How Long Before We Raise A Storm Over Crimes In Indian Churches?

  • Thanks to vote-bank politics and a media that looks the other way, crimes committed by the church in India never get exposed or discussed.
  • Aravindan NeelakandanSaturday, June 30, 2018 9:14 am IST
    The church can never be crucified in India, it appears. (DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)
    The church can never be crucified in India, it appears. (DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)

    The now-viral news story of the abuse of a confessing wife by a ring of Catholic priests is a worrisome development. One seemingly good tiding is that the state police chief has ordered a crime branch probe into the scandal. But every bright shine has a dark lining. It is a well-known fact that in Kerala, the church can dictate terms to many in the police force.

    A case in point is the Abhaya murder case. The nun was murdered in 1992. It was after a lot of effort and years as well as a court order that it was found in 2008 that the original forensic evidence had been tampered with in order to shield the real culprits. Such is the clout that the religious institution in Kerala wields over the secular establishment.

    It is also a well-known fact that the Catholic Church has the institutional capacity for systemic abuse of vulnerable sections of society even in societies where laws against abuse are stringent. Its clout in India is disproportionately greater. In Kerala especially, we already have had warnings in the form of biographies of ex-nuns and priests.

    Sister Jesme wrote about sexual abuse in her book Amen: The Autobiography Of A Nun after she left the Catholic Church. That was in 2009. She was mercilessly attacked by the church and its cohorts as mentally unstable. In 2010, a male priest, barely after two years in priesthood, made a revelation about sexual exploitation in the church. Then in 2012, a 68-year-old nun, who was in a church for 13 years, came out with her autobiography that had in it an uncanny corroboration of the above two accounts.

    Or consider the case of the notorious human trafficking case of the 1970s. Today, it has resurfaced in our memory only because of a documentary made by a few Catholics. In fact, Sonia Dougal had brought out the nature of this human trafficking affair that was going on through the Vatican’s agents in Kerala. Dougal exposed a massive ring of exploitation in nun trafficking in her book Nun-Runners. Recruits from Kerala sent to Germany and Italy in the name of making them nurses were forced to do menial jobs, while the Convents paid the priests in India for the girls. Some were said to have even ended up as sex workers. That this was not an aberration and the Vatican knew about this ring as early as the mid-1960s, yet silently encouraged it, was exposed by the famous Vatican Paper (1978) by the famous investigative journalist Nino Lo Bello. There is every possibility that the trafficked ‘nuns’ may even have been made to say that the theo-indentured labour phenomenon brokered by the church men of India-Vatican axis actually empowered and liberated them from the caste-ridden Indian society.

    What should astonish anyone is the complete absence of media cry for a national enquiry into this gruesome phenomenon of institutional abuse and exploitation that is happening inside an Indian church. It is not only the church that should be considered guilty in this systemic abuse. Indian ‘secular’ polity, which has corrupted the enlightenment ideal of humanism into an opportunist vote-bank policy, is also equally responsible for abetting this vast scandal.

    Stray reports in the national media that reported sex scandals and murders which were brought to light, did talk about the role of foreign money and the power of the church, going beyond sleaze and sensation. An example is a 2013 report by India Today which exposed the abuse and subsequent murder of Marykutty by a Catholic priest. Reporting about “the increasing sex crimes of priests”, the reporter pointed out that “one reason could be that the church in Kerala, be it Catholic or Protestant, has no dearth of money” and that crores of rupees from foreign religious funding agencies are pumped into the church every year (‘Marykutty murder case: Kerala priest gets death sentence’, India Today, 5 March 2013). However, the church was able to stop and, true to the nature of the media, there were no television debates or opinion-editorials written by outraged feminists.

    The power that the Catholic Church wields today in India is the kind of power a Pope of the inquisition era would have desired. Not just the Catholic Church but also the different denominations of Western fundamentalist churches such as the Baptist Church wield a power that they cannot even imagine in the secular West.

    In India, the situation is very similar to what it was at the time of the Roman empire under Constantine when he was still officially a pagan king with a strong bias for Christianity. His empire was still technically a pagan empire or, in a way, a secular empire, but the laws in their bias gravitated towards the church. In India too, the situation is eerily similar. It is technically a secular state, but its laws only target ‘pagan’ Hinduism and its polity is biased towards the church.

    But there is also an important difference.

    The church in India is not the fidgeting sapling that it was during the times of Constantine. Constantine only saw in the emerging cult a potential to build a strong power structure with which masses could be controlled. But now in India, the church is a full-fledged powerful transnational entity. It operates on a surplus gained by global colonialism, not to mention the massive wealth amassed during the friendly fascist regime in Italy. In India, in every major city, the church is one of the, if not the, largest real estate owner. What the church lost in Europe during the enlightenment era, it has been able to gain in India. For its believers, the church reigns supreme and commands the same power that the medieval church commanded in Europe during the Dark Ages. The church in India thus can exploit humanity without the least bother. It knows how to manipulate the media and it has already cultivated a mechanism to switch on and off secessionist movements in various parts of India in case any government dares to probe it.

    While in the United States the Catholic Church was on its evasive, defensive best with regard to the child sex scandal, in India, even if the media exposes it, which it certainly will not, the government will not be able to touch the church as it will put on its aggressive mask with international cries of ‘victimisation’ of the believers of the Gospel by the “idol worshiping dark skinned heathens”. An example of this is the case of the priest sending obscene messages to a child in Rajasthan. When this news surfaced, the reports in the Catholic media worldwide emphasised how Rajasthan was ruled by the “Hindu nationalist” Bharatiya Janata Party. The Bishop brazenly told the media that the church was with the jailed priest. The church blamed the family of the victim and then made the accusation that the “cross” was imposed on the priest. The tone was clearly combative.

    The same was the case with the church’s response in the case of Sukanya of Omallur. In 2006, a girl was found dead under mysterious circumstances in the Catholic Church-run Omallur Fatima Girls Higher Secondary School. The death was staged as a suicide. However, blood and broken bangles along with condoms and liquor bottles were also found on the campus. This stirred suspicion among the public. Faced with public anger, an obliging Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) minister requested the school authorities to at least transfer their staff in order to pacify the agitated crowd. The Bishop, however, rejected the suggestion. “This is a minority institution and not a government school”, he reminded the minister. Later, forensic tests revealed that the girl who committed suicide had indeed been molested (Dinakaran [Tamil daily], 21 November 2006, and Tuglak [Tamil weekly], 25 July 2007). In the West, the church would not dare do this, but in India it can and it will.

    Hindus in India, particularly the political Hindus, have to understand an important point here. It is easy to use the Kerala scandal to take potshots at the church and gain brownie points over Christians. And given the way the media is criminally silent about the exploitation and scandals in the church and the way the media becomes hyper-hysterical when it comes to even an allegation of a scandal in a Hindu institution, it is natural for Hindus to do so.

    But the problem is larger. The crisis of sex scandals and exploitation can arise in any institution that emphasises celibacy and religious authority. It can happen in Hindu organisations as well. But what differentiates the church is its institutionalisation and the notorious ability to buy the silence of the victims. In the West, the real secular environment has been able to fight against this, but not with complete success. But it did fight against this dark nature of the church and made it pay to some extent. In India, with vote-bank politics and Constantine-like inclination of the polity towards anti-Hindu forces of evangelical Islamo-Marxism, this can result in an abuse of gigantic proportions. With the ability of the church to run a parallel government fortified by vote-bank politics, this can result in a phenomenal human misery – perhaps of unheard proportions in human history. And we have a notorious ability to remain blind.

    When was the last time you heard any of these cases of exploitation discussed in those literary festivals run by the Lutyens’ cartel-sponsored feminist and progressive events?

    After all, the longest-run Catholic inquisition happened in India and in Goa. And we have turned it into a forgotten footnote in history. The sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children by the Catholic Church in India may be the greatest hidden crime of the church, but we are ready to shut our eyes in plain sight and pretend that this is secularism!

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