Grave concerns over ‘integrity and mission of the Indian church’ following Kerala abuse scandal cover-up

Church must be an ‘institution that supports justice for the victim’, write Indian women theologians

Members of the Indian Women Theologians Forum (IWTF), the Conference of Religious India (CRI) Women’s Section, and “other individuals who are deeply concerned about the integrity and mission of the Indian Church” have written to Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in the context of a recent scandal involving a parish priest in Kerala who sexually abused a girl, leading to her pregnancy. The case is being brought to court.

“The episode highlights an issue that is unique to the ecclesial context, one which women have been struggling to bring to the attention of the bishops for the past four years, namely, that the violation of the fiduciary trust inherent in the priest-parishioner relationship has an additional dimension of damage, because we are taught to believe that the priest is ‘another Christ’,” the letter says.

“When such a man is a sexual offender, faith in the God he represents is shaken to the core. To the physical, mental and psychological trauma is added spiritual trauma. Not just the victim, but the entire family, the faith community and all those involved in the fight for justice are affected, and all need spiritual healing,” says the letter, whose first signatory is Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala (Mumbai), co-ordinator of the IWTF. It is co-signed by 122 other Religious and concerned Catholics.

“One of the purported reasons why the Church is reluctant to expose its criminal priests,” the letter says, “is the fear that such admissions will be exploited politically by vested interests. It is our contention that when the clandestine management of these cases comes to light it does far more harm, for delayed corrective action festers the wound. If on the other hand the laws of the land are followed it will give the signal that the Church leadership is composed of law abiding citizens, and that the Church as an institution supports justice for the victim.”

Father Robin Vadakkumcherry, parish priest of St Sebastian church in north Kerala’s Kannur district is accused of raping the teenage girl, who gave birth in a private hospital on 17 February.

During their investigations police found evidence of an alleged attempt to cover up the whole incident and bail out the priest. The girl’s father, who belongs to an economically backward family, was promised around £12,000 (Rs 10 lakh) to own up to the crime. Two doctors at the private hospital where the girl gave birth and five nuns from the orphanage which housed the baby have been accused of entering into a conspiracy to hush up the case, rather than reporting the incident to police. 

Source: Grave concerns over ‘integrity and mission of the Indian church’ following Kerala abuse scandal cover-up (thetablet.co.uk)

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