A magazine backed by the Catholic Sabha in Kerala has put out an article that not only victim-shames a minor girl a priest allegedly raped and impregnated, but also attempts to absolve the church of any wrongdoing in the criminal act.
Dhanya Rajendran, writing for the News Minute, reported that the Sunday Shalom, a Christian weekly newspaper published in Malayalam and English, decided to put the onus of blame on the 16-year-old survivor, rather than on alleged sexual predator Father Robin or Mathew Vadakkancheril. Read what it had to say:
"Here, the girl is above the age of 15. Let me tell you this, as I consider you like my daughter - you are also at fault. Before the Lord, it is you who will have to answer first. Daughter, why did you forget who a priest is? He has a human body and has temptations. He may have forgotten his position for a few seconds, my child who has taken the Holy Communion, why didn't you stop or correct him?"
PTI added that the police in Kerala on Sunday intensified the search to trace seven accused, including five nuns and a doctor, who are on the run since the arrest of the Catholic priest. The five nuns and the gynaecologist of the church-run hospital, where the 16-year-old girl delivered a boy, continued to evade arrest. The search conducted for the second day on Sunday failed to yield any result, investigating officer Sunil Kumar told Press Trust of India. A helper, Thangamma, is among the accused absconding, he said.
Police had on Saturday said eight persons had been charged for their alleged role in hiding facts related to the case relating to the rape and subsequent delivery of the baby by the Class 11 student on February 7. They were booked under non-bailable sections.
Father Robin, who was the vicar of the local church at Kottiyoor in Kannur district and the prime accused in the case, was arrested on February 28. The girl, who attended the church-run school where the priest was the manager, had attended classes till February 6, a day before giving birth to the boy.
In a bizarre mail to the News Minute, Father Paul Thelekat of the Bishops' Council attempted to blame the rape on "consumerism".
"Consumerism is indeed a situation affecting everyone in the world and priests are also in the world. It is in celibacy and in virginity the crisis become apparent first, then it will become a crisis of fidelity in marriage with extra-marital and premarital sex. Women are presented as commodity both in media and in advertisements and all commodities as marketed with girls and women where human body is dehumanized," he wrote to TNM.
Meanwhile, Mananthavady Bishop Mar Jose Porunnedom on Sunday said the church would always be with the girl and her family. The church leadership had never tried to protect the accused, he said in a statement.
The Bishop also announced the removal of Church spokesperson Father Thomas Joseph Therakam, chairman of the Wyanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC), who is also at the centre of the controversy over the shifting of the girl's baby from the hospital to a church orphanage. Therakam, who has not yet been booked in the case, is also absconding.
"In this case, the church is with the victim and her family," the bishop said adding all the accused should be brought before law and the church would give its full support. However, those not guilty should not be punished, he said. The bishop had on Saturday apologised to the girl and her family.