Clergy abuse: Bishop consoles demoralized parishioners
By Matters India Reporter
Kottiyoor: A Catholic bishop in Kerala on March 12 offered words of consolation to a parish demoralized by a clergy sex abuse scandal.
Bishop Jose Porunnedom of Mananthavady began his address at the St Sebastian’s Church in Kottiyoor by acknowledging that the parish and the Catholic Church have gone through passion and crucifixion in the past few days.
The 61-year-old prelate was referring to the February 28 arrest of Kottiyoor vicar Father Robin Vadakkumcherry for allegedly impregnating a minor girl. The 16-year-old girl, an eleventh grader, delivered a baby boy three weeks earlier. The police have also booked three nuns for their failure to inform government authorities about the minor’s delivery and removing the child to an orphanage.
The arrest and subsequent developments have put the Kerala Church under scanner.
“The death on the cross has not yet taken place. The way of the cross is still on. However, Christian faithful should cling to the hope that there is resurrection at the end of the journey to Calvary,” the prelate told the faithful.
It was Bishop Porunnedom’s first visit to the Kottiyoor parish after the 48-year-old priest’s arrest.
Father Jose Kacharackal, the diocese’s new public relations officer, said the parish visit on March 12 was scheduled much before the scandal broke, but it took place at an appropriate time. The parishioners showed great emotion and devotion during the Mass and other services the prelate conducted, he added.
The diocese had on March 1 removed its public relations officer Father Thomas Therakam amid allegations that he had aided the arrested priest to cover up the case.
Bishop Porunnedom recalled that he was the assistant pastor of Kottiyoor three decades ago, when the place had only limited facilities. “Although the parish has developed greatly, I cannot experience the joy I had decades ago,” he added.
However, the bishop commended the parishioners for their deep faith and maturity in handling various problems. “The number of people visiting the church has neither decreased, nor increased. This has proved that the Kottiyoor parish could uphold their faith and offer a great example of Christian living,” he added.
During the homily, the prelate reiterated his apology to the girl and her family. He had apologized to them earlier immediately after the scandal broke.
The bishop met all parishioners together after the Mass where new parish priest Father Thomas Manakkunnel welcomed the gathering.
Father Kocharackal said the parish elders explained to the prelate their anguish and pain with great maturity.
Bishop Porunnedom consoled them by quoting Jesus’s assurance that the Church was founded on the rock and no deluge could destroy it.
The prelate later met parishioners in smaller groups and interacted with the representatives of various pious organizations.
The parishioners assured the bishop that they would participate in parish activities with renewed enthusiasm. The visit ended only by 4 pm.
The Kottiyoor parish, established in 1962, has 980 Catholic families with a population of 5,000. It is a settlement of Catholics who migrated from central Kerala. It lies some 65 km east of Kannur, the district headquarters.