KOCHI: Despite attempts by the Church to rein in clerical sex abuse, incidents of exploitation of minors, both female and male, involving priests are on the rise casting a shadow on the Church in Kerala.
Concerned over the increase in incidents of priests sexually abusing minors, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) is considering a protocol for priests and nuns who interact with students.
“It is unfortunate such cases are being reported frequently. If this is the situation, the Church will have to think of framing a protocol for priests and nuns who interact with children,” said Fr Varghese Vallikkatt, KCBC deputy secretary and spokesperson.
At least five major incidents of child abuse involving priests have been reported in Kerala during the last two years. Only one among the accused in these cases has been convicted.
It was just two months ago Fr Edwin Figarez, who was the parish priest at Puthenvelikkara, was awarded double life term for raping a 14-year-old girl. In October 2016, Fr James Thekemuriyil, the rector of a seminary in Kannur district, was arrested by the police for alleged sexual assault on a 21-year-old seminarian who was undergoing training under him at the institution. Fr Raju Kokkan, parish priest of St Paul’s Church at Thaikkattusery was arrested for abusing a 10-year-old girl. He allegedly abused the girl after inviting her to the parsonage. He had offered a new set of dress for her first holy communion ceremony.
Allegations of sexually abusing boys were levelled against a parish priest of a famous church in Kochi city. However, the priest escaped legal action as the victims failed to approach the police. The diocese authorities shifted the priest to a home of retired priests and later entrusted him with the charge of a parish.
“These priests have brought disgrace to the Catholic Church. Being an independent Church, Syro Malabar Church, in exercise of its power to take decisions, should allow priests to get married’’ said Reji Njellani, president of the Open Church Movement and an officer-bearer of the Kera l a Catholic Reformation Movement (KCRM).