I Think: Media passed judgement on the bishop before the courts could

Father Chackochan Kalapura, retired psychology professor, Kerala

I was following the case of Bishop Franco. It came on TV but when the Sabarimala issue came up, media people didn’t give much importance to that case. It’s been about two months now. There was news when he was arrested and news when he got bail. After that, there wasn’t much news.

When I saw the first account, we didn’t know what was the truth. We were not sure. At present too, we are not sure. The police were investigating the case, but the media was giving too much coverage. The media and political parties gave their support for the nuns. Because of popular support, the police were pressed to investigate. And because of the complaint, the bishop was arrested. Once the bishop was arrested and put in jail, then of course everything subsided.

The media is reporting, but when another issue comes up, their attention changes. That’s what happened in the case of the bishop.

I think the media gave it undue importance. Maybe because it was a bishop, maybe because it was about the church. Media could have waited to see what was the truth, but they passed judgement that the bishop was guilty even before the court could. Even now, the court hasn’t given its judgement.

Such incidents create a scandal in the community. Such things shouldn’t have happened between priests and sisters. Sexual assault is an issue and there are things happening, but it is not very widespread. Not so many incidents are happening.

For sexual assaults, the whole community should be held responsible. People have to live faithfully among the married and unmarried, practice sexual morality. There may be disagreements between couples, there might be temptations outside marriage. But these should not be encouraged by the society.

It is mainly through education in schools and colleges, as well as in the family that we can prevent such happenings. We have to educate people that this is not right. This is a violation against somebody. It should not happen in the society. Usually, this awareness starts with the family, the parents, then the schools and society, then the religious communities.

The media has a role but more than the media, the parents, the elders have to set an example. They have to practice the values which we are teaching our youngsters, and from the model of their parents and elders, the youngsters will also realise that this is the way you live in a society.

The media should not give undue importance and highlight abuses. They are rare incidents, not common practice — so they should not be given too much importance. When they are made sensational news, then youngsters will think that this is usually practised or accepted and going on everywhere, so there’s nothing wrong with it.

This is one in a series of articles that NewsTracker published from 25 November to 10 December as part of the #16Days activism, aligned with the UN’s International Day for Ending Violence Against Women. This piece appeared on Day 16.