A Church priest in Kerala was arrested in March for allegedly raping a minor and impregnating her.
The 17-year-old minor gave birth to a baby at a private hospital in Kannur. To hide the sexual crime, the young mother and her baby were quietly shifted to an orphanage in Wayanad district in North Kerala so as to cover up the entire incident, police sources maintain.
For an accused to try and stay away from law enforcing agencies is not something new, but what is audacious and shocking is the Church going out of the way in trying to defend the criminal offence and moral depravity of the priest accused of sexual misconduct.
Here are certain lines from the ‘Sunday Shalom’, a magazine supported by the Catholic Sabha in Kerala, that will definitely make any sane person cringe out in anger:
“Here, the girl is above the age of 15. Let me tell you this, as I consider you like my daughter – you are also at fault. Before the Lord, it is you who will have to answer first. Daughter, why did you forget who a priest is? He has a human body and has temptations. He may have forgotten his position for a few seconds, my child who has taken the Holy Communion, why didn’t you stop or correct him?”
Yes; you hear it right – the minor girl, who had been raped and impregnated by the priest at a tender age, is the one being blamed by the mouthpiece of Kerala’s Catholic Sabha.
Interestingly enough, Father Robin or Mathew Vadakkancheril (the accused) – the vicar of St Sebastian Church in Kottiyoor – is a famous person in Kerala, always voicing his support about farmer’s rights and has loudly championed the cause of crimes committed against children in the southern Indian state. But, as it turned out, this was a facade that the priest put up to hide his dark and evil deeds.
Instead of taking action against the erring priest and supporting the minor girl, the Church decided to openly side with the priest by referring to his crime as an “aberration”:
“There are many people who do good deeds, how come people are not seeing that? Why are not good thing said about these people? To ridicule all priests in the name of mistakes committed by one or two priests is saddening the entire community?
“Even Judas was Jesus’s disciple, today we are walking behind this disciple. Those who need to be isolated, should be isolated but let’s not throw mud at who have not done any mistake. We can proudly call every priest as a virtue we have earned, allow them to walk confidently in their robes.”
The victim’s parents, however, claim that they never knew about the pregnancy. They let the investigating police know that they found only learned about the truth when they took their daughter to a homeopathy doctor as she had started missing her periods. The delivery was done in a hospital owned and operated by the Church, after which, the mother and child were shifted to an orphanage.
Police, however, is questioning the story for the priests are known to bribe poor parents so as to buy their silence.
In fact, the incident would never have come surfaced had someone not sent an anonymous letter to the Child Welfare Committee about an attempt made to hide the crime.
This case is just one of the plenty rape cases that go unrecorded in the state. In the last few years, there has been more than 10 cases where a priest has been accused of child sex abuse. And, each time something similar is reported, the community comes together to save the priest.
What’s worse is that even those from within the community, who choose to speak out against the rape and abuse, are targeted. Whether it was Sister Jesme, Sister Anita or Sister Mary, anyone who has opted to speak out against sexual and other offences shielded by the church, have been branded as traitors.
A plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in 2010 had said they would have a zero-tolerance policy with regard to abuse of children in institutions run by the Church. In response, as it turns out, priests accused of such crimes are either transferred within seminaries or simply given other posts. No real punishment is meted out to them. After all, they are the flag-bearers and guardians of the entire Christian community in the state.
Sadly, little do they understand is that by siding with such criminals, they are just losing the faith of innumerable commoners and nothing else. What’s so much pride for if the religion cannot defend its little girls and boys from the sexual predators?