By Matters India Reporter
Kochi, Feb. 16, 2019: The Syro-Malabar Church on February 16 welcomed a court awarding 20 years of jail to a Catholic priest in Kerala for raping and impregnating a minor girl.
“The Church acknowledges and welcomes the verdict,” says a press release from the Media Commission of the Oriental Church. The verdict is a warning and reminder for priests and those in higher positions not to act against their call and mission,” says the press note issued by commission chairperson Bishop Joseph Pamplany.
The verdict will help people to adopt a healthy approach in dealing with children and those likely to be exploited, the commission observes.
Earlier in the day, a court in Thalassery convicted and sentenced Father Robin Vadakkumchery, a former pastor of St Sebastian’s Church Kottiyoor, a parish under Mananthavady Syro-Malabar diocese, to a total of 60 years of imprisonment for various charges.
The court that deals with POCSO (Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act 2012) cases also imposed a fine of 300,000 rupees on the 51-year-old priest.
Judge P N Vinod ordered that the priest also give 150,000 to the victim, who was his parishioner.
The priest will spend 20 years in prison as the charges are concurrent.
The court acquitted other six other accused in the case – four nuns, a priest and a lay woman — as the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against them.
The rape case came to light after the victim delivered a baby boy in December 2016, at Christuraja Hospital in Kuthuparamba in Kannur district. Childline India officials intimated the police and a case was registered on February 27, 2017, by the Peravoor police. The girl was then shifted to an adoption center in Vythiri, Wayanad.
The priest was arrested while trying to flee to Canada.
The diocese suspended Father Vadakkumchery immediately after the case was registered, but did not defrock him.
The Syro-Malabar press release notes that the case, known as Kottiyoor case, had caused unease and unrest in society and among the faith.
“The priest was dismissed on the same day he was found to be guilty,” it adds.
The press release also welcomed the acquittal of six people who it says were unnecessarily dragged into the case.
“The verdict has demolished the attempts by certain vested interests to project an individual’s failure as a collective guilt of the entire Church,” it asserts.
The commission also points out that the court has found only the prime accused, Father Vadakkumchery, as the only accused in the Kottiyoor case. It urges those media outlets, which it said had tried to ridicule the other accused, to understand the truth and correct their stance.
Initially, 10 people were arrested in the case, including two doctors and an administrator of the hospital for their alleged role in the sexual exploitation and subsequent delivery of the baby by the minor girl.
The acquitted are Kottiyoor Palukachi native Thankamma alias Annamma, Sisters Liz Maria alias Elsie, Sister Anita, Sister Ophelia, Betty Jose and Father Thomas Joseph Therakam, former chairperson of Wayanad Child Welfare Council.