Anna Salter, in her well-researched book Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists and other Sex offenders has stated that “abuse is no less prevalent within the faith community” and in fact “faith community is more vulnerable to abuse than secular environment” and concluded that “religious people are most dangerous” in sexual exploitation. Sexploitation in the shadows of Churches is a tragic epidemic across the world, as confessed by Pope Francis in his many recent statements. The sexual abuse scandals which engulfed the churches of all denominations across the world have not left untouched the Indian Churches. The South Indian States with the coastal areas, which were initial places for the establishment of Churches, are also in the lead in the sexual exploitation by the ordained priests. While the clergy abuse of children has received media and legal attention, the more devastating and widespread clergy abuse of adult women and innocent teenagers was kept under wraps to protect the sanctity and respect of the Church. In the book When Pastors Prey: Overcoming the clergy Sexual Abuse of Women (Edited by Boobal Batchelor), “Sextortion –demanding sexual favours as the price of favourable treatment by those in authority is abhorred by Lady Brenda Hale, President of the International Association of Women Judges. Church-centric sexploitation is recognised by the contributors to the book When Pastors Prey, as the most horrific expression of long-standing Christian mistreatment of women.
Sexual abuse of students in missionary schools
- In March 2023, 50-year-old Lawrence, who claimed to be a Church employee, exploited Class XI girl’s poverty to satiate his sexual urges in Madurai, Tamil Nadu
- In March 2023, an inmate of a teenage girl of Nambikkai Hope Children Home (HCH) on Beach Road in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, made sexual harassment and assault charges against its owner Parameswaran, his wife, her brother and two more
- In January 2022, the Tamil Nadu Police began probing the suicide of M Lavanya, a student of standard 12th in Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, Thirukattupali in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, based on her dying declaration where she alleged that the Govt-aided Christian missionary school she went to had been pressuring her to convert to Christianity
- The school had allegedly forced Lavanya to convert to Christianity saying that she has to change her religion if she wanted to study further. But the girl refused, said her parents
- In January 2022, Christopher Jebakumar, the HM of Samaria Yovan Higher Secondary School in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, was accused of sexually harassing the 12th standard students
- In November 2021, Jesudas Raja, 65 years, a Christian children’s home founder, has been arrested for sexually abusing girl inmates
- In March 2018, Chennai Police arrested G Jayapaul, Principal of Montfort School in Perugudi, for sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl
- In October 2019, Class IX student of Holy Cross School at Pabiachhara in Kumarghat, Tripura died at GBP hospital after being allegedly tortured repeatedly by the hostel warden. The deceased student has been identified as Happy Debb
The sexual exploitation of women within the ‘sanctified’ Church compounds in India has not received the media attention it deserves. The political parties’ dependent on Church donations and election campaigns through churches have successfully camouflaged or ignored the happenings right under their administration. For them, a Church-controlled vote bank is more paramount than the dignity of women and crimes perpetuated on women. Not a single opportunity is missed to trap innocent women by Pastors. In fact, their means of sexploitation is as good as the criminal mafia way.
Unholy Activities of Holy Man
The latest incident that happened in Tamil Nadu in the second week of March is tracking and arresting the priest Benedict Anto of Syrio-Malankara Catholic Church of Kanyakumari, who was on the run ever since his sexual exploits became public. Around 150 videos were seized from the residence of this ‘holy man’ in which he was seen kissing young girls, and performing indecent acts. At the last count, the ‘holy man’ was reportedly engaged in ‘sexual services’ with at least 80-85 ‘faithful’ girls, and women. A month before this, the Christian couple Jubin Baby and his wife Maria were arrested for sexual assault and torture of women in the unlicensed shelter home which they were running in Villupuram in the same State. That home, Anbu Jothi Ashram, has been in existence without a licence since 2005. However, officials of women welfare never cared to take action. There was a network of such illegal ‘homes’ run by Christian organisations in the State of Tamil Nadu. The rationalist DMK Government has shut its eyes for obvious reasons despite nefarious activities happening through organised Abrahamic religions.
DMK in Denial Mode
A year before, in Thanjavur, a Hindu schoolgirl was mentally tortured for refusing to convert to Christianity while staying in their Sacred Heart School hostel. For her defiance, the poor girl was allotted menial jobs in the hostel. Till the girl committed suicide, after giving the graphic details of happenings in the hostel in a self-recorded video, the MK Stalin Government was in denial mode on the reported ‘forced conversions happening in the Christian institutions in Tamil Nadu.
Media in Cahoots with Church
Sexual abuse within the Church premises by the ‘ordained holy men in robes’ is an established fact. Only a minuscule of such abuses is coming out into public while large number of such incidents are ‘settled’ within the Church. Worryingly, the committed ‘rationalist’ media of Tamil Nadu is hand in glove with the Church to suppress the stories of harassed women or twist the story against the victims. In many cases, the Church-fed story of consensual relations, women of low character trapping the holy priest, are circulated much before the official investigation by the police is initiated. Despite all such attempts, the truth of sexual offences by the men in holy robes is brought out by the nuns and other girls now and then.
Crime by Men in Robes
A glance at the police records in Tamil Nadu reveals that many priests are facing sexual abuse charges. Pastor John Robert of Mandapam area in Rameswaram molested a young girl, Robin Vadakkumcherry fathered a child and tried to silence the victim by offering money and Priest Arunanai Stephen was booked for gang-raping the woman and filming that act. Similarly, Pastor Christudoss of Srivilliputtur was arrested under the POCSO Act and Pastor David Jacob of the Pentecostal Church of Tirunelveli was on the list of accused of sexual abuse. Anil Kumar of Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh was accused of forceful marriage, wrongful confinement of women and abortion. In the same district, daughter of a Pastor exposed the nefarious sexual exploitative activities of his father and got him arrested. Pastors are facing POCSO cases and rape charges in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala. The list is quite lengthy. Sexploitation of women is due to the perversions of men in robes as is evident from the case of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.
Church Abuse across the Globe
- In Germany, as per an AP report, released June 13, 2022, it was found that between 1945 and 2020, at least 196 clerics in the German Catholic diocese of Muenster sexually abused minors
- In Italy, over a million Italian children have been abused by Church priests in the last seven decades
- In Canada, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on July 18, 2022, approved the sale of the Basilica Cathedral and 12 other churches to settle the claims of sexual abuse victim at the Mount Cashel orphanage from 1940s to 1960s
- In France, 3,30,000 children were sexually abused within Catholic Church in the last 70 years
- On April 3, 2023, Victoria’s highest court in Australia has upheld a ruling finding the Catholic Church liable for sexual abuse by a paedophile priest
- The case involves a then five-year-old boy, DP, who was abused by Father Bryan Coffey at his parent’s home in Port Fairy during pastoral visits in 1971
The question why the victims of sexual abuses in the Church have not come out into the open all these years has an indirect answer in the words of John Dayal, the former president of All India Catholic Union. He told CNN, “Because all religious authorities including the Church are held in such a high regard that it makes harder for the victim to expose the culprit”. The Christian community will not believe the victim because they hold the priest in such high esteem.
Narrating Nightmarish Incidents
Women have understood the exploitative ways of the Church and are now openly coming out, narrating the ways they are trapped, duped, enslaved and exploited sexually, leaving them in trauma. In one incidence, the Pastor cleverly used the confessional statement made in confidence with him by a newly married woman. The woman not only confessed regarding her pre-marital affair and handed over the letters and photographs with his earlier lover to the Pastor, who is considered as the representative of God. This faithfulness was taken advantage by the Pastor to blackmail her and made that lady surrender sexually to him.
Defending the Indefensible
The Pastors, flush with foreign funds and driving luxurious cars, lured innocent girls with money and tours to different places where they built guest houses and were sexually exploited. The innocent girls were impregnated and later aborted in the Christian missionary-run hospitals. Some girls committed suicide as the Church elders blamed her ‘easy submission’ as the root cause and absolved the clergy by saying that “he is doing the natural manly act” and it is the duty of women to keep her chastity intact as per the preaches. So the Church and Christian elders tactically sided with the protection of ‘secrecy’ and ‘purity’ of the Church and blamed the girls for overstepping those limits and trying to blame the pastors for their ‘original sin’. The pastors are using social media to lure the girls. The WhatsApp chats revealed the late-night lewd messages, posting porn site links, and money offers for rendering sexual services have all been recorded in the mobiles of arrested priests and victims.
Sexual exploitation of nuns, who surrendered to the service of God, are lured by the clergy, who are under oath of celibacy, is surprising. The author Anna Salter states that only 3 per cent of sexually abused women are complaining. So one can imagine the magnitude of ‘sexploitation’ and the number of women sexploited within the congregations.
As a learned man said, “It is the Christian community that has to prioritise the lives of their children and women over the reputation of the Church”, as the elected governments in their states are not doing their constitutional duty of protecting the women from organised sexploitations.