Kerala sex scandals expose the dark side of the clergy

Updated: Sep 01, 2018, 20:17 IST | Aultrin vijay | Mumbai

A spate of sex scandals has exposed the dark side of the clergy, putting God's own country to shame

Illustration/ Ravi Jadhav
Illustration/ Ravi Jadhav

Wracked by a rash of sex scandals, the Church is facing one of its lowest moments. In a case which revealed the dark side of the religious institution, a 46-year-old nun has claimed that she was sexually abused by Bishop Franco Mullackal of the Jalandhar diocese of Roman Catholic Church.

In another incident, four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church are currently facing charges of raping and blackmailing a 34-year-old woman in a cycle of abuse and threats lasting almost 20 years. mid-day brings you different cases that has rocked the Christian community — in India and abroad.

'Abolish confessions'
In its report on the church sex scandals in Kerala, the National Commission for Women has recommended the abolition of the practice of confessions in churches as they harm the security of women. "The practice of 'confession' should be abolished as it can lead into blackmailing of women," the NCW team recommended in its report. It also suggested that a central agency investigate incidents of sexual harassment and rape in churches. "The priests pressure women into telling their secrets and we have one such case in front of us, there must be many more such cases and what we have right now is just a tip of the iceberg," NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma told news agency PTI.

Scandals in India
In 2014, Raju Kokkan, the vicar of the Saint Paul's Church in Thrissur, Kerala, was arrested on charges of raping a nine-year-old girl. According to Kerala Police, Kokkan had raped the child on several different occasions, including at least thrice in his office on April. The abuse was revealed after the victim informed her parents that she had been raped by Kokkan on April 25, 2014. The priest subsequently fled to Nagercoil in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, and was arrested by police on May 5. Following the arrest, the Thrissur Archdiocese stated that the vicar had been removed from his position within the Church.

The affair abroad
* In August 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury named more than 300 clergy in a report which found more than 1,000 children had been abused.
* Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson resigned in July 2018 after being convicted of concealing child sex abuse carried out by another priest.
* In June 2018, a former Vatican diplomat was sentenced to five years in prison for child pornography offences.
* In Chile, 34 Roman Catholic bishops offered to resign in the wake of a child sex scandal and cover-up.

Fr Joe D'Souza

'The Sacrament of Penance has been shown in a bad light'
Fr Joe D'Souza,
Parish priest, St John The Evangelist Church (Ballard Estate, Fort)
'As a priest, the news reports of sex scandals that have hit the Church have been extremely shocking. We belong to the Universal Church, which means the Church of the Universe. This is like somebody doing wrong in the family and the entire family suffers as a consequence of that. This is such a difficult time to even enter the confession box. I think somebody can easily slap me and say 'what are you doing here?' The Sacrament of Penance has been shown in a bad light. I have never personally received any complaint of this nature, but, if ever there was one, there would be a thorough probe. I would hope to have women in the Church Tribunal [parishioners approach the tribunal in cases like the break up of a marriage] as they have expressed that they would like to talk to women, in these matters'

Dr Sanjay Kumawat

The good and the bad
Dr Sanjay Kumawat,
Consultant psychiatrist at Jupiter, Fortis and Hiranandani hospital
'Whether someone is a priest or not, they are human beings. They commit mistakes, errors and even crimes. They're not above human beings. The system of selecting priests must be rigid and robust before appointing them to senior posts. As far as the victims are concerned, they face post-traumatic stress disorder, in which the trauma is so severe, the person is totally devastated, and they develop a phobia to face or talk to people not known to them, which can be cured by counselling or therapy, if needed. They need enough support from the family, too'

Dr Abraham Mathai

Dr Abraham Mathai,
ex-vice chair of Minorities Commission and President of Indian Christian Voice
'If a priest commits a crime, the victim should approach higher authorities. You can't suppress criminal or illegal acts under the garb of spirituality. It's a good sign that these issues are coming out. This will help people muster the courage to come forth and complaint'
Inputs by/Hemal Ashar

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