A Christian priest, Fr. Saji Joseph, in Kerala has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting two minor boys at a children’s home, police said on Tuesday. The victims were staying at St. Vincent’s ‘Balbhavan’ in Meenangadi where the priest was working, a police official said. The incident reportedly took place during the vacation time last year.
Fr. Saji Joseph was arrested following complaints from the parents of the children. He was absconding for the past three days and was arrested from Thamarassery near here on Monday. The priest who hails from Kottiyoor in Kannur district hid at various places, including Mangaluru.
Police said Joseph has been charged under section 377 (unanatural offences) of the Indian Penal Code, and relevant provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act.
A news report in Deccan Chronicle informs us –
“One of the boys had revealed to parents that he was subjected to sexual abuse by the priest last year.
The family informed the Parents Teachers’ Association of the school and later to the Childline volunteers. During the inquiry by Childline, the child had named another boy who was also subjected to sexual abuse. The case was registered under the report of Childline to Superintendent of police Rajpal Meena. On complaints from parents earlier the priest was transferred to Angamally. “
The fact that the priest was transferred would suggest that Church authorities tried to cover up the case instead of working with law enforcement to prosecute the criminal. This disturbing trend has been observed in many past cases of child sex abuse involving Christian clergy as well.
Child sexual abuse in Christian institutions like orphanages, schools, seminaries, hostels etc is a huge issue in Bharat and abroad – but it has never made headlines due to effective media management and the Church’s deep influence on power centers, especially the secular-liberal elites of Bharat.
On February 28, a Catholic priest Robin Vadakkancheril (48) had been arrested on the charge of raping a minor girl who later gave birth to a child. Vadakkancheril was a vicar at the St Sebastian’s Church in Kottiyoor. What was even more sickening in that case was how both the girl and her father were pressured by the Church authorities into falsely admitting that she was raped by her own father.
Here are some other recent cases of sexual abuse by Christian clergy & evangelists –
- In January 2017, a 65-year-old priest was arrested for abusing a 11-year old boy in the dormitory of the school of which he was Principal. The school was run by a charity organization that received funds from a Christian FCRA-NGO.
- In December 2016, Fr. Edwin Figarez from the Kottappuram Catholic diocese was sentenced to double life imprisonment under the POCSO Act for raping an underage girl multiple times in his capacity as the priest of a local church.
- In Oct 2016, a rector of a Catholic seminary in Kannur was arrested by the Irritty police for sexually assaulting a 21-year-old seminarian.
- In August 2016, a Catholic priest and four clergymen were arrested for raping and murdering college student Fathima Sophia in the Palakkad district.
- In March 2016, Sanil K James (35), a pastor attached to the Salvation Army, a Christian denominational church structured in a quasi-military fashion, was sentenced to 40-year rigorous imprisonment for raping a minor girl. James is also accused by another girl of raping her.
- April, 2016: Vatican directed the South India Catholic Church to reinstate an Indian Catholic priest, Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, who was convicted of sexually assaulting minor girls in USA
- Dec 2015: Forcibly converted to Christianity, hung by the wrists from a ceiling fan, starved for days, force fed beef and beaten mercilessly for failing to recite Bible passages—this is what a nine-year-old boy had to endure at an illegal Christian shelter run by the Emmanuel Seva Group in Greater Noida and Meerut.
- In 2015, Rev. Jose Varkey Palimattom was transferred by the Church in India to Florida, USA despite past sexual abuse of children in Bharat – the priest was later found guilty of showing pornographic material to a minor in US and sentenced to 6 months of jail.
- In 2015, Sister Anita who publicly protested against sexual harassment by a priest was hounded out of the Church, and after much determined fighting, was eventually given twelve lakh rupees in an out-of-court settlement and defrocked.
- Mar 2013: Grace Home, run by Pastor Jacob John, was raided in March 2013 and 53 children from North Eastern states like Manipur and Nagaland rescued. 4 children died due to their ordeal, a number of minor girls were sexually exploited, one got pregnant, and many suffered from severe physical deformities and mental retardation.
- Jan 2013: Father Egidius Francis Falcao, vice-principal of the National Institute of Open Schooling study centre at Don Bosco high school, Pune was arrested for allegedly molesting and attempting to rape a 14-year-old girl student. Police investigations revealed that Father Falcao was involved in similar incidents in previous schools in Mumbai and had been asked to resign from there – yet, he got bail in a few weeks
The excommunicated and defrocked former priest, Shibhu Kalamparampil in his autobiography, Oru Vaidikante Hrudayamitha (Here is the Heart of a Priest), likened nunneries to brothels.
It is time that we had an open discussion on the institutionalized manner in which sexual abuse is being carried out in various Christian organizations, with indifference at best and active connivance at worst of Church higher-ups.
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