Lessons from Matthew | Sunday Observer

Lessons from Matthew

Court scene from the movie
Court scene from the movie

December is synonymous with the yuletide celebrations. But last December the folks of Colombo (and other major cities) were drawn to one of the best Sri Lankan films- based on the vicarage double murders, remembered by all as the ‘Father Matthew Peiris case’. Directed by my friend Chandran Rutnam, the movie captured the essence of the calculated crime that made headlines decades ago. I was fortunate to watch the preview at the National Film Corporation months before the release. Whilst Chandran Rutnam produced a brilliant movie, he also provoked our conscience (at least mine) on matters pertaining to temptation, sin, morality and importantly judgment- which is the focus of this writing. These lessons should enlighten our young readers.

A fact not known by many is that Matthew George Fredrick Peiris did not join the Christian seminary at the age of 18, as do all other aspiring priests of the noble Anglican clergy (The Anglican church has done excellent service to this nation, I have previously captured this in an article that celebrated 200 years of the Church Mission Society-CMS). Of course there are seminarians who have joined at later ages. My point is that young Matthew didn’t display a deep spiritual inclination to dedicate his young life to Gods service. There is no offence in this, but when entering the ordained clergy of any religion- one must join with genuine desire and total surrender.

Lesson One- is a matter of making a wise career choice (for any profession), which can be sustained. As a prominent frontline church, clergymen said ‘If you’re not sure of Gods call (to full time ministry) you will someday fall’. Young Matthew should have known better about the demands and high expectations of Gods ministry, as his father was a well respected and beloved priest in Moratuwa, Canon T.C.J. Peiris. Often criminal profilers try to show that those who commit murder come from broken and abusive homes which nurture criminal and deviant tendencies, but the seniors of Moratuwa remember the family of Canon. Rev. T.C.J. Peiris, as a caring and decent family where there were 6 children. So there is no excuse for Matthew to blame his family.

Matthew worked as a Manager for a repair establishment and on September 16, 1944 he married Felicia Eunice Mendis. The young couple had 4 children and one died aged only 9 months. Perhaps the death of this innocent infant did have a deep scar on Matthew, this is my assumption. In 1950, six years after marriage Matthew Peiris was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and became seriously ill. His condition worsened and he was paralyzed. He later claimed that it was during this time, his earthly godmother spoke to him in dreams, asking him to serve God. Often when a human being is assailed by terminal illness and fear of death they desperately turn to God, seeking divine healing. God is indeed merciful to us mortals, and he granted the dying man an ‘extension’ of life. In the Bible we see Saul encountering the God of Israel and transformed as Paul, the vibrant missionary for Christ.

Subsequently Matthew went to England, and met the Bishop of Lincoln. In 1951 he joined a seminary there and was ordained a priest in 1954, by none other than His Eminence the Archbishop of Canterbury. Fr. Matthew Peiris jubilantly returned to Ceylon and was drawn into the church craft of Exorcism.

Herein is the second lesson. There are many doctrines and scientific explanations for Exorcism. But the primary and dangerous fact is that you’re dealing with the darkest manifestations from the abyss of evil.

Today with the surge in social media and digital connectivity young folks are forging a passion to dabble in the occult. This is forbidden, in any religion. I have witnessed people who connected with occult practices, only to have those dark powers hunt them down, leaving them broken and haunted by frightening nightmares. Peiris is said to have boasted in his ability to drive out demons. As we would later see he was led into a web of darkness and bloody lust. How can good and evil reside in one body and mind?

You need two hands to clap, they say and that role was completed by Dalrene Ingram the priest’s lover and accomplice in crime. Dalrene was not a stunning beauty and didn’t display a sensual feminine charm like the actress Jackie Fernandez. The real life Dalrene was an ordinary Sri Lankan woman (in terms of her visual appeal). Her marriage to the late Russell Ingram is another lesson for young people, in love. Russell enters the parish as an unemployed man.

Lesson number three - always marry a partner who has a steady job with fixed income, a person with a decent profession. In the vicarage murders the jobless state of Russell was the launching pad for Fr. Matthew, who capitalized on the void and appeared like a saviour to the struggling family. He offered the Ingram family an annex in the church premises, and a job for Dalrene as his church secretary and found a job for Russell at Lake House!!

Lesson four for all aspiring Romeos and Juliet’s, before you marry try and build your own home, no matter how small it is. Or as an alternative have enough money to rent a decent home for yourselves (instead of wasting money by hosting gala receptions which none will remember after 2 weeks, and starting married life in debt).

Russell and Dalrene had kids, without a steady income. We move onto the greatest impulse now, which afflicts every human- sexual temptation. It is somewhat okay to be tempted by a piece of curried pork or strawberry cheese cake, as these wouldn’t transgress the laws of the almighty. But sexual temptations are a ‘booby’ trap that will explode, leaving you exposed and ruin your marriage, leaving your innocent children with emotional scars for life. Matthew George Fredrick was a human. Every ordained clergy is human. King David was a human. He was a married man when he saw alluring beauty of bathing Bathsheeba, from his balcony. He had her husband Uriah (a soldier) killed and seduced the bathing beauty.

David however repented and wrote Psalm 51 (which Matthew Peiris would have read and learnt at the British seminary).

At the quiet annex in Kynsey Road, Colombo 8, Dalrene became a distraction to Matthew.

Lesson five: to our young readers; don’t leave your wife alone at home in a vulnerable position. The film shows the deviant priest enjoying a peep at the undressing woman. This is Rutnam’s interpretation of sexual enticement. Today there is no need to spy in the shower. With so many online platforms you can visit more than one bathroom or Jacuzzi from your laptop screen or smart phone. For those indulging in ‘monkey business’ there are dating apps that show like minded women (and men) near your city. It was one peep that led to an intimate affair for Matthew and Dalrene. Russell Ingram and Eunice Peiris paid with their lives. Don’t get caught in sexual temptation. It is a severe addiction.

Lesson six: is for young people to have deep conversations about life and family. Aimless texting and chatting on Watsup or Skype does not reveal the ‘inside’ of a future spouse. My how people fall deeply in love, for some it is blind, in more ways than one. There are some hopeless romantics who date one person after another, often compromising their virginity.

The internet is a concealed den to chat and cheat, so you think. Warning- remember the chats and photos (including the nude ones) you share will be used to disgrace you if the romance fails. If you don’t understand your intended spouse, you will not appreciate him/her after marriage. If Dalrene and Russell had issues they didn’t know how to solve it and Matthew manipulated them both.

For divorced persons or single young parents with kids (it is a hard situation to be in), think of how your child will respond if you remarry? You have needs for affection- so does your child. Fifteen years after you remarry, when your child wants to marry, will they be stigmatized saying your mama or dada married twice?

Getting good and practical advice would be lesson number seven. For those dating, progressing in love or newly married- life isn’t a rainbow. You will encounter problems and temptations. Never be foolish and share them with those you don’t know that well. They will add fuel to fire, especially the jealous ones who lack love in their own marriage. Seek counsel from a trusted friend you know for at least 5 years, a genuine work colleague who has a decent married life or a clergy whose life reflects the genuine compassion of God.

Matthew Peiris was convicted after the esteemed and learned three judge bench, gave a verdict of 612 pages. This trial was the first in Ceylon when two young police officers ASP Hema Weerasinghe and IP Cyril Selvaranam of the CDB, flew to England for forensics in a homicide investigation. The vicarage murders will be forgotten in a few weeks. They will be a memory in the annals of criminal history. But these lessons can save young people and hopefully sustain relationships where the romance and bliss of marriage remain real.