Rape accused bishop’s suspension demanded

Matters India Reporter New Delhi: A group of progressive Catholic religious priests, nuns and laity has mounted pressure on Vatican to act against an Indian Bishop accused of raping a Catholic nun. They have urged the Apostolic nuncio to India Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) Cardinal Oswald Gracias to advise Pope Francis to relieve the accused bishop of his pastoral responsibilities to pave way for an impartial probe. The police in Sothern Indian state of Kerala are probing alleged charges of rape and unnatural sex against Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, based in north Indian state of Punjab. The survivor in her complaint accused the prelate of raping her 13-times between 2014–2016 in a convent in Kerala where she was superior. Both the nun and the prelate are from Kerala. She belongs to a local congregation of women working in Jalandhar diocese under the direct control of the accused prelate. The 167 member group led by Indian Christian Women Movement consisting nearly 70 nuns 15 priests and the laity exhorted the Church leadership to prove its “zero tolerance to sex abuse” in the Church with the removal of the prelate from all pastoral responsibilities. The group sent separate letters to this effect to the nuncio and Cardinal Gracias appealing them to “…please advise Pope Francis to relieve the bishop concerned of his pastoral responsibilities, so that the Church is seen to actually practice the ‘zero tolerance’ it professes to observe in abuse cases”. According to them continuance of the accused prelate in his office “will erode the faith of the people in the credibility of the Church to implement its policy of zero tolerance and act justly in abuse matters”. The group also requested Bishops in India to publicise and create adequate awareness about the CBCI Guidelines to deal with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace 2017 and institute the structures and procedures described therein without further delay. According to them, to preach justice the Church must be seen to practice justice (Synod of Bishops, 1971). “Sadly the representations made by the Religious sisters to the Bishops have brought no response, raising issues about the credibility of the CBCI policy”, they noted in the letter to Cardinal Gracias. Other issues raised in the letter as follows; 1. Every diocese respects and complies with the State laws with regard to addressing abuse cases of minors and sexual harassment of women in the Church. 2. The policy to prevent and deal with Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults, as well as the Policy to prevent and deal with the Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace are disseminated to all the faithful and stake holders in Church and Church institutions so that they can be effectively implemented. 3. The required structures are set up within every diocese of the Church in India to address cases of sexual abuse and to prevent repeat bungling and criminal activity, not to speak of untold damage to the reputation of the Church and the faith of its people. The contact details of persons responsible to receive complaints should also be publicized prominently. 4. Greater attention is paid to the choice of candidates for the priesthood as well as to their formation in the seminary. This must include conscientization with regard to patriarchal attitudes that promote condescension and even aggression towards those considered “inferior”, and clericalism that is perceived to place the ordained outside civil law and permits lack of accountability and transparency. At its root, sexual abuse is ultimately not about sexuality or celibacy, but about the gross misuse of the disproportionate power assigned to clergy. 5. Catholic Church leadership in India does not take a silent or indifferent stand when a case is reported because it apparently protects the perpetrator. When a man who represents God to people, is a sexual offender, faith in the God he represents is shaken to the core. To the physical, mental and psychological trauma of the victim is added spiritual trauma. Not just the victim, but the entire family, the faith community and all those involved in the fight for justice are affected, and all need spiritual healing. We trust that Christ who is our light, and who always stood up against the exploitation of women will stand with the Church and give the CBCI the courage to do what is right in the cause of justice for women in the Church. Pope Francis has shown the way by holding accused Bishops accountable even at risk to the reputation of the Church. We look to our bishops to follow his example.

Source: TopStory- Matters India

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