In an interview in Italian La Republica in July 2014, Pope Francis had been reportedly quoted as saying that about 2 percent of clergy in the Catholic Church are paedophilies. He further stated that abuse of children was like ‘leprosy’ infecting the Church.
Until then, Vatican had declined to quantify the extent of clerical sexual abuses scandals in the Catholic Church worldwide.. The statistics on clerical sexual abuse are usually available for countries in the developed nations, in the developing countries the information is sketchy.
Vatican estimates indicate that the number of clerics in the Catholic Church worldwide is about 414,000. 2 per cent of paedophilies would represent around 8000 priests.
Interestingly the Vatican publicity team went on a counter action plan to the Pope’s statement stating that Italian La Republica reporter had not taken notes, as it was not a formal interview but a causal meeting, therefore the quotes attributed to the Pope could not be considered to be true.
In 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a report asserting that the Pope and the Catholic Church have not done enough and protect their reputation rather than protect children.
The panel of the committee wants all known or suspected child molesters removed, archives on abusers and Bishops who covered up abuse opened, and instances of abuse handed to law enforcement agencies to be investigated and prosecuted. A joint statement of the panel said,
The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrator
Furthermore in its scathing report that embarrassed the Vatican, the United Nations committee said the Holy See maintained a “code of silence” that enabled priests to sexually abuse tens of thousands of children worldwide over decades with impunity.
Among other things, the panel called on the Vatican to immediately remove all priests known or suspected to be child molesters, open its archives on abusers and the bishops who covered up for them, and turn the abuse cases over to law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution.
The committee largely brushed aside the Vatican’s claims that it has already instituted new safeguards, and it accused the Roman Catholic Church of still harboring criminals.
In December 2014, the Vatican announced that the new pope would create a commission to study how to prevent abuse and help victims, but no firm details about its makeup or scope have been released since. In 2015, Pope Francis directed worldwide Catholic Churches to commission to study how to prevent child abuse and help victims, this was a step forward in continuation to the guidelines published by Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to deal with clergy abuses on May 3, 2011.
The Indian Conference began work immediately. Cardinal Gracias who headed the Indian Conference in 2011, prepared a draft and circulated it among bishops and members of the Conference of Religious India, the national body of major superiors for both men and women religious. He also set up a subcommittee to incorporate the responses and prepare a second draft that he sent to Rome for approval in 2012.
By the time Gracias finalised the document with modifications suggested by Rome, his term ended and Carinal Cleemis replaced him as president in 2014.
Cleemis made changes to the final draft and got the two-part document approved by the conference’s standing committee in 2014.
Here is the outline of the guidelines:
* If a case arises in a diocese or province, a preliminary committee will examine the complaint, and talk to the victim, witnesses and the accused.
* If the committee finds “a semblance of truth” in the case, it will inform the bishop or the major superior. The bishop will refer the matter to the Vatican congregation. If Rome is persuaded an issue may exist, it will ask the diocese to conduct further inquiry.
* A Special Committee for Sexual Offense appointed by the bishop or the major superior will study the case. The committee’s term is for three years and it should have three members, at least one of them a canon law expert.
* The special committee will reexamine the case, talking to the complainant, the accused and witnesses, and prepare documentary evidence to submit to the bishop or superior within 90 days.
* The standards stipulate that the bishop or superior should show the final report to the victim and the accused to ensure justice and fairness. Depending on the gravity of the issue, the matter is again referred to Rome.
* Penalties could be as severe as laicization of the accused. However, the standards end with No.1752 in the canon law: “The salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.”
Interestingly the guidelines do not direct church leaders to inform the police of any conclusions they reach about an abuse complaint.
In 2014, Raju Kokkan, the vicar of the Saint Paul’s Church in Thaikkattussery, Thrissur, Kerala, was arrested on charges of raping a nine-year-old girl. According to Kerala Police, Kokkan had raped the child on several different occasions, including at least thrice in his office during the month of April. Kokkan promised to gift the child expensive vestments for her Holy Communion ceremony before sexually assaulting her.
The abuse was revealed after the victim informed her parents that she had been raped by Kokkan on 25 April 2014. The priest subsequently fled to Nagercoil in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, and was arrested by police on 5 May.
Following the arrest, the Thrissur Archdiocese stated that the vicar had been removed from his position within the Church. Between February and April 2014, three other Catholic priests were arrested in the state of Kerala on charges of raping minors.
In 2016, the Catholic Church reappointed a convicted and jailed priest in the Ootacamund Diocese in Tamil Nadu, with little regard for victims rights and children’s safety.
In 2017, Father Robin or Mathew Vadakkancheril of St Sebastian church in Kannur was arrested in Kochi on the charge of sexually abusing a minor girl who later gave birth to a child.
Last week, Fr Thomas Thanninilkkumthadathil from Maniyathuruth near Kallara has been booked by the Kaduthuruthi police officials for allegedly raping a Bangladeshi woman with British citizenship following a complaint from her.
Pope Francis prayed in December last year for a merciful final judgment for Cardinal Bernard Law, presiding over the funeral rites for a man who epitomized the Catholic Church’s failure to protect children from pedophile priests and its arrogance in safeguarding its own reputation at all costs.
Here is what Pope Francis said, “”May he be given a merciful judgment so that redeemed from death, freed from punishment, reconciled to the Father, carried in the arms of the Good Shepherd, he may deserve to enter fully into everlasting happiness in the company of the eternal King together with all the saints,”
Law resigned in disgrace as Archbishop of Boston in 2002 after revelations that he covered up for dozens of priests who raped and sexually molested children, moving them to different parishes without telling parents or police.
In Mathew Chapter 18 verse 6, Jesus says, ““If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Coming from the Catholic faith, I can tell you that as young child I would look up to the clergy as representatives of the religion I was born into and taught to follow. To betray that trust of a little child who sees you as a messenger of God is to amputate the very foundation of a child’s belief and trust in God and people.
The Catholic Church might pretend to act against such heinous crimes in some cases in attempt to hide the shame it would bring the religious institution but the truth is that the evil is being seen with more and more survivors voicing out their trauma.
In India so far the belief in the law to fight for the victims is dismal but with more cases being reported, people becoming alert to such crimes, confidence in the victims will grow to come out and speak the truth about sexual abuses by the priests.
No one has ever seen God, but one of the most beautiful creation of God in which we adults contribute in the process of procreation – is a child. It is pure and it is innocent. Let’s protect it.
We call a Priest – a Father. So lets have the courage to call out the Sins of the Father, lest we pay for the sins.