A 29-year-old Catholic priest, who fell in love with a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity about two years ago and wanted to marry her, was forcibly admitted to a mental hospital by his family members for a psychiatric evaluation for “deviating from faith and odd behaviour”.
Priest Jain Varghese, a member of Catholic congregation Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus, was released from the mental hospital only after his 22-year-old girlfriend, Surumi, reached the hospital and staged a protest.
Trouble began for Varghese and Surumi — from Kottayam and Ernakulam districts respectively — when they approached the marriage officer at the registrar office in Kochi on May 31 with plans to marry. When he returned to the office last week, Varghese was told that his family in Vaikkom had objected to the marriage, saying he was not mentally stable.
“I went to my house to know why they objected to the marriage. My parents and relatives told me they were against my marriage and that they wanted me to continue as a priest,” said Varghese, who got ordained as a priest last year. “I am in a relationship with Surumi. There was no question of continuing as a priest.”
Varghese was suspended from the religious order on June 10. Last Saturday, Varghese said, his family members took him to the Sacred Heart Mental Hospital in Thodupuzha, run by Catholic nuns, and got him admitted against his wish. They also got a letter from the local parish priest in Vaikkom, saying he had undergone deviations related to faith.
That day, when Surumi did not hear from Varghese despite several attempts, she filed a missing persons complaint with the Kochi police. “I had lost contact with Varghese. The police found out that he was taken to the mental hospital in Thodupuzha,” said Surumi, who first met the priest six months ago during a prayer session and fell in love.
By Saturday night, Surumi was at the mental hospital in Thodupuzha, demanding Varghese’s release.
The hospital’s assistant administrator, Dr Sr Magy Mathew, said the priest’s family had told them that Varghese was a priest and required a psychiatric evaluation for his deviation from faith and abnormal behavior. “We were not told about his relationship or about the lady. The family did not respond when we asked them to take Varghese back as we did not want to land in any trouble,” she said.
As the family did not turn up, the hospital on Monday sought help from the police to take Varghese home in Vaikkom. He then got himself admitted to a general hospital, alleging that the mental hospital had put him on sedation continuously. The assistant administrator of the mental hospital, however, refuted this allegation, saying he was only administrated an injection to calm him down. “That was within the limits,” said Mathew.
Varghese and Surumi said they wanted to move forward. “We want to get away from my family and live somewhere doing some jobs,” said Varghese, a graduate in philosophy. “My family members have not appeared for the hearing at the office of the registrar of marriage.”