Scandal-hit diocese issues stringent guidelines
By Matters India Reporter
Mananthavady: A southern Indian diocese reeling under a clergy sex abuse scandal has decided to install surveillance cameras in all churches and presbyteries, set up grievance cells in parishes and impose five-year moratorium on construction works.
These are among 12 guidelines Mananthavady diocese issued on March 6 to avoid future scandals and bring transparency and propriety in the diocese.
The guidelines were drafted at a meeting of the priests and pastoral council members at the bishop’s house in Mananthavady.
The Syro-Malabar diocese has under come severe criticism after police arrested one of its priests for impregnating a 16-year-old girl, who delivered a baby boy on February 7.
The meeting has asserted that the diocese would do nothing to protect the accused priest, Father Robin Vadakkumcherry, and his alleged associates. The diocese denied the allegation that it has helped the associates to go into hiding.
The police have for the past four days searched in vain for two nuns, who worked in a hospital where the girl delivered, and three other nuns of an orphanage where the child was later admitted. They are also on the lookout for a male doctor and a lay woman who had allegedly helped Father Vadakkumcherry to hide the scandal.
“The diocese has done nothing to hide the accused. They have sought and followed legal advice for their own safety,” said a March 7 note from the diocese.
The diocese said it plans to impose the guidelines in the light of current scandal.
It said the parish grievance cells comprising priests, religious and lay people will address and solve all complaints locally. No new construction works would be undertaken in the diocese for the next five years. Only those already underway would be allowed to complete.
No punitive action would be taken against those defaulting donations or contributions to parishes and the diocese.
The diocese says there is no need for altar girls. If they are engaged, proper and separate arrangements should be made for them, the guidelines say.
Under no circumstances would women or girls be allowed into priest’s residence. Only the parish priest and assistant priests are allowed to spend the night at the presbytery.
Besides, installing CCTV cameras, the priests are asked to conduct counseling only in the open.
The diocese has banned parishes or priests arranging foreign trips for individuals or groups. Father Vadakkumcherry was accused of sending scores of young girls to work in Canada.
The diocese will accept any written complaint against any church worker provided it carries a valid address.
It has strictly barred priests from using pulpit to defame parishioners and others.
Earlier, Bishop Jose Porunnedom of Mananthavady had apologized to the girl and her family. The diocese also sacked its publish relations officer who had alleged helped the accused priest.