Blame the victim and shield the accused: Church’s way of dealing with rape accusations

The weekly magazine Indian Currents, owned by the Catholic church and published under the patronage of the Capuchins of the Krisht Jyothi province of North India, has published a guest column by author AJ Philip. The article, titled ‘Villians as victims’ openly supports the rape accused Bishop Franko Mulakkal and the priests of the Malankara Orthodox Church against whom allegations of rape and abuse were filed recently.

The article starts with hailing the cordial behaviour and sense of humour of Bishop Fanko, with several anecdotes and examples, the author tries to establish that the Bishop was a great man. The author also mentions he knows the bishop personally and how he had inspired them to write an article about the canonization and subsequent sainthood of sister Alphonsa. He also cites how a priest in the US was ‘caught’ by a camera installed by a woman’s husband while he had gone to their house to settle a marital dispute between the two.

On the issue of the rape allegations against the priests of the Malankara church, the author states his mother belonged to that church and thus he has some idea about their traditions.

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He goes ahead to assert why pre-marital counselling is important by citing a trivial anecdote of an incident in Delhi when a husband slapped his wife on their wedding night because she drank the whole glass of milk.

The author makes great attempts to malign the nun who had put rape allegations against bishop Franko. He insinuates that the nun was at a prominent position in the church and hence she presumably could not have been raped. He also questions the fact that why did the nun not complain when she was ‘getting raped’.

The author even tries to paint the rape accusation as being a motivated assault as the nun wanted to be posted in a prominent position and did not want to be transferred elsewhere.

Coming to the rape allegations on the priests of the Malankara Orthodox Church, the article even goes some extra lengths to project that the woman, when she was 16, had consensual sex and it was not rape.

The author further attempts to suggest that the woman was in a physical relationship with many men. He specifies that 2 of these men were Hindu. The article states, “As I mentioned if the “rape” at age 16 was indeed a “rape”, it was not at all a sin to be confessed. She should have told her parents about the rape and they would have seen to it that the man was put behind bars. He would not have become a priest in due course.” He suggests that as the woman in question had not told her parents about being raped at 16 and had at no point complained to the authorities about being raped by the priests, her intentions must be questionable. He states that the case came to highlight only because her husband got to know of a credit card transaction made at a hotel in Kochi where the woman had spent a day with one of the priests.

In an attempt to totally absolve the priests and bishop of any wrongdoing, the article even brings in Adam and Eve. Insinuating the intentions of the victims and a superior agenda in both the cases, the article states “sex is never a one-sided affair’.

Ironically, as per a report in the Times of India, the cover story of the magazine published an editorial and the main story pointing out that women’s safety is a big issue in India.

Crimes against women, children and numerous allegations of sexual abuse and rape have always maligned the Catholic Church worldwide. Indian churches are no exception. The irony, however, is that the church mouthpieces and authorities, while being overtly vocal to preach on political and other trivial issues, even claiming random incidents of vandalism as ‘Christianity under attack in India’ maintain a conspicuous silence over it. None of the church authorities has come out to condemn the case of child trafficking in Jharkhand. On the other hand, an active propaganda to whitewash the crimes committed by priests seems to be underway.

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