Fall of Jacobites, and what can be done Now!

It is a sad phase for the Malankara Syrian Jacobites in Kerala. Our constitution of the year 2002 was held illegal by the Supreme Court, and all our Churches are plunging into disputes or falling into the Orthodox fold.

The cause for this disaster is the judgment in KS Varghese v. St. Peter’s & St. Paul’s Church, Kolenchery. I have many reservations about the correctness of this judgment, but the fact is that, it is not going to be corrected anytime soon, or never at all.

In that judgment, it was held that all Malankara Churches should be governed by the 1934 Constitution, and they are not separate individual churches, but one single entity/trust called the ‘Malankara Syrian Orthdox Church’. This means that, whether one like it or not, all the individual churches which were hitherto considered as separate individual public trusts, are all merged into one single trust/Sabha – ‘The Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church’.

When this judgment was pronounced in the year 2017, I thought that Orthodox and Jacobite would unit for good, through some mediation or conciliation. However, that did not happen, because the Orthodox hierarchy decided not to do any compromise or participate in any mediation talks. On the other side, the Jacobite leadership miserably failed to comprehend the seriousness of the situation, and they left their followers and parish churches, to defend all by there-own!

I have briefs of two Jacobite Churches, and I have wondered many times what the leadership is thinking, what their strategy is, to meet the impending crisis. There is no instruction. Only a shrilling silence from the top. In contrast, the Orthodox have proper a legal team and unified strategy to take on the Jacobites. They appoint the Vicar under the 1934 Constitution, and follow it up with a civil suit for injunction, and police protection for enforcement of ad-interim injunction. A mercilessly good strategy! As on today, about 27 Jacobite Churches have fallen flat on this Orthodox conquest. Still, the Jacobites are yet to formulate a valid and consistent defence, to withstand the onslaught of civil cases instituted against their churches.

Before going into the legal defences available to the Jacobites, I have to say that I am not against the unification of two fractions or achievement of peace. I deeply desire it. But, the means of achieving peace define its sustenance. What the Orthodox Hierarchy is doing now, is downright cruel, callous and inhuman, to say the least. Ousting Jacobites from their Churches like Kothamangalam, Piravom and Perumbavoor cannot be justified under any circumstances.

So, here I write the legal defences I think are available to the Jacobites to defend the Orthodox litigational juggernaut. This is written on a public forum because 1) Jacobites sadly do not have a centralised legal team, 2)everyone thinks that Jacobites’ is a lost case. It is not so!

  • Concede to 1934 Constitution, and frame the defences within that framework.

The biggest folly of Jacobites at present is their hesitation to accept that 2002 Constitution is gone, and everyone is stuck with the 1934 Constitution. Admit that all are governed by the 1934 Constitution for the time being, and try to survive. There is no point in going behind the original of 1934 Constitution or the many variations of it! It is a lost case. The 1934 constitution was amended by the Supreme Court, with Judges own words, on a plea forwarded by the Jacobites, the year 1998. So all the contentions regarding the genuineness of 1934 Constitution, are doomed to fail. First, lets all get back into the right side of law, before worrying about the unfairness of 1934 Constitution. We can amend it later, when we get to power. Accept 1934 Constitution for good!

  • Question the appointment of Vicar

Vicar is appointed to lead and spiritually enrich the parish. Under the 1934 Constitution, it is done by the Dioecian Metropolitan. However, it can be argued that the Parish has a right to reject the appointment of Vicar, because salary of the Vicar is paid by the Parish Church, as per the 1934 Constitution. It can be argued that power to appoint a vicar is coupled with a duty on the Diocesan Metropolitan to appoint a vicar acceptable to the Parish Church. The Diocesan Metropolitan cannot act arbitrarily and appoint a Vicar detested by the Parish.

In PMA Metropolitan v. Morn Mar Marthoma, 1995 Supp (4) SCC 286, it was held that “(para 148 (b)(ii)) acceptance by local people was a sine qua non for any Metropolitan or Melpattakar in Malankara Church, as provided in Mulanthuruthy Synod, and given sanction by the judgement of Travancore Royal Court of Appeal ”. So, it can be argued that any Vicar or Melpattakar appointed under the 1934 Constitution should also have the acceptance of the local people and the Parishioners of the Church. A vicar, who is detested by the Parishioners cannot be imposed by the Diocesan Metropolitan upon a Church, in the name of administration under 1934 Constitution. It would not be administration, but maladministration and oppression of parishioners who believe in the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch.

Church is in existence for the Parish and not for the Vicars. Vicars cannot perform any religious rites or holy mass in the church, if there is no willing parish to accept the Holy Mass. The court or police have no duty to enforce religious discipline, let alone, install a new Vicar, who has failed to take the parish into confidence.

  • Insist on Parish’s representation on the Dioecian Council and Malankara Managing Committee under the 1934 Constitution, through a counter claim, before enforcing appointment of Vicar.

When the Supreme Court invalidated 2002 Constitution, all the Parishes fell back into 1934 Constitution. Under the 1934 constitution, every Parish is entitled to ipso facto representation in the Dioecian Council and Malankara Managing Committee. Insist on giving such representation to the existing Parish in the Malankara Managing Committee, through a counter claim, before the appointment of Vicar by the Orthodox Metropolitan, is given effect to.

  • Insist that Jacobite Vicars ordained under 1934 Constitution can continue to officiate in churches.

Judgment in KS Varghese Case states that only vicars ordained under 1934 Constitution can officiate in the Malankara Churches. It does not disqualify Jacobite vicars who are originally ordained under 1934 Constitution, but later went out with 2002 Constitution, from continuing performance of religious ceremonies. So, find Jacobite Vicars ordained under 1934 constitution and give them responsibility of prime Jacobite Churches.

  • Question the Appointment of present Catholicos of Orthodox fraction, and demand a fresh election of Catholicos, after including the representatives of all parish Churches

The present catholicos of Malankara Orthodox Church was not elected as per the procedure provided under the 1934 Constitution. He was elected only as the ‘Catholicos-Designate’ (നിയുക്തകാതോലിക്ക), in the year 2006. It is a post not provided for under the 1934 Constitution.

According to the 1934 Constitution, a new Catholicos can be elected only after the demise of the existing Catholicos, or immediately prior to his pronounced retirement of office. Otherwise, the existing Catholicos would always have undue influence on the Managing Committee to elect the nominee of his choice, as the new Catholicos-designate. It is illegal under law and unfair to other expectants. The 1934 Constitution does not provide for election of Catholicos-designate, or automatic enthronement of the Designate as Catholicos thereafter.

The present Catholicos was designated as the would-be catholicos in the year 2006, and he took the office 5years down the lane, in 2010. In 2010, no Managing Committee or Episcopal Synod approved the election of the present Catholicos. So, his election, according to me is conducted in total violation of the procedure envisaged under the 1934 Constitution. Moreover, no invite was sent to the Patriarch of Antioch, as required under the Constitution.

So, if we argue that the present Catholicos was not properly elected, there is a fair chance for the Court to accept the said contention, and order a new election in the Malankara Churches, with a view to unite the feuding factions. A new election would be a serious Victory for all the Jacobites, at this juncture. We can return with dignity to the Malankara Church, and impose our majority strength on the Church’s administration. Once we have the power, we can also think about amending the 1934 Constitution to accommodate the spiritual powers of Patriarch of Antioch. It may also unite the Church for good, in the proper manner.

Having poured my random thoughts out, I think, I am going to get lynched at home for this. My mother belongs to orthodox, and she doesn’t like church politics. Either way, what is taking place right now, is not right and extremely unfair. It is degenerating the institution of Church and its spirituality.

PS: I do not hold any office in any Church. I am just an anguished parishioner of Perumbavoor Bethel Suloko Church, which is practically closed to public at present!


One comment

  1. Can the Jacobite Church continue as a Parallel Church in the Holy See of St. Thomas in India? The only sensible option open to the Jacobites is to be part of the Malankara Church, under the 1934 Constitution, and persevere to be an anointed united Church for ever.

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