They do not speak for the rape survivors.

Examining the pattern of response of Vatican and Dioceses in church related sex abuse.

Sep 23, 2018 · 5 min read

Kerala, India: On 21/09/2018, one more Bishop was arrested who is accused for repeatedly raping a nun for two years from 2014. Globally, this is not shocking as the global Catholic sexual abuse incidents are piling up. But, in India, the accused Franco Mulakkal is the first catholic Bishop (removed Bishop of Jullundur) to be arrested for sexual abuse.

The victim nun reported the abuse in letters to the Dioceses from early on and later to apostolic nuncio to India in January and June 2018. She also informed the Delhi Archbishop in May 2018 that the church authorities were ignoring her previous complaints.

In India also, the church faces several allegations on rape and child sexual abuse, but they are usually hushed and settled internally. This is why we need to applaud and praise the courage of five nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus who supported the victim from the beginning and protested in public for the arrest of removed Bishop. They came out from the closed walls of missionary when justice was denied to the rape survivor within the Church, to protest and put themselves vulnerable to the judgmental public for the justice of the rape survivor.

Nuns demanding the arrest of the Bishop. copyright: shutterstock

The Response Pattern of the Vatican and Dioceses.

There is an the avalanche of church related sex abuses in the world, particularly child sex abuses. The Catholic churches are notorious for not responding in timely manner in sex abuses or church related crimes.

On 14th August 2018, the grand Jury report in the State of Pennsylvania, U.S revealed that Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse. More sex abuse reports are coming out in United States, ever since the report from Boston Church Archdioceses.

In many states in United States, the criminal statue of limitations prevents abuse survivors, who come forward later in life to approach the justice system. There is wide support for extending the statue of law of limitations in child sex abuse cases. However, the US Catholic church is said to have spent millions of dollars lobbying against extending the same.

The child sex abuse by the clergy in Chile became a scandal when the church tried to hide the abuses committed by Bishop Fernando Karadima which were known as early as 1984. After many years of cry for justice, and many scandals covering up the truth from coming out, a church investigation made in 2010 found incriminating evidence against the accused Bishop. This scandal shocked the consciousness of Chile.

In 2018, the Pope Francis was criticized for defending the accused Bishop. This incident questioned the loyalty of the Pope Francis to the church believers. Due to the aftermath public protest in Chile, the Pope Francis admitted that he mishandled the crisis involving clergy accused of sex abuse in Chile. This matter is now investigated by the Chilean authorities and had requested from the Vatican information related to nine clergy members accused of abuse.

Pontifical Secrecy in Canon Law

The Canon Law has its own extensive system of legal principles enforcing order and directing activities of Catholics in the mission of the Church. But the Ecclesiastical Law has no binding character in secular and most jurisdictions. The removal, transfer of a member of the church is based on the laws of the Church. However, the Canon Law has no power to prevent the victims from seeking justice from the Law of the Land.

The Vatican has stated that in instances of sexual abuse by priests are “criminal facts” as well as serious sins, and require cooperation with the civil justice system.

Vatican, Rome. Image: Pixabay

Yet, the major contradiction in church related abuse is the secrecy in which the Vatican and Hierarchies of the Catholic church handles the sex abuse cases. In the above mentioned incidents as well as many other, there is a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-ups by the Catholic Dioceses. Horrifically, many clergies who were accused of sexually abusing young priests and seminarians are seen promoted to higher ranks within the hierarchy of church offices as business as usual.

During the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, it was revealed before the Commission that a 1974 Pontifical secret rule, an instruction from the pope, also known as Secreta Continere, imposed strict secrecy on the investigation and handling of child abuse allegations within the church. The Catholic church’s “pontifical secret” rule directed the bishops from disclosing child sexual abuse allegations in states where there is no provision for mandatory reporting laws.

The actions of the Diocese in the Nun case.

From the beginning, the Indian Dioceses called this incident as a false claim aimed at the money of the Diocese. The diocesan curia stated that it has decided to “go all out and fight the false case” against the bishop. During the on-going investigation, the family of the nun came forward alleging that the Bishop offered to give Rs 5 crores(7 million USD)and a top position to the nun in her congregation if she and her family stopped pursuing the rape case against him.

In this alleged incident, the dioceses in India tried to cover up the matter and spoke against the victim nun in the media. Simultaneously, a complaint was filed for the Bishop with the police alleging that he was the victim of conspiracy of the nun who had been threatening to trap him in a sex scandal as an act of revenge for over a complaint from a woman who said the nun had some relationship with her husband. Later on, the police after inquiry informed that it was a false allegation against the nun. It is shocking to see how the Church resorted to such a low act of shaming the nun as a prostitute and characterless.

The political power of the Diocese and the Bishop was quite visible in this case, as the police tried to delay the arrest of the ex-Bishop unlike in other cases of rape. Most disheartening was how the The Missionaries of Church to which the victim as well as the protesting nuns belonged; abandoned them. Instead of supporting the women who have dedicated their lives to the group, they put out a press note stating that they are ashamed by the protest against the innocent Bishop.

The Silence from the Hierarchy

The police delayed action in the case. The Indian Diocese turned it’s back on the victim and is hostile to the nuns and other supporters from within the church. The Vatican did not make any comments so far. Perhaps considering the previous actions of the Vatican, one has to wonder if it is part of the Vatican’s global strategy.

It is now understood that three more nuns have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against the accused ex-Bishop. As the abuse incident is now a pending criminal investigation,only in time, we can see how the Indian dioceses and the sizable Catholic community in India will respond to the same.

Disclaimer: These are personal views expressed based on media and desk research material.

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Emerging Voices For Rights

Giving Voice to the global & local development issues. Adding context and sense to through the concepts on Human Rights, Gender Equality, Feminism and Law. Send in your contributions.

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