The issue of termination and sexual harassment of a Loyola college staff, has perturbed the Vatican. The details have now reached the doors of PMO leaving a ray of hope for the women to get justice for the four years old issue. Loyola administration is making all efforts to avert the issue from snowballing into an international issue.
The premier institution has been in the eye of controversy for organizing an art exhibition last January that ridiculed the PM, Hindu gods in naked posture and Bharat Mata in ‘me too’ campaign.
Now one of its own staff, Mary Rajasekaran, a senior member of faculty, knocked the court and other fora for justice. She accused former principal and director of the Alumni Association Xavier Alphonse of sexual harassment and embezzlement. The case is pending in Madras High court since 2016. Fr. Xavier Alphonse is yet to respond to court notices.
Sexual Harassment went on for years!
Mary Rajasekaran was appointed as an administrator in 2010. She was sacked after her complaint of sexual harassment by Father Xavier Alphonse. She had exposed that the director of the Alumni Association, Fr. Xavier Alphonse embezzled One crore from the corpus of the association and routing it to his personal family trust. Also she accused him of giving scholarships to ineligible students. The college management instead of taking action against Xavier Alphonse has reduced his powers. Perturbed by her actions, he started harassing her sexually and abusing Mary after that.
Mary told a weekly that she was subjected to harassment at ‘every possible instance’. She said “sometimes Father Xavier Alphonse) behaved in a manner unbecoming of a reverend priest. In fact, he even attempted to create a rift in my family”. She said that the management failed to take any meaningful and corrective action against him instead tried to mollify her.
Mary’s action in the interest the college had made her a vicious and repeated sexual harassment by Fr. Xavier Alphonse. After failing to get justice from the College administration which tried to bury the issue under the carpet, she was not allowed to approach police about her sexual harassment at workplace under the laws of Bharat.
According to Mary, in 2013, Loyola College had conducted a Star Night to raise funds for building a ‘commercial block’. The college alumni, who are now celebrities, took part in it. Mary and her son Joseph Dominic Kennedy who was the executive member of the Alumni Association (AA) had worked hard for the success of the event. Fr. Xavier Alphonse gave tickets to all friends and family members ignoring the efforts of both Mary and her son. It is also alleged that he credited the funds received from celebrities to his personal trust. The management transferred her in 2014. Following her slew of complaints against him, the management assured her that he would be transferred.
The Loyola administration was keen in protecting the image of the institution and did every possible way to stop her from going to the police. Fr. Xavier Alphonse took the help of a member of AA to file a false case against Mary and her son to police. In retaliation Mary and her son petitioned the then Greater Chennai police Commissioner A K Viswanathan, who is also an alumnus of the college.
Campaign to expose Loyola College
Retired Bombay and Karnataka High courts judge Michael F. Saldhana, who expressed solidarity with Mary, penned a letter to Madras HC to expedite the enquiry saying ‘ belated justice is the next best’ despite the delay so far.
Savio Rodrigues, Editor-in-Chief, Goa Chronicle has shot an open letter to Superior General Jesuit Curia Fr. Arturo Sosa saying Mary is a victim of sexual harassment at Loyola College. He wrote “this nature of most Catholic institutions including Society of Jesus institutions is appalling and disturbing. The intent is only to save the reputation of the institution without a car or concern for the sexual harassment victim….. the college chose to transfer Fr Xavier Alphonse from the college instead of investigating the case.”
He said “as an Indian, more so as a Christian, I have extended full support to Mary Rajasekaran family in this fight for justice. I know that the Loyola College Chennai and some its priests assume that the Jesuit Order and the laws of the Vatican are more superior to the laws of India. We will ensure that the false sense of power that Loyola College assumes it possesses will be demolished in India with this case”. He said “we have petitioned the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on the issues of sexual abuses in Christian institutions. We have made the Mary case as the pivot to the injustice meted out to a woman at a workplace along with the Bishop Franco Mulakkal rape case”.
Letter by All India Christian Forum (AICF) to Superior General Jesuit Curia Fr. Arturo Sosa demanding justice to Mary
Savio Rodrigues believed “Mary will get justice. In the course of battle Loyola College will be shamed for displaying no respect to the modesty of a woman. .. India will stand with Mary Rajesekaran. My organisation, All India Christian Forum (AICF) has petitioned the National Human Rights Commission, National Commission of Woman for justice for Mary. The silence of the Jesuit Curia in Rome on the Mary Rajasekarn case will be condemned globally”.
Ending Clergy Abuse (EIA), an international association of activists and survivors of clergy abuse from 20 countries and 6 continents, extended its full support to AICF in their fight for Justice Mary Rajasekaran. In a communication dated August 3,2020 it said “ it is shocking that the Catholic institutions restrained the victim from complaining to the local authorities about her sexual harassment case”.
Tamil Magazine Thuglak editor S Gurumurthy tweeted, “Shocking! Loyola College Chennai which has a big name is now making global news for sexual harassment!. Charge is from within the Christian guild. What is happening. I understand a writ petition by the victim is pending for four years. The college hasn’t even filed a counter.
Letter of support for Mary Rajasekaran by Ending Clergy Abuse (EIA), an int’l association of activists and survivors of clergy abuse from 20+ countries and 6 continents
Loyola College accused of embezzlement of funds
A leading Tamil Weekly interviewed Mary’s son. It quoted him as saying that “Loyola has been collecting crores from students without proper accounts.. My mother Mary was appointed an assistant to the director of Loyola Institute of Business Administration. Our family has been associated with the institution for over 20 years. He said that his mother was in charge of AA. Till Shyam Kothari, son in law of Thirubai Ambani, was at the helm things went well. Fr Xavior succeeded him. He was the principal of the college in 1994 and had faced several corruption and sexual harassment charges. He was removed from the post. After some years, he was made in charge of AA. About 3 crores collected to fund the infrastructure was misappropriated. No review meeting was held to approve the accounts.”
He said “At the time of admission, he collected lakhs of money to his “Nagapattinam trust’. He also made money from political parties to do favourable survey or poll predictions during the elections to misguide the undecided voters”. The weekly reported that Sun TV group owner Kalanidhi Maran donated 5 cr to the college but not to the Don Bosco School where he studied’.
Mary’s son further alleged that “Fr Xavier Alphonse started torturing my mother at odd hours after she leveled misappropriation charges against him. He was removed from AA. We met CM Jayalalithaa seeking her intervention. After that he apologized to my mother in the presence of a VIP. In 2019, I had written to Superior General Jesuit and Prime Minister Modi. Shocked by this development, the Vatican sent an emissary, a British national to probe. He sent a report asking it to take action. But loyala kept the report in cold storage”.
Loyola College stands on Temple land?
During the pre-independence days, the Roman Catholic missionaries managed to get the 96 acres of land belonging to Agastheeswarar Temple for 99 years lease which is coming to end by next year. Hindu organisations have already started the process to reclaim the land and they also allege that Loyola College is a hub of conversion and other missionary activities.
Chennai’s Loyola College at Nungambakkam is managed by Madurai province of the Society of Jesus. It was founded in 1925 by the French Jesuit priest, Rev. Fr. Francis Betram, SJ along with other European Jesuits. Now it is an autonomous Jesuit college affiliated with the University of Madras. The institution which would be celebrating its centenary year in four years’ time, and this loss of image is a folly of its own making.