Rise in sexual abuses of minors by Christian priests in India

    13-Sep-2022   
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Amidst the revelation of substantial sexual abuse cases of minors in Western countries' churches, the minors have also been exploited sexually by Church priests in India too. Many cases have been registered against Church priests. In India, the cases have not only been reported in southern States where there is a considerable Christian population but in other States too. The issue once again surfaced after three more cases were registered against the arrested Christian Pastor Rajkumar Yesudasan, who has been arrested for sexually abusing minors in the monastery run by Bethel Gospel Pentecostal Church under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
 
Sexual abuse by Christian priests in India  
Sexual exploitation of minors by Christian priests and pastors in Western countries
 
In its news report on October 5, 2021, BBC said that according to the Church Commission report of 2004, in the last 50 years, 4000 Christian religious leaders in the United States have been accused of sexually abusing more than 10,000 minors. On average, about 80 clerics are accused of sexually abusing children each year, and an average of 200 children are victimized each year.
 
In 2018, the French Catholic Church formed a commission to investigate the sexual abuse of minors by Christian clerics. The commission had 22 members from various backgrounds like jurists, doctors, historians, theologians, sociologists etc. Many global media brought the findings of the report to the fore. Very shocking and mind-blowing revelations have been made in this report. During the investigation, 216,000 minors were found to have been sexually abused in the last 70 years. Most of the victims of sexual abuse are boys between the ages of 10 and 13. The report said that the church showed complete indifference to the victims of sexual abuse.
 
The New York Times has also made a report on the sexual abuse of Children by Catholic priests on August 14, 2018. According to the report, in six of the State's eight Catholic dioceses, they found more than 1,000 identifiable victims.
 
Sexual exploitation of minors by Christian priests and pastors in India
 
Sexual exploitation of minors by priests in churches and related institutions and premises have also increased in India too. Lots of cases and convictions have been observed in the last decade. Exploitation occurred under the pretext of religious treatments, during confession and in church-run educational institutions and orphanages. It has also been observed that cases are not observed in particular denominations, but priests belonging to various denominations have been accused and convicted. Following are some of the major cases reported in India.
 
Sr no
 
Name of Christian priest
 
Place Description of the case
1 John Robert Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
 
John Robert was arrested for sexually abusing and harassing girls after child welfare officials filed complaint in Mandapam Police Station under POCSO Ac
 
2 Pastor Albert Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh
 
An 11-year-old girl was allegedly raped by Pastor Albert. He also threatened the girl with dire consequences if she disclosed the matter to anyone. 
 
3 Pondson John Koodal in Pathanamthitta, Kerala
 
Pondson John, a vicar of Koodal parish belonging to orthodox church, was arrested on charges of sexually abusing a minor girl when she was sent by her mother to meet priest for counselling.
 
4 Pastor Alavla Sudhakar Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh
 
Pastor Alavla Sudhakar was arrested by the police on charges of sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl.
 
5 Father Henri
Chennai,
Tamil Nadu
 
Father Henry along with three other accused were arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor girl. Her mother lodged a complaint after the girl told her that Father Henry and two others sexually assaulted her by taking her to the church.
 
6 John Patrick Bridges Jharsuguda, Odisha
 
UK missionary John Patrick Bridges was arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 on charges of sexually abusing a minor.
 
7
 
Geet Kumar Somnath Pillai alias Manikuttan alias Shreejit
 
Ulhasnagar, Mumbai, Maharashtra
The accused was a priest at Sharon Fellowship Church was arrested for allegedly raping a Class X student for two years.
 
8 Father Robin Vadakkumchery
Kannur,
Kerala
 
Father Robin was working as priest at St. Sebastian's Church, was arrested on charges of raping a minor girl. The court sentenced him twenty years of imprisonment after found guilty. 
 
9 Pastor Sanil K James
Thrissur,
Kerala
 
Sanil James, was working as a pastor in the Salvation Army Church, was arrested for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old schoolgirl. Thrissur Court sentenced him rigorous imprisonment. 
 
10 Father Raju Kokken
Thrissur,
Kerala
 
Father Raju Kokken, a vicar at Saint Paul's Church, was arrested from Tamil Nadu by Kerala Police for allegedly raping a nine-year-old girl. 
 
11 Pastor Sajan Mathai Kottayam, Kerala
 
Pastor Sajan Mathai was arrested following the complaint of a 17-year-old girl after the victim became pregnant. Police had said that pastor raped the girl during the annual celebration of Israel Pentecost Church in Punchavayal. 
 
12 Fr. Lawrence Johnson Mumbai, Maharashtra
 
Fr. Lawrence Johnson raped a minor boy who was then just 12 years old inside the Church in 2015. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty. a catholic priest of Christ The King Church in Shivaji Nagar, Mumbai. 
 
 
 
 
Challenges before Christian families
 
It has been observed that some victims have made suicide attempts after their sexual exploitation and harassment. They were given death threats also to stop them from revelation. Many of the victims failed to complete their education. They have lost confidence after the incident. In Fr. Lawrence Johnson’s case (Sr no 12 provided in the above table), the mother of the victim said that her son has not visited any public place since the incident. She further said that her son committed suicide twice and still undergoing psychological counselling. Victim’s parents are under heavy stress because of their child's future.
 
It has also been observed that the churches have not done anything for the victims and their parents. Instead, Churches pressurized parents to keep quiet and also provided legal support to their accused priests. However, the parents dare to file complaints against the priests of the respective churches.
 
In Father Robin Vadakkumchery case (Sr no 8 provided in the above table), the Kerala High Court had noted that the Church and Catholic priest Robin had immensely pressurised the victim's family and had even forced her father to confess that he was the one who raped and impregnated his daughter. But later, the victim’s family alleged that were pressurised and threatened by the Church. DNA tests later conducted had also concluded that Robin was the father of the child.
 
Challenges before churches
 
Amidst investigations and revelations, still, minors have been abused sexually by Church priests in all countries. This is now the major challenge the churches are facing all over the world. This is one of the major reasons observed the decline in the number of churchgoers in many Western countries. Indian Christians may also stop going to church and visiting the priests of various denominations in the coming days if the cases continue to rise. Moreover, the senior priests have been accused of coverups. After investigations, it was observed that bishop level priests tried to cover their accused priests. As a result, church administrations failed to convince their followers whose children were abused sexually.