Debunking Claims of Water Miraculously Flowing from Jesus Statue + Criticizing Catholic Church = Criminal Complaints by Offended Catholic Groups in India

The Mumbai Mirror reports:

CR 61/2012, Juhu Police Station, has been filed against miracle-buster Sanal Edamaruku, who is also founder-president of the Rationalist International, which has scientists such as Richard Dawkins in it.

The FIR [apparently a First Information Report -EV] has been filed under IPC Sec 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs….

The whole story began on March 5, when during a TV programme in Delhi, Sanal dismissed reports that the “dripping cross” outside Vile Parle’s Velankanni church was a miracle….

Later on March 10, Sanal attributed the water dripping from the Jesus statue to capillary action of underground water near the cross. His photographs, displayed on TV-9, showed seepage on the wall behind the cross and on the ground near its base. “I removed one of the stones covering a canal for dirty water nearby, and found that water had been blocked there. Once water is blocked, it will find an outlet, if not downwards, then upwards. Every student knows that trees get water through capillary action.”

Sanal said that when he reached the spot, a priest was leading a prayer on the road near the cross; water from the cross had been collected in a bucket and was being distributed to those gathered there. He was given a photograph of the statue dripping water with the word ‘miracle’ written on it….

During the subsequent TV discussions in Delhi and Mumbai, Sanal accused the Catholic Church of “miracle mongering.” Interestingly, in Mumbai, Archbishop Agnelo Gracias, who joined the discussion, categorically stated that the Church had not described the event as a miracle and would do so only after conducting investigations. The Archbishop also claimed that the Church was not anti-science and, in fact, it had established the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, of which Galileo had been a member.

At that point, Sanal pointed out that the Church had imprisoned Galileo, and burnt scientist Giordano Bruno at the stake, and Pope John Paul II had even apologised for it. He also asked the Archbishop what he had to say about the Vatican indulging in exorcism, to which the Archbishop replied that though he had not come across any case of “possession,” he could not rule it out.

All through the discussion, the other panelists kept warning Sanal that they would file FIRs against him if he didn’t apologise for his allegations against the Church.

The discussion ended with Sanal declaring that the Church’s intolerance had resulted in the Dark Ages in Europe. “Don’t try to bring the Dark Ages to India,” he said….

The Times of India reports that the complaints were filed by “[t]he Organisation of Concerned Catholics (OCC) and the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF)…. OCC members said they were not upset with Sanal for saying the phenomenon was not a miracle. They were hurt by statements he allegedly made against the Pope and Catholic clergy.”

Prof. Stephen Law has more; see also this opinion piece in The Hindu. Thanks to Walter Olson (Secular Right) for the pointer.