Living in Rome I witness the tremendous efforts and initiatives taken to address and prevent the evil of sexual abuse committed by the church personnel. However, as an Indian, the news that comes from India in these days is saddening and frustrating to me. To make a long story short of: from last June the accusation of rape brought against the Bishop of Jalandhar in India is making headlines in the social media. In September, the nuns staged an indefinite protest demanding the arrest of the bishop accused of raping a nun, and as a result the accused is arrested, and as of October 20th, he is out on bail. The five nuns who stood by the victim fear for their lives, and not with out cause — the priest who was a prime witness in the case recently died in a mysterious way. The Bishops and priests are powerful not only in their positions but also with their possessions. This is an open truth in the Indian Church.
The accused is the first Bishop in India who has ever gone to jail for a sexual abuse case. The news report that the victim has “begged them for justice for two years but to no avail, “Church leaders have weighed in to influence the civil process in defence of the accused, but the victim and the supporting nuns have received tremendous public support and media attention. What disturbs me is the question: All these months and now, where is the Indian Church? Is it possible that the church leadership cannot see a way to deal with these issues and defend the powerless? If the Indian Church leadership and religious leadership had risen to the occasion, would the nuns sit in for a protest? What is its stand in this case and many other cases stinking under the carpet?
I am sorry to acknowledge that many Indian nuns are also accusing the sister involved for going public. They have held her responsible for tarnishing the image of the Church, which is a minority in Indian society. Which is more important? Church image or justice and condemnation of evil? Even if the nun is an adult, the one responsible, the accused, is a Bishop and the founder of her congregation, hence this accusation constitutes an abuse of power. How can one excuse him as nonculpable? The Church Guidelines (2011) invited the Episcopal Conferences to pay attention to four vital aspects in the selection and training of the seminarians, one among them is the “responsibility of the cleric for spiritual fatherhood”. The Bishop is one responsible for the training of the seminarians. How can he be excused for failure in practicing his “spiritual fatherhood”?
One of the victims noted the mistakes of the Church in dealing with the reports on child sexual abuse as, “Trying to save the institution from scandal has caused the greatest of all scandals and has perpetuated the harm of the abuse and destroyed the faith of many victims.” The same could be said of what is happening to the Indian Church in the wake of abuse scandals. A defensive attitude or outright denial before what is evident. Pope Francis asks to give greatest attention to the “theme of protection of minors and vulnerable adults” (9 June 2016). Is the Indian Church listening to its supreme leader? If it were following the shepherd’s voice, where are the effects of policies and guidelines in protection and prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable? The power of the bishop still seems to know no limit, even in the face of a credible accusation of abuse.