Church now has zero tolerance to Sex Abuse
New Delhi (Matters India): The Catholic Church in India is aiming for a cleaner image this new year as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has decided to deal with priests accused of sexual abuse through severe punishments, including defrocking them.
In the past, many sexual abuse allegations have been made against Catholic priests. The Catholic Church has taken this decision following Pope Francis’ exhortation against erring priests.
As per the new procedures, Archdioceses (districts under archbishops) have been asked to take a sympathetic stand towards the victims who allege sexual abuse by priests instead of adopting a holier-than-thou attitude, which it had been taking so far.
Also, the archdioceses will be duty bound to carry out investigations against such priests, and will have to send probe reports to the Vatican, The Indian Express reported.
“There will be no place for any abuser in the Catholic fold. Vatican will decide on the case considering the reports and may even suggest defrocking of the priests, if found guilty,” said a source.
Defrocking (removal of their rights to exercise the functions of the ordained ministry) is the ultimate punishment a priest can receive in the Catholic establishment.
“Pope Francis has set a new beginning and we are happy that the Indian church is following his ideas. The fact that Catholic Church is even considering defrocking in itself shows the seriousness attached to the idea,” Francis Joe Saldana, a Church activist, said.
The Catholic establishment is also mulling over taking steps such as seizing passports of accused priests to stop them from fleeing the country. It is also working out a plan to hire corrections staff to monitor guilty priests.
The Catholic Church has also decided to be more compassionate to the abuse victims, who are mostly children. It has decided that only licensed therapists would be appointed to counsel abuse victims. The current practice is to ask nuns or priests to counsel the victims.
“We also have a plan to set up whistleblower funds to reward church staff who report abuse,’’ said a church insider. The source said the Indian Church already has case on its hands. It is that of Father Lawrence Johnson, a Pune-based priest accused of abusing a 10-year-old boy at Christ the Kind parish. Father Johnson was arrested following complaints by the victim’s family. At present, he is in judicial custody.