In response to Times of India Kochi report dated 4th March 2017, Cardinal George Mar Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar Church, said on Saturday that the Church unequivocally condemns clergy members involved in sexual abuse and child molestation cases and will under no circumstance protect the accused.
Referring to the Kottiyoor incident, where a 16-yr-old girl gave birth to a child last month following a relationship with the local parish priest, Cardinal Alencherry said, "The incident cannot be tolerated. It is highly condemnable. The Church will not protect such offenders".
Pointing out that the accused should be punished under the law of the land, Cardinal Alencherry said, "The Church and the entire community of believers should be cautious in avoiding such incidents in the future".
The Statesman Kolkata also reported the incident on page 8 of its Sunday 5th March issue.
Fr Robin Vadakkumcherry (48), the parish vicar at St Sebastian Church in Neendunoki near Kottiyoor, is currently in judicial remand on the charge of raping a minor girl. What worsened matters is that the school controlled by the church where the survivor studied, and the hospital where she gave birth, again a church institution, tried to hush it up.
In the cover pic: – Police officials escort priest Robin Vadakkumcherry (C) after his arrest. Photo: Getty Images.
Though the Cardinal has said "The incident cannot be tolerated. It is highly condemnable. The church will not protect such offenders", he has not come out with the action the Kerala Church is going to take. Will it wait for the judicial process and make it long drawn with it money power? Will it still try to buy off the minor girl's family members? Just look at how low the Indian Church can stoop to wash itself clean with sheer MONEY POWER!
Why did Cardinal Allancherry not specify the action to be taken immediately i.e. DRFROCKING the priest for having deflowered a minor girl and God knows how many more? If he can't take exemplary action, he should follow in the footsteps of Emeritus Pope Benedict, and call it QUITS.
Coincidentally the name St. Sebastian's Church where the priest was arrested, reminds one of Fr K.K. Sebastian alias Sebastian Kuzhipala, who is also from Kerala. He tried to import the heady mixture of Kerala Church politics of money power, goondaism, liquor and casteism in Auxilium Parish Kolkata, where he was parish priest. He was a big time player of real estate in connivance with the ruling party strongmen who used to visit him in the Church at night. He masterminded gheroing by his hired goons, of outspoken parishioners who had demanded transparency and accountability and institution of Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Committee in the Parish. He closed down a free study centre which was run five-day-a-week for poor students of the parish, got these members threatened with life by his handpicked goons, whom he offered money, liquor and meat. He vanished suddenly from the parish without handing over the accounts, assets register, etc. when these members took him and his Provincial to court, to protect their skin and kin, after all their appeals to the Provincial and the present Archbishop of Calcutta had fallen on deaf ears.
This Fr (?) K.K. Sebastian is the same priest who was involved in hypnotising the girls of Loreto Lucknow 2006 to bring Jesus into Loreto Girls through hissing like a snake, followed by Police enquiry and court case.
The priests from Kerala and Tamil Nadu have taken control of Bengal and especially the Archdiocese of Calcutta. One priest holding on to the Archdiocesan Financial Administrator's post for thirty years and the CBI enquiry of St Xavier's College authorities for accepting about Rs 75 Lac plus towards donation from Rose Valley owner, are clear pointers that financial and related corruption of South India, has percolated to Kolkata.
There was a case of sexual aberration of one Fr Peter who coincidentally was principal of St Peter's High School in Kolkata. This time a boy fell prey to the Priest who was swiftly transferred out of Kolkata. Letters written to the Archbishop of Calcutta, Thomas D'Souza, enquiring on action taken, were not answered. Though the Archbishop is Chairman of Social Communications Commission of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, in practice he does not believe in two-way communication. In fact he believes in no communication and conveniently forgets promises he makes in open forums. Like his grand announcement of the formation of a 5-member Committee to review the flawed Constitution of the Catholic Association of Bengal, whose disputed President also happens to be Treasurer of All India Catholic Union. The announcement was made on 18th September 2016, to members who had assembled to attend the AGM of the Association. He had announced that the first meeting of the Constitutional Review Committee would be held in the last week of December 2016. Till date no meeting has been called in spite of reminders. This shows that all said and done, there is nothing CATHOLIC (transparency and accountability of which the Archbishop professes to be a great votary) about the Archdiocese of Calcutta, in spite of heralding of “Good News” in the Herald, the mouthpiece of the Archdiocese.
The sordid episode of Kerala should be seen in this light, in the light of close-fisted control by the Indian Catholic Church, without any lay participation, especially in matters of finance. Readers will recall Pope Emetitus Benedict XVI's letter of 10th August 2012 where he had clearly advocated "Laity should be considered not as Collaborators with the clergy but as persons truly CO-RESPONSIBLE for the being and activity of the Church. Co-responsibility requires a change of mentality." He meant the Clergy should have this change of mentality and invite the Laity with all the respect due to a CO-PARTNER. This change of heart has not happened. CBCI, the apex body of the Indian Catholic Church, believes in and behaves like the three monkeys: “See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”! Has anyone heard CBCI condemn the Kerala incident? It has put the buck on Cardinal George Alencherry, current Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
SUGGESTED REMEDIES TO COUNTER WOLVES IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING
On checking with some of my friends and well-wishers regarding protecting children and women, including nuns who go to attend private confession with their spiritual director or priests, I have got the following suggestions / feedback:
1. Never go to any priest's room (old and young) alone. This is applicable to children, adolescents, and women, including widows.
2. In fact, meeting of priests with children, adolescents and women inside their rooms should be totally banned. Such meetings should be held in the parlour or open sitting rooms. All churches have enough open space to hold such meetings. Remember the ground rule, never ever should there be one- on- one meetings, especially with persons of the opposite sex, even nuns. For priests are humans, even though they may be ordained. They are bound to falter. So do nuns, during one-on-one interaction with priests.
3. The practice of closed door confession of nuns, inside a priest's room, should be done away with. When this has to be done, it should be done in a hall or a large room where other nuns can wait for their turn, with the priest in clear view of the confessor and others waiting for their turn.
4. They should always be accompanied by one or two elderly nuns.
5. Even counselling should not be done by a priest alone, in his closed room. Nuns can state their problems to a priest in writing, even type-written so that their handwriting and names cannot be identified, The priest can take note of the spiritual or other problems as CASE STUDIES and give solutions during weekly or monthly common sessions, citing case studies only, without directly addressing the concerned nuns.
6. Long journeys of a single priest and a single nun should be permitted only in groups. The excuse of cost-cutting should be done away with, to avoid greater peril of slip up and possible conception of the nun. The priest will go away scot-free in search of honey from another flower. The nun will suffer the consequences. Many such nuns have committed suicide in Kerala only. Case studies and books by these nuns are in public domain.
7. During family visits by priests, they should take with them church catechists or some parishioner or another priest. They should never visit a house alone.
8. Teaching our girls and women Self-defence at each diocese. These training costs should be funded by parishioners through Parish Finance Committee.
These are some basic practices to be followed by both priests and nuns. As they say prevention is better than cure.
Some friends suggested that priests be allowed to marry so that they may not fall into temptation. This is a good suggestion. However, it does not guarantee that even then priests will not commit sexual offences, as one can see for married persons. However, it is a good suggestion.
If ordained priests are allowed to marry, then what about nuns? Are they not human too?
Who will bear the expenses of this larger family? Parishioners? Parish Finance Committee? Or a Corpus Fund created out of the Sinking Fund of a Diocese or Archdiocese? Before the Family Synod, these are questions worth pondering, so that they may be discussed at local, national, International and lastly at the Vatican level?
How about an on-line survey where the respondents' contact address and phone numbers will be captured to ensure authenticity?
Isaac Gomes, Kolkata