Fr. Hugh Fonseca : One Year On Rumours Laid To Rest


One year on, rumours laid to rest
Manoj R Nair
Last month, many churches in Mumbai observed the first death anniversary of father Hugh Fonseca, a priest who served in the Catholic Church for over 40 years. As parishes where he worked were preparing for the anniversary, the archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, issued a statement absolving the priest from allegations of financial malpractices that trailed him in the last years of his life.
It is unusual for the head of the church to issue a letter clearing a priest’s name after his death. But in Fonseca’s case, the rumours about financial misdemeanours persisted long after his death. Recently, an e-mail containing a three-year-old letter written by the archbishop to Fonseca asking him to explain allegations against him found its way abroad and into the inboxes of church members in Mumbai.
Fonseca, who headed some of the most important churches in Mumbai like the St Michael’s Church in Mahim, was a popular priest. He was also controversial. Many admired him for his managerial skills. When he was the parish priest at Borivli’s Immaculate Conception Church, he asked members to donate a certain share of their income compulsorily to the church as tithe, a religious obligation dating back to Biblical times. While many supported his call, others in the parish were not so happy about the element of compulsion. At St Michael’s, his last place of duty, he was at the epicentre of allegations about malpractices in property and financial matters. The Mahim church owns several properties, including residential buildings, some rented out, which are now prime targets for redevelopment.
After the allegations were made by some parish members, Fonseca was asked to explain the charges by the archbishop. The archbishop’s letter was leaked to some local newspapers in Mumbai and later reached former members of the local church who are now in the United States and Canada.
In his statement in Fonseca’s defence in the church weekly Examiner, the cardinal said that after asking the priest to clarify the allegations against him, he met him. The meeting, apparently, left the cardinal in no doubt that Fonseca did not use any of his offices for personal advantage. “It would be wrong to insinuate that he received any monetary benefit from his transactions as Parish Priest. I am saddened that there are these rumours about a dedicated priest after his death,” the cardinal said.
Community groups like the Association of Concerned Catholics said they wanted the rumours about Fonseca to be put to rest. “Whatever be the internal issue between the bishop and the priest, we were concerned that confidential communication between the head of the church and a priest had reached places like the US and Canada. We wanted the cardinal to clear the rumours,” said Gordon D’Souza of AOCC. “A dead man cannot defend himself.”
“We are glad to have a role in ensuring that justice was given to a priest even after his death,” said AOCC’s Judith Monteiro, who added that they were disturbed by the e-mails, especially since it was time for the priest’s death anniversary.
“He is dead, so who could have leaked the letters?” asked Monteiro. “Considering the increased cases of cyber crime and recent instances of leaked e-mail and slander mail through church computers both in Mumbai and Vatican (Vatileaks), I am happy that the cardinal has taken a stand.”

DNA Published Date:  Jul 18, 2012

English: St Michael's Church in Mahim, Mumbai

St Michael’s Church in Mahim, Mumbai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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1 Comment

  1. July 20, 2012 at 8:16 am

    He was a sweet guy…He was the best PP of IC Church…He did a lot for I.C.Church Borivali…Fr.High Fonseca R.I.P.


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