The All India Christian Association (AICF), headed by Savio Rodrigues, has declared support of a victim who has allegedly been sexually harassed by one Fr. Xavier Alphonse.
The accused is a former Principal and Director of the Alumni Association of Loyola College in Chennai. The victim, in this case, is reportedly a senior member of the faculty at the said college. As per the report, the Loyola College has been non-cooperative in the victim’s fight for justice, thus compelling her to approach the Madras High Court in 2016. Even though the court had issued notices to Xavier Alphonse, yet he did not file a response in the past four years.
Savio Rodrigues, who is the president of AICF, conceded that sexual abuse is an evil that exists within the Catholic Church. He emphasised that all such crimes must be dealt with severely and quickly. Rodrigues has accused the powerful institution of the Jesuit order of shielding Alphonse. He added, “Alphonse assumes that under the protection of a powerful institution of the Jesuit Order – Loyola College, Chennai, he is safe. This attitude is behind the reason there has been no reply to High Court notices for 4-years from the accused priest and from the Loyola College as well.” Rodrigues further emphasised that he believed in the power of Judiciary and will use legal expertise to ensure justice to the victim.
Silence of Loyola College administration
The President of AICF stated that the organisation has decided to support the victim because she has been fighting for her dignity and self-respect. When her family reached out to the AICF, they decided to take up the case and fight for her justice. Rodrigues added that the management and alumni of Loyola College are powerful, they have maintained a stoic silence on the issue. Reportedly, AICF had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi concerning sexual abuse in various denominations of Christianity with a specific mention of Jesuit abuse in India.
Lack of transparency in Jesuit Order in India
The All India Christian Forum has acknowledged the efforts made by Jesuit Curia in Rome for conducting two separate investigations in the case. However, he expressed disappointment that the Society of Jesus in India failed to publish the report of his recent investigation. Savio Rodrigues has demanded a secular/external investigation to prevent corrupt clergy from ‘influencing fact-finding and reporting’. Highlighting a botched up investigation, he remarked that the victim was not interviewed during the initial investigation. Rodrigues further noted that the Jesuit order in India has failed to maintain transparency and openness.
Demand for an independent inquiry
The President of AICF has also called out the silence of the Loyola college administration and accused it of being primarily concerned about its reputation instead of addressing the grievance of the victim. “We are not lawyers, police, prosecutors, or judges. But, we realise it’s possible that corrupt clergy like Xavier Alphonse might be deemed innocent of the charges he faces,” the press release stated. The organisation has demanded an independent inquiry into the Loyola College sexual harassment case to avoid any ‘outside intervention.’