Sex scandals and abuses by Church priests in Kerala

    24-Jun-2020
The Archdiocese of Tellicherry in Kerala has suspended two priests after social media and online papers published audio clips of their debauchery. According to media reports, two priests, Fathers Joseph Poothottal and Mathew Mullappallil have been debarred from exercising their priestly duties amid severe allegations against them, says an explanatory note the Archdiocese's Public Relations Officer released on June 14.
 
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Father Poothottal, a member of the Congregation of St John the Baptist Precursor, served the Pottenplavu parish three years just before Fr Mullapally. He is the current pastor of St Augustine's Church Rajagiri in Kannur district. Father Mullappallil was appointed the parish priest of St Joseph's Church of Pottenplavu, a parish in Kannur district, in May 2019. After the scandal broke out, the archdiocese transferred him to a parish in Kasargod district with effect from June 27. He disappeared from Pottenplavu after the audio was leaked out.
 
In both audio clips, the two priests separately narrate to a parishioner, Paul Ambatt, their sexual dalliance with a married woman of the parish. Ambatt, who is in his 50s, is heard coaxing the priests to confess their sexual activities for their own good. He also promises the priests that he would bring them no harm. In some places, he warns the priests that he has videotapes of the activities that he has given for safe custody.
 
According to the report, George Joseph, president of the Kerala Catholic Reforms Movement, said, "The Church is facing a real crisis. Sexual exploitation and torture behind the church walls, as well as malpractices, are tumbling out and more dirt will surface."
 
Many cite the Church's proximity to the political class as a significant reason for the authorities' reluctance to investigate cases involving clergymen.
 
Christianity is a minority religion in India, practiced by around 2.3% of the population, according to the most recent Census data taken in 2011, but Kerala is home to a sizable Christian community that dates back hundreds of years. Christian constitutes 18.38% of the total population of Kerala.
 
According to a report, Christian population in Kerala comprises Catholics (61 per cent), Jacobite and Orthodox Syrian (15.9 per cent), Mar Thoma (6.6 per cent), Church of South India (4.5 per cent), Dalit Christians (2.6 per cent) and Pentecostal groups (3.5 per cent). Within the Catholics, there are Syro-Malabar, Latin Catholic and Syro-Malankara Churches. These segments follow the Vatican. In the Catholic Church hierarchy, Pope is the topmost authority, followed by Cardinal, Archbishop, Bishop and Priest.
 
The Church plays an important role in society, wielding considerable influence over education and health care institutions. Sexual abuse scandals of Church priests have recently rocked the Christian community in Kerala.
 
In an explosive autobiography, titled "Amen," a Catholic nun, Sister Jesme, detailed how sexual abuse and exploitation were rife in the Church and there were blatant attempts to brush them under the carpet.
 
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In the interview, Sister Jesme said, "I wrote my book in 2008. All that has come out is just a tip of the iceberg. There is much more that needs to be unearthed. It is a heady mix of power, money and sex."
 
In 2018, India's National Commission for Women had called on the Government to scrap confessions in all churches, saying they were being used to blackmail vulnerable women.
 
Unsurprisingly, the NCW's recommendation has met fierce resistance from Christian religious leaders. They argue that any such move would be an infringement on the religious customs and practices of the Church. The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) slammed the demand and said it had hurt the "religious sentiments" of India's Christian minority.
 
However, KCBC has been silent on sex scandals and abuses by Church priests.
 
Following is the list of some sex scandals of Christian priests reported in Kerala-
 
2019
 
The Archdiocese of Tellicherry in Kerala has suspended two priests after social media and online papers published audio clips of their debauchery.
 
A Kerala priest from Idukki district was found in a compromising position with a lady. This incident happened at a Catholic Church at Vellayamkudi of Kattappana. The pornographic visuals went viral on social media after the vicar Fr James Mangalassery gave his mobile phone for repair.
 
2018
 
Rape case against Jalandhar Catholic bishop Franco Mulakkal based on a nun’s complaint.
 
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Rape case against four priests of Orthodox Syrian Church for sexually exploiting a married woman.
 
Orthodox Syrian Church suspended Fr O M Samuel following a complaint from a youth that the priest had an illicit affair with his wife.
 
Fr Binu George of Orthodox Church booked for raping a woman, who had approached him to settle a dispute with her in-laws in 2014.
 
Catholic priest Thanninikkumthadathil Thomas of Pala diocese arrested for raping a foreigner.
 
Cardinal George Alencherry accused of causing financial loss through a controversial land deal.
 
2017
 
Fr Robin Vadakkumchery of Mananthavady diocese arrested for raping a minor girl.
 
Fr Thomas Parackal of Congregation Society of St Eugene De Mazenod arrested for sexually abusing three minor boys.
 
2016
 
Catholic priest James Thekkemuriyil, rector of Daiva Matha Seminary in Kannur, arrested for sexually abusing a minor.
 
Priest Edwin Figarez of Kottappuram diocese sentenced to two life terms for repeatedly raping a minor.
 
2014
 
Fr Raju Kokken of Thrissur Catholic diocese arrested for sexually abusing a minor.
 
2009
 
Catholic nun Sister Jesme released her autobiography, Amen, which talked about sexual exploitation and torture behind Church walls as well as malpractices within it.
 
Surpeisingly Left Governement in Kerala also silent on these incidenses. 
 
 
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