THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the top body of the congregation of bishops, has not acted on a directive from the Vatican to meet sex abuse victims abused by the clergy before attending a summit in Rome on clerical sex abuse and child protection between February 21 and 24.
The directive released by the Vatican on December 18 states, “The first step must be to acknowledge what has happened and we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome to learn first-hand what they have endured.”
Interestingly, one of the four signatories of the letter is Oswald Gracious, Bishop of Mumbai and the current president of the CBCI.There are more than 25 clergy-related sex abuse cases in Kerala which have come out in the open over the past 10 to 15 years.
There are several high-profile cases involving priests in the state; some of the accused faced trial and are behind bars, some are out on bail and some are based abroad in cases involving the rape of minors, young women and nuns.
Sr Jesme: Whole system and structure have to be changed
S r Anupama of the Franciscan order, a colleague of the sister who was allegedly raped by Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal, said: “We have not received any communication from the CBCI or from anyone from the episcopal order regarding this directive from the Vatican.”
Sr Jesme, who had left her congregation and wrote a book about the injustices in the Church, told : “The whole system and structure have to be changed. Nothing will come out of the conference. The issue is celibacy. I can vouch only 1 per cent of priests and sisters join the order because of a vocational call; the rest are just playing drama.” She said there are instances of altar boys being abused, causing them to turn into drug addicts and alcoholics.
Joshua Mar Ignathios, vice president of CBCI, told Express, “We have yet to meet anyone. Moreover, officially we have not got any complaints regarding the same”. CBCI secretary-general Rev Theodore Mascarenhas did not respond to questions from the Express on initiatives taken by the CBCI regarding sex abuse by the clergy.
Sr Jessie Kurien, SC lawyer, said: “If a daughter has a problem, her father will offer solace; sisters consider priests as their fathers and they have the responsibility to act as such, but this isn’t done.”