India's top Christian leader issued an apology after a Church priest when convicted in a child rape case. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty. The Christian priest raped a minor boy who was then just 12 years old inside the Church in 2015. The priest has been identified as Fr. Lawrence Johnson, a catholic priest of Christ The King Church in Shivaji Nagar, Mumbai.
In FIR, the victim said that-
On November 27, 2015, he had gone to the Church in Shivaji Nagar, Dadar, with his brother, and following the prayers, he was called inside by Lawrence on the pretext of keeping a box after which the pastor had closed the door from the inside and sexually assaulted him. This exploitation had left him bruised and bleeding. The priest had done a similar deed a few months prior to the incident as well.
He had also made a similar statement in front of the magistrate.
The Church abandoned and harassed during the struggle for justice, claimed the victim's mother
While talking to the media, the victim's mother claimed that the Church was abandoned and harassed during the struggle for justice. She said that when the family had gone to register a case against Lawrence, his supporters had initiated a 'morcha' against them and blamed the victim's family for spreading rumors against Lawrence for money. Whenever she went to the court, all his supporters made vile comments against her; she stood all alone in the courtroom and the pastor had innumerable allies standing by him, offering him delicacies like biryani.
According to Goa Chronicle, she said, "Fr Lawrence has been punished now, but I had known, right back in 2015, that he would perish when he wronged my son. Lawrence had confessed about sexually exploiting my then 12-year-old son in front of my husband and me, going down on his knees, and had asked us to forgive him, stating that such a 'mistake' would not be repeated in the future," she added.
The boy committed suicide twice after being raped by the Church priest
The victim's mother further said that Father Lawrence had exploited her son thrice and how her now 18-year-old son was still the same 12-year-old child for her as he could not go out in public places, fearing that someone would unleash similar atrocities on him again and always hold her hand for support. The mother then said how her traumatized son had tried committing suicide twice and was still undergoing psychological counselling.
Vice President of the Church ignored the complaint and replied, "Leave it; he is a boy after all."
Revealing the obnoxious activities of the church authorities, she stated how the Vice President of the Church, after she had informed him of Father Lawrence's misdeeds and had asked for justice, had replied, "Let it be, leave it; he is a boy after all".
According to Goa Chronicle, she had also taken her son to the Cardinal of the Church after his horrible ordeal but all that the Cardinal said was that he was leaving for Rome and would discuss matters after he would return; but to this day, the Cardinal has remained cavalier and never cared to talk to the family or check in on the victim. "The church members continue to harass my family and most probably, would never leave us alone", she added.
Church tried to suppress the incident
While talking to the Times of India, The Archbishop of Bombay Cardinal Oswald Gracias said that several invitations by my secretary to the victim's parents to discuss assistance got no positive response. However, the experience of the Church response to the incident was horribly according to the victim's mother. She revealed how the church members would organize morchas right outside their house and taunt them in marketplaces about their son being raped. The Church and the Cardinal never tried to console the family.
Sexual abuses and harassment in Indian churches also increased
Abuses and rape cases inside churches have also increased in India over the last few decades. However, such incidences were not highlighted in India like in other countries. Worldwide, lakhs of cases have been registered in the respective countries against the Christian priests. Their conviction rate has been too high that many churches are getting bankrupted by giving compensation to victims and legal expenses day by day.
Following are some major incidences, convictions & allegations reported in India
1. In Gujarat, a pastor of Khlesia Church in the Rabari Colony area, Ahmedabad, sexually abused a minor girl, made a nude video clip and threatened her for conversion to Christianity.
2. Father Robin Vadakkumchery of Mananthavady Diocese was arrested for raping a minor girl.
3. Fr Thomas Parackal of Congregation Society of St Eugene De Mazenod was arrested for sexually abusing three minor boys.
4. Catholic priest James Thekkemuriyil, rector of Daiva Matha Seminary in Kannur, was arrested for sexually abusing a minor boy.
5. Priest Edwin Figarez of the Kottappuram diocese was sentenced to two life terms for repeatedly raping a minor girl.
6. Fr Raju Kokken of the Thrissur Catholic diocese was arrested for sexually abusing a nine-year-old girl.
7. The Kerala Police arrested Bishop Franco Mulakkal over a rape case. The nun who complained against Bishop Franco had mentioned to the police that he had repeatedly had unnatural sex with her on multiple occasions between 2014 and 2016.
8. The police arrested a vicar of a Jacobite Syrian Church in Idukki for allegedly sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman, while she approached him for health treatment in October 2020.
9. In 2019, a priest of the Syro Malabar Church in Ernakulam district was booked for allegedly assaulting three 9-year-old girls. Sixty-eight-year-old Father George Padayattil, the vicar of Holy Cross Church in Chendamangalam, allegedly abused the girl while they visited the priest in his residential area adjacent to the church.
10. A Christian priest in Kochi, who was heading boys home, was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing six minor boys who resided in the place. Father George TJ, alias Jerry, was the director of the boys’ home in Kochi run by Carmelites order, under the Diocese of Cochin.
Awareness among the Christian community and counselling of church priests
Church organizational setup should think about the counselling of their priests about the paedophile, behaviour with women, feminism and basic human rights. Additionally, there is a need to spread awareness among the church-going community about the safety of the children and women inside the church. There should be some guidelines while visiting the church premises like minors or women should not visit the church lonely. Churches should install CCTVs in and around the church premises. The church organization should set up a committee to study how to restrict the abuses by church priests. After all, although the priest was convicted, the victim paid a heavy cost and it is much difficult for him to come out from this incident that happened with him.