Indian Catholic News

‘Zero tolerance towards sexual assault’: Kerala Bishops

The guidelines asked to ensure a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults at Christian institutions.


Reporting sexual offence cases to concerned authorities, cooperating in the investigation, avoiding inappropriate physical contact with minors and abstaining from taking overnight trips with them, are some of the key guidelines issued by the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) to church personnel in the backdrop of sexual assault cases tumbling out from within the community.

The guidelines, sent to Catholic presbyteries, churches, educational and religious institutions and houses of special care under the KCBC, come after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) asked to ensure a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults at Christian institutions.

The recent allegations of rape and sexual assault against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar diocese had led to a massive upheaval within the Church.

A nun belonging to the order of Missionaries of Jesus had accused Mulakkal of raping her several times between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in Kerala. The nun’s colleagues had proceeded to sit on an indefinite strike in Kochi demanding his arrest. In September last year, the bishop was arrested after three days of questioning by the Kerala Police and sent to judicial remand for three weeks. He’s currently out on bail.

A key KCBC official said the guidelines were prepared and disseminated to concerned authorities back in June last year and that the reporting of the rape case against Mulakkal was only ‘accidental.’

“We had already started the work on this before it (Franco rape case) happened. Meanwhile, it came at that time. The guidelines have been sent to respective bishops and dioceses. All the priests are well aware of it,” said Fr Jolly Vadakken, one of the commission secretaries.

“The Pope has addressed this issue several times. This is part of the reformation policy of the Church,” he added.

One of the key guidelines of the KCBC reads, “Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults are heinous crimes and grave sins.”

The Church body stated that it has ‘zero tolerance towards sexual assault’ and that any such incident must be reported to church and civil authorities. A ‘high degree of caution’ must be applied in matters of physical contact between adults and minors and that such physical contact must be entirely ‘non-sexual’ and ‘incapable of being misconstrued by the minor or others.’

“No minor shall reside in any church rectory or other living quarters of priests…,” another guideline reads. “Overnight trips alone with a minor should be avoided. Do not take photographs of the minors when they are unclothed or are dressing,” one reads.

The guidelines also bar church personnel from indulging in sexually offensive humour and viewing and exhibiting any sexually explicit or morally inappropriate material in the presence of minors and vulnerable adults.

Source: Indian express

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