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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Catholic Priest given life imprisonment for sodomizing a teenager: Church needs to act

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.  

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

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