Indian women want Catholic leaders to ‘join the floor’

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A group of Indian women have demanded strict measures against sexual predators within the Catholic Church, urging Cardinal Oswald Gracias to remove the accused priests and a bishop from their ecclesiastical duties.

The Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM) mentioned in a letter the recent acquittal of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar on charges of raping a nun. The nun who accused Bishop Mulakkal of raping her belongs to a diocesan congregation that operates under the bishop’s patronage.

“Is he the right person to celebrate the Eucharist or lead a diocese, even if he is acquitted?” the women asked in the letter.

The ICWN also wonders about the relief of the hierarchy following the acquittal of Bishop Mulakkal. “Is this an honorable acquittal? What are the moral and spiritual implications for the Church to consider when it “feels relieved” of the verdict? »

The women said Church leaders’ callous attitude to clerical abuse led a priest – Robin Vadakkumchery – to impregnate an underage girl in south Kerala in 2016.

In another case, Father Lawrence Johnson sexually abused an underage boy in the Archdiocese of Mumbai, where Cardinal Gracias is Archbishop in 2015.

The two priests were sentenced by the courts. Vadakkumchery was defrocked shortly after his conviction while proceedings are ongoing in the Johnson case.

You expressed concern about children, but dismissed abuse of teenage girls and women as ‘consensual’

The signatories of the letter demanded that the Catholic Church lead by example as an institution that guarantees justice and human rights.

“It is painful to read the trauma, agony and pain that a child, a family or a woman’s fight for justice generates,” the letter notes.

The letter was signed by ICWM National Secretary Marcia D’Cunha, Sister Philomena D’Souza, Astrid Lobo Gajiwala and Virginia Saldanha, as well as ICWM members and board members from other women’s organizations. important in the Catholic Church.

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It was emailed to Cardinal Gracias on January 22 because a personal meeting was not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions, the women said.

The ICWN officers reminded Cardinal Gracias of their January 7, 2012 meeting, where they raised the issue of the sexual abuse of girls and women.

“You expressed your concern about the children, but dismissed the abuse of teenage girls and women as ‘consensual’. But 10 years later, we are still awaiting a response,” the letter read.

They also urged the Cardinal to announce a clear and transparent policy on sexual abuse and put in place a well-defined structure to deal with it. At least 50 percent of competent women should be involved at all levels to deal with issues of sexual abuse.

Regarding the implementation of the Catholic Church Gender Policy (2010) and the CBCI Standards to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (2017), nothing else has happened. than “well-meaning speeches at the Vatican and mere symbolic gestures,” the ICWN said.

“It is our urgent request to audit parishes and church institutions with 10 or more employees to ensure they have internal complaints committees in accordance with the POSH (Prevent, Prohibit and Remedy) Act of 2013. It it’s time to follow the speech,” he said. .

The ICWM wants Catholic leaders in India to emulate Pope Francis and start an “open discourse on this issue. Sadly, the leaders of the Indian Church were “seen as sharing a table and breaking bread with the corrupt and the powerful”.

The women also urged all sensible people to break their silence and end the hypocrisy and “the culture of bullying and blatant dishonesty that seems to have plunged our church into an abyss of immorality.”

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