The Special court in Mumbai sentencing the Catholic Priest – Father Johnson Lawrence to life imprisonment for sodomizing a teen aged boy in 2015 has reaffirmed public faith in the Justice system.
The shocking incident glaringly exposes the moral rot that has been seeping into the Church. Such sexual offences by the clergy considered as the leaders of the church not only tarnish the image of the Church but they raise disturbing questions on the trust imposed on the clergy by the public.
In June 2018, a nun accused Kerala Bishop Franco Mulakkal of rape and a complaint was filed with the Kerala Police. The Nun alleged that she was raped by the Bishop 13 times between 2014 to 2016 during his visits to the convent in Kotayam district in Kerala.
When the police failed to arrest Bishop Mulakkal five Nuns staged a protest in Kochi only after which a special Investigation team was formed and the Bishop arrested. He was removed from the post of a Bishop but got bail after spending three weeks in Judicial Custody.
The Church is a strongly guarded fortress. It cannot afford the exposure of sex scandals. It will therefore go to great lengths to protect its clergy. In a media report by Times Of India, the mother of the boy mentions that when she took her wounded son to the Archbishop of Mumbai – Oswald Cardinal Gracias to complain against Father Johnson Lawrence for sexually abusing her son, the Archbishop of Mumbai failed to attend to this serious matter. Instead he said that he was rushing to Rome and that he would attend to the matter after he returns from Rome.
The Archbishop of Mumbai, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, had no compassion for the bleeding boy sexually abused by one of his fellowman. He was more eager to rush off to Rome rather than to attend to the traumatized boy at home.
Since the Archbishop’s first priority was to go Rome, the Vatican should show the same fervor which it exhibits in spreading the Christian religion all over in investigating and remedying the sexual crimes committed by its Church Representatives.
The Indian Express in a report published on January 7th mentions that nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little or no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement. This comes at the back drop of Pope Francis issuing an edict to check sexual abuses involving the Clergy.
To check the sexual offences committed by the clergy, urgent Church reforms have to be implemented. The Church should not impose celibacy on its clergy. Catholic priests should be allowed to marry and have families. The Church’s argument that Man cannot serve both Church and his family and that a family could be a distraction for the priests is myopic.
Many feel that married Priests will be able to understand the family structure well and that they would make better marriage counselors. On an online portal, when the question “Should Priests be allowed to Marry” was raised 66 % said yes and 34 % said no.
A Times of India report says that when the wounded, traumatized boy was taken to the Cardinal he was given a cold shoulder and a Parish Priest told the family to forget the whole incident, as “it is a boy who has been abused not a girl.”
Where is the Compassion which the clergy preach to be an hallmark of Christianity?
-by Prof. (retd) Indira Satyanarayan