the committee's report and make recommendations; this
process was not gone through; and so when PJ says the Province
has not kept its word, truth is at least partly on his side, we
must now do what is necessary. My observation was ignored.
In my opinion the Province, by falling to follow-up
intelligently the decisions of Oct. '01 missed another wonderful
opportunity to end this problem peacefully.
20. That PJ was 53 years old when he was dismissed and that it
was extremely difficult for a person of that age to start a
career elsewhere, that he was in the Society for over 30 years,
that we had got him ordained when the Society's (present) law is
that a scholastic selected for Ordination is presumed to be
suitable for the last vows, that all these years he has been, if
problematical, also highly effective and very much praised and
used by the Society, that in his philosophy days in a long
'discernment' he had concluded he wants to be in the Society and
that all through the recent troubles he has shown a singular
desire to be a Jesuit - these facts must have DIRECTLY argued
against his dismissal.
Let me share with you some personal experiences in
administration. 1. One of the first things I did as Provincial
was urging Fr. General to take decision about those who were long
waiting for last vows. The 'informations' about some were
negative. Fr. General accepted my reasoning that could be
ignored. 2. In a particular decision I made, the concerned
Jesuits raised 'objection in conscience', basing themselves on a
mistake I had unintentionally made, and refused to obey the
decision. I apologized in writing for the mistake. Because of the
complications created by that mistake, and considering the
well-being of all of us I withdrew my order which in itself was
good, I have always thought.
I am not a personal friend of PJ, nor his guide. Our contacts
were very occasional. During the last two years we have not met.
However religiously and intellectually I have challenged him,
perhaps more than anyone else in the Province has; and he was not
unresponsive. And, I have had an important role in the turn of
events in favour of the Province in the course of this conflict.
It is with the strength of that experience that I speak up on
Each of us, I suppose, live by and go by our understanding of
the message of Jesus "If your righteousness does not go
beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will not enter the
kingdom of heaven'; 'Love your enemies (visit them in their
hunger strike sheds, take initiatives for rapprochement
bless those who persecute you - bless, not curse'; 'Much
(compassion and understanding
) will be demanded of those
who have been given much (authority and many privileges
these and so many other similar passages I am able to read only
as demanding limitless compassion, scrupulous truthfulness and
great caution in using authority and power. Of late I have had
occasion to reflect about the values of loyalty, fidelity etc.
The words of GC 34 come as a comforting clarification: "Our
first fidelity must be to God, to the truth and to a well-formed
conscience. Obedience, then, cannot exclude our prayerful
discernment of the course of action to be followed, one that may
in some circumstances differ from the one suggested by our
religious and Church superiors" (n.311).
The incidents and statements mentioned in this write-up are
largely from memory. It is possible that I have slipped up in
some details. I request you to focus on my over-all argument.
As I conclude this write-up on June 17, PJ Joseph must be
carrying on his hunger-strike in Calicut. I believe the incident
is a very sad failure on the part of the Province.
J. Pulickal SJ
Posted on 2002-07-09