The church bears the cross

Rape by priests. Blackmailing canons. Lying Cardinals. Nuns selling babies. The rot within the Indian church has spilled out, provoking intense introspection and call for reform from within the clergy.

One of the cardinal tenets of the Church is that what passes between a priest and his flock in a confessional booth are secrets the priest will take to the grave. It is also how absolution is sought and received, and penance prescribed. This belief was shaken when a 36-year-old married woman from Thiruvalla, Kerala, revealed to her husband that she was being sexually blackmailed by Father Job Mathew, the vicar of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, with threats of disclosure of her confession details—a sexual relationship with Fr Abraham Varghese when she was 17 years old, before and after he was ordained. The curate had also shared the details with two other canonical colleagues, Fr Johnson V Mathew and Fr Jaise K George who also reportedly raped her. She said a total of five priests had raped her over many years.

Unusual bank transactions from her bank account had alerted her husband, especially a deduction of `9,600 from her savings account towards settling a bill from a five-star hotel in Kochi. When confronted, she broke down, confessing that one of the holy blackmailers had taken her to the hotel for a tryst. She presented call details, chat history, social media accounts and bank statements. The husband pardoned her but petitioned Church authorities seeking action against the curates in vain. Disgusted, he went public. Fr Johnson V Mathew was arrested on July 13 but is on bail. He had surrendered to the police after the High Court first dismissed the anticipatory bail plea of three priests, observing they acted as “predators” and took “undue advantage” of the woman. Fr Abraham Varghese and Fr Jaise K George successfully moved the Supreme Court to get a stay order on their arrest until such time their petition is disposed. Fr Job Mathew too got bail from Kerala High Court last week.Read more

Source web page: The New Indian Express

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