Reports came in recently that the Vatican has formed a one-man probe panel to investigate the allegations of rape against Bishop Franco of the Missionaries of Jesus after the victim wrote to the authorities of the Church seeking justice.
And now the accused Bishop has written to the Pope seeking permission to step aside from his duties as he is set to appear before the Kerala Police on September the 19th. In the letter, he has maintained his innocence and claimed that the allegations against him are ‘sad and painful to the faithful’.
First and foremost, one wonders what purpose the probe panel of the Vatican will serve. The findings of the Church shall have no legal standing as the matter is being already investigated by the Kerala Police. And one also wonders what is the need for the Vatican to get involved now when the campaign for justice for the alleged victim has gained momentum. If the intentions of the Vatican are honest, then it should take action against Missionaries of Jesus for revealing the identity of the victim in violation of Indian law before proceeding any further. But the Vatican authorities have taken no action against the Church body thus far for its persistent slander campaign against the nun and has issued no statement to that effect either.
More importantly, the track record of the Vatican suggests that we are unlikely to decipher any useful information from its investigation. The Vatican has a history of covering up sexual abuse by its clergymen. Time and again, it has proved that their reputation is of more value to them than the well-being and the health of the hundreds and thousands of children and women who have been abused and sexually exploited by Catholic priests. Thus, the probe panel formed by the Vatican, more than anything, appears to be a desperate PR campaign to salvage some manner of credibility as it staggers from one crisis to the next due to its long history of paedophilia.
It is important to remember that the Pope himself is accused of indulging in the cover-up of sexual abuse allegations against a senior member of the Church. And the allegations were made by an Archbishop himself. The Archbishop also asserted that the Church had become more mafia-like over the years and that the Pope should step down from his position. Under such circumstances, the probe panel formed by the Vatican appears more incredulous as the Vatican itself is headed by a man who has been accused by a colleague of promoting a man who exploited children to higher echelons of power.
The past couple of months have been very bad for the Catholic Church to put it mildly. On July the 31st, the Vatican was rocked after Chile raided various church offices in a massive crackdown as a consequence of child sex abuse allegations against the clergy. Then, on the 14th of August, a Grand Jury Report stated that the Catholic Church had covered up sexual abuse by its priests in Pennsylvania, USA for decades. Then, on the 27th of August, the Pope himself was accused of being aware of sexual abuse allegations against a now disgraced senior Church official and yet promoting him. And only days earlier, a study commissioned by the Church itself revealed that over 3,600 children were sexually abused by its men in Germany between 1946 and 2014.
Under such circumstances, it is absolutely bewildering that the Church has formed a panel to investigate the allegations of rape against Bishop Franco because their resources are obviously spent better elsewhere. Because who knows how many more skeletons lie buried in the closet? But of course, instead of investigating the culture of sexual abuse and pedophilia that has gripped the Catholic clergy, the Church instead chooses to investigate allegations which are already being investigated by the Kerala Police who can be safely said, despite their many inadequacies, a million times more competent at the job and more importantly, far more accountable than the Vatican has proven to be.
There is also the issue that India is a sovereign nation with its own set of laws and authorities to manage its own affairs. The allegations against the Bishop is not merely an internal affair of the Church anymore as the alleged offence is a criminal offence under Indian laws. The Vatican, instead of investigating the allegations against the accused, should instead seek to better understand the culture within its institutions that allows its clergymen to sexually abuse the vulnerable with impunity and the mentality that motivates church bodies to staunchly defend the accused and initiate a slander campaign against the alleged victim. It is not the first time that such a thing has happened and considering the culture of sexual abuse that has gripped the Vatican, it is unlikely to be the last. Therefore, instead of investigating allegations that are already being investigated by law enforcement authorities of a sovereign nation, it should spend its resources trying to develop solutions for the rape culture within its walls.