Sexual abuse allegations against clergymen is a deep moral crisis internally faced by the Catholic church at the global level.
The other day international media published an internal report revealing that 1,670 Catholic priests had sexually abused 3,677 minors in Germany between 1946 and 2014. Vatican's embassy representative and US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in July resigned from his position following sexual abuse allegations. An investigative report about 300 priests sexually abusing more than 1,000 children had also surfaced in the US within the last one month. The message and warning by Pope Francis against sexual abuse by Catholic clerics which begins with the following introduction is highly relevant to the Church in India as well: " 'If one member suffers, all suffer together with it' (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. This is because the church is currently facing the most severe moral crisis in history. The incident in which a nun filed a complaint for sexual assault against a bishop and the nuns taking to the streets for justice is an unprecedented one for the Church in India.
The approach taken by the Church on the sexual abuse complaint against Jalandhar Bishop Franco, does in the least become the sense of justice taught by Christ. The statement by Fr Paul Thelakkat, joing ranks with the agitation that it is sad to see nuns taking to the streets for justice and the Church is obliged to relieve their pain, is an indictment of the unforgivable lack of justice shown by the Church. Although the nun who was subjected to sexual harassment 13 times during two years from May 2014, made complaints to the top clergy within the country and abroad, the order was refusing to take action or conduct a just enquiry. She placed requests before the pontiffs that the bishops of various dioceses and mothers superior should show the Catholic church's morality and sense of justice in the case of a victim; she also presented statements and evidence against the bishop during police interrogation. In spite of this, KCBC (Kerala Catholic Bishop's Conference) and Catholic Federation of India were standing firmly united with Bishop Franco Mulakkal, and not stopping with that, even ventured to demonise the plaintive nun and her family, and tried to establish that the fabricated case was a result of conspiracy as part of the power struggle within the church. Instead of showing the patience to face the case legally and to do justice honestly, the church was, behind the curtain, in a hurry to torpedo the case using its authority. The act of enticing the victim and her family to withdraw the case, has in fact shattered the credibility of the church too.
The case of abuse of the nun, in addition to violating the morality of the church, questions the credibility of Kerala police and the government. In the case which dragged on apparently under significant pressure by authorities, the enquiry officiers issued notice to the defendant only after the High Court's intervention. Even as the nun's complaint and the evidence and statements were against the bishop, Kerala police is afraid to properly interrogate him or subject him to medical examination. It is not to be treated lightly that the nuns, who were constrained to come out in strike, have criticised that the DGP and IG were together torpedoing the case. And the acts of the police hitherto do corroborate the charge. But the state government has not yet been prepared to take this charge at face value. What S Ramachandran Pillai, member of CPM's polit bureau, informed mediamen was that there were lapses on the part of the police. The only factors that keep alive the victim's struggle for justice are the fight of the nuns on the street and the backing given to it by Kerala's cultural figures. The crown of thorns borne on the shoulders by the agitating victim and her family for the resurrection of justice, will be etched in the annals of history as a torture as much for purging the Catholic church as for cleansing Kerala police.