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16 Sep 2019, Edition - 1525, Monday

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Kerala News

Laymen emboldened to up ante against crimes of priests in Kerala Church

Covai Post Network

Image credit : Illustrative image

Kochi: Parishioners are becoming bold to take Church head on against the clergymen committing rapes and other serious crimes on the faithfuls.

Despite low conviction rate, the faithfuls have not lost hope in the judiciary as more believers are coming out in the open.

The political intervention has caused hurdles in most of the cases as parties in power would interfere in the investigation to appease the Church, a major vote bank.

The Sr Abhaya murder case of 1992 in Kottayam was one such case which saw alleged intervention from many areas. Strong attempts were made to derail the case in which two priests and a nun were accused of murdering Dr Abhaya. The state police allegedly destroyed all vital evidences, hampering two different probes conducted by the CBI. The first CBI team could not find out much, but the second had strong evidences to prove that the nun was murdered without any trace of the killers.

Aggressive media and social activist interventions infused fresh leash of life into the case resulting in CBI reopening the case for third time. It came out with strong proof against the accused leading to the arrest of two priests and a num. The case is being heard by a court in Thiruvananthapuram.

Of late two different sexual abuse cases have rocked the State. This time too there is criticism against the Government for delaying the arrest of the accused. Poet and politician Sarah Joseph has accused police of being biased for not going tough against the clergy even after so many days.

Looking back, one could find many cases of sexual violence allegedly conducted by priests.The first that had shaken the country was theMadatharuvi case where a Christian priest was given death sentence by a trial court in 1966 for impregnating and murdering a Catholic widow Mariakutty.

Fr Benedict Onamkulam, 48, got the severest sentence from the lower court for allegedly murdering her in 1966. But Kerala High Court acquitted him in 1967 for lack of evidence.

Fr Antony Lazar, accused of murdering a nurse Marykutty in Kollam, was sentenced to death by the sessions court in 1986 and this was commuted to life imprisonment by the High Court. Fr George Cherian was sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in 1988 for murdering a teenaged girl Jolly in 1984 in Kottayam. The conviction was reduced to three years by the High Court.

A special court in Kochi in 2016 had awarded life term and over Rs 2 lakh fine to Catholic priest Fr Edwin Figarez, 41, for raping a 14-year-old girl multiple times in Kochi. Fr Kokken, 40, is facing trial for sexually molesting a minor girl of 9 years in Thrissur in 2014.

The most carnal was Fr Robin Vadakkumcherry who raped a school girl in a school under his control in Kottiyoor in Kannur and made her pregnant. She delivered a child which was taken away to a secret location by the Church, depriving the child its birthright of being with the mother and the mother her right to give her warmth to het offspring.

Fr Robin went to the extent of forcing her to blame her biological father for the pregnancy. However, the girl spilled the bean during a counselling by Childline activists. He was nabbed near Kochi airport while he trying to escape to Canada to evade arrest. A few doctors who attended the delivery in the hospital run by the Church and other Church activists were booked under serious offences.

Sr Jesme, 61, former Principal of St Mary’s College, Thrissur, has said the Church has become a breeding ground for sexual offenders. She has vividly described the sexual abuse and mental torture she had undergone while serving the Congregation of the Mother Carmelite as a nun for 33 years in her book, ‘Amen: The Autobiography of a Nun’.

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