Catholic Church must practice what it preaches – Balbir Punj

Nuns Protesting

Balbir PunjWhy has no tangible action been taken against the Bishop Franco Mulakkal and Cardinal George Alencherry, who has been accused of a cover-up of a heinous crime? – Balbir Punj

While a part of the Christian clergy is busy pontificating on the falling moral and ethical values in the country, the Catholic Church itself has been in the news for the wrong reasons, both in India and abroad.

The Church in Kerala is in turmoil. A 44-year-old nun has lodged a complaint with the state police alleging that she was first sexually abused in 2014 by Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who summoned her to a convent in Kerala where he was on a visit, on the pretext of discussing an important matter.  According to her, she was subsequently raped 12 times by the bishop in the following two years.

In the last week of June this year, the Kuravilangad police in Kottayam district had registered a case of rape and unnatural sex against the bishop.  The nun has alleged that the bishop, a native of Thrissur, sexually exploited her at the Missionaries of Jesus house at Kuravilangad in Kottayam. As the Jalandhar bishop is the patron of the Missionaries of Jesus, he had easy access to the congregation’s house in Kuravilangad.

Why was there such a delay on the part of the nun in lodging a complaint? She told the police that she had informed superiors of the church last year. As there was no action, she approached the police. The Kuravilangad house of the congregation has six nuns—the victim among them—police said. “Apart from the complainant, four other nuns of the same house have given statements against the bishop,” a police official told a newspaper.

Some laypeople belonging to the Ernakulam archdiocese have fielded a complaint in Kochi demanding legal action against Cardinal George Alencherry, who according to reports, has allegedly tried to protect the accused and threatened the victim to take back her complaint.

The decision to summon the highly placed accused was taken after five nuns along with their supporters, including priests from other churches, held a sit-in outside the Kerala High Court under the banner of Joint Christian Council. But why has no tangible action been taken against the bishop and the cardinal, who has been accused of a cover-up of a heinous crime?

Flash back to 1998. Four nuns were raped in Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh. There was global uproar and Hindu organisations (read BJP and RSS) were accused by some of the ghastly crime. Many prominent Christian and so-called human rights activists started a tirade against the then NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In the wake of this dastardly incident, “social activists” appealed to the US and the UK for sanctions against India and in the process maligned the country’s image the world over. Later on, many of the rapists were found to be Christians, mainly tribals who had been converted to Christianity. Soon after, Jhabua was history. But the damage was done.

The rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu, and the rape of a 17-year-old girl in UP’s Unnao are two incidents that have shocked the nation in recent times. In the first case, a girl child was kidnapped on January 10 this year and her body was subsequently discovered near the village temple. The police promptly made some arrests; the local populace claimed there were gaping holes in the police theory and demanded a CBI inquiry. The plea for a CBI probe was termed as standing with the rapists.

In the Unnao case, the girl was raped on 4 June 2017. Two separate charge sheets, one by the CBI on 11 July 2018 naming Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh, and another on 13 July 2018 naming Sengar and his brother, three policemen and others for allegedly falsely implicating the father of Unnao rape survivor in an Arms Act case, were filed. The accused had a high status in the ruling dispensation, but this did not stop the police from taking action against them.

The Catholic Church “stood” with the rape victims of Kathua and Unnao. In a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Bombay, its spokesperson, Fr Nigel Barrett, urged the laity to speak up. He said, “Evil exists and perpetuates because good people are silent.” He said the Church has always stood in solidarity with victims of injustice. “Too often we are silent to the pain and suffering around us. Many people tend to think that if it does not affect me then it’s not my problem.”

In Thane, Bishop Allwyn D’Silva said, “Not just Catholics, people of all faiths are urged to come and raise their voice against the growing culture of intolerance and violence against women. The culprits must be brought to book and victims must receive speedy justice and compensation.”However, there is deafening silence on the part of all such votaries of ‘human dignity and moral values’ in the case of the Kerala nun. Where are the rent-a-cause activists who take to the streets at the slightest pretext? Why is there no public outrage against the tardy investigation in the Kerala nun case?

It is not only in India that the scourge of sex crimes has hit the Church. The situation at the global level is alarming. Thousands of cases of sexual exploitation, including the abuse of hapless children, by Church officials are being reported from dozens of countries all over the world. Is it not the time that the Church does some introspection, takes corrective measures and heeds its own words rather than pontificating to the rest of the society? – The New Indian Express, 20 September 2018

» Balbir Punj is a journalist and columnist and vice-president of the BJP.

Church Sex Abuse


 

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2 Responses

  1. Christian priests and their prey!

    Chile: Catholic Episcopal Conference Raided In Pedophile Priest Probe – Tyler Durden – ZeroHedge – 14 Sept 2018

    Chilean authorities are raiding the headquarters of the Catholic Church’s Episcopal Conference as part of a wide-ranging probe into clerical sex abuse in the South American country.

    The Tuesday (Sept. 11th) raids are occurring in the most important building of the Chilean Church in the capital of Santiago, say prosecutors. Authorities recently summoned the archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, to appear and testify about the alleged cover-up of sexual abuse which had been going on for decades.

    In July, Chilean prosecutors said they were investigating 158 members of the country’s Catholic Church—both clergymen and lay people, for perpetrating or concealing the sexual abuse of children as well as adults.

    The cases relate to incidents dating back as far as 1960 and involving 266 victims, including 178 children and adolescents, according to public prosecutor Luis Torres.

    The prosecutor’s statement offered the first general view of the extent and scope of the abuse scandal faced by Chile’s Catholic Church—and how many people are implicated.

    Last month, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of five Chilean bishops amid accusations of abuse and related cover-ups.

    “The vast majority of reported incidents relate to sexual crimes committed by priests or people linked to educational establishments,” Torres told reporters.

    The entire strata of the Catholic Church—from bishops to monks—were involved in the crimes, as well as “lay people exercising some function in the ecclesiastical sphere,” he noted.

    There are 36 ongoing investigations, while 23 previous ones resulted in convictions and one other in an acquittal. – Straits Times

    “There’s no doubt that what the public prosecutor is doing is very positive and is starting to open the door to situations that previously were treated as an open secret,” Juan Carlos Claret, a member of an opposition group to tainted bishop Juan Barros in his area, told AFP.

    In May, Pope Francis summoned the entire bishops conference to Rome after he said he made “grave errors in judgement” in the case of Baros, who stands accused by victims of pedophile Rev. Fernando Karadima of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

    But the scandal grew beyond the Barros case after Francis received the report written by two Vatican sex crimes experts sent to Chile to get a handle on the scope of the problem.

    Their report hasn’t been made public, but Francis cited its core findings in the footnotes of the document that he handed over to the bishops at the start of their summit this week.

    And those findings are damning. – Daily Mail

    While some of the pedophile priests and brothers were expelled from their congregations following the discovery of “immoral conduct,” many had their cases “minimized of the absolute gravity of their criminal acts, attributing them to mere weakness or moral lapses,” wrote Francis.

    In some cases, high level officials allegedly covered up the institutionalized sexual abuse of minors—even threatening officials tasked with investigating sex crimes and the destruction of evidence.

    Following an emergency meeting with Pope Francis, Thirty-one active bishops and three who are retired offered to resign.

    Calls had mounted for the resignations after details emerged of the contents of a 2,300-page Vatican report into the Chilean scandal leaked early Friday.

    Francis had accused the bishops of destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring investigators to minimize abuse accusations and showing ‘grave negligence’ in protecting children from paedophile priests.

    In one of the most damning documents from the Vatican on the issue, Francis said the entire Chilean Church hierarchy was collectively responsible for “grave defects” in handling cases and the resulting loss of credibility that the Catholic Church has suffered. – Daily Mail

    “No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others,” Francis wrote in the document published by Chile’s T13 television and confirmed as accurate by the Vatican.

    Responding to the 2,300-page report, Chilean bishops called the contents of the document “absolutely deplorable,” and showed an “unacceptable abuse of power and conscience,” along with sexual abuse. The bishops asked for forgiveness from the victims, the Pope and all Catholics worldwide.

    While some of the pedophile priests and brothers were expelled from their congregations following the discovery of “immoral conduct,” many had their cases “minimized of the absolute gravity of their criminal acts, attributing them to mere weakness or moral lapses,” wrote Francis.

    Those same offenders “were then welcomed into other dioceses, in an obviously imprudent way, and given dicoesan or parish jobs that gave them daily contact with minors,” wrote the pope.

    The harsh assessment of the quality of seminaries suggests that a possible next step might be a full-on Vatican investigation of Chilean schools of priestly training.

    Pope Benedict XVI ordered such an investigation into Irish seminaries after he convened the entire Irish bishops’ conference for a similar dressing-down in 2010 over their dismal handling of abuse cases. – Daily Mail

    “The problems inside the church community can’t be solved just by dealing with individual cases and reducing them to the removal of people, though this—and I say so clearly—has to be done,” Francis wrote.

    “But it’s not enough, we have to go beyond that. It would be irresponsible on our part to not look deeply into the roots and the structures that allowed these concrete events to occur and perpetuate.”

  2. End of church pretences – Valson Thampu – Deccan Herald – Bangalore – Sept 19 2018

    The instance of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Catholic Church allegedly raping a nun repeatedly over a period of two years is turning out to be a climactic event not only for the church they both belong to, but for the Kerala Christian community as as a whole. The issues underlying this event, and the shape it has acquired by now, merit wider attention insofar as they are also reflected in the life of other faith communities as well.

    Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/main-article/end-church-pretences-693551.html

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