MUMBAI, India – A safe environment policy is to be implemented in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church after a series of scandals have hit the Kerala-based Church.
The decision was made on Thursday during the synod meeting of the Church which took place this week in Kochi.
The state of Kerala is the heartland of Christianity in India.
Special boards are to be established to hear clergy abuse complaints, and the process would involve the laity.
“In instances like child abuse, there is nothing much to do but to immediately report it to law enforcement authorities. The committees will enable such reportage. Also, it will have the responsibility to create awareness among those dealing with children about ideal practices,” Church spokesperson Father Varghese Vallikkatt said, according to the Times of India.
Others are questioning the effectiveness of the new policy.
“The church has already several bodies to debate about complaints. However, decisions are taken only by the bishop or other church heads. The same situation would prevail in the new policy also. So, I don’t expect this would render justice for the aggrieved persons in the church,” Reji Njallani, the chairman of the laymen body Kerala Catholic Reformation Movement, told The Indian Express.
A nun belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church has accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar in India’s Punjab state of raping her several times at her order’s convent in Kerala. Mulakkal is a native of Kerala.
Meanwhile several priests of the Kerala-based Malankara Orthodox Church have been accused of raping a teacher working at a church-affiliated school.
They are accused of blackmailing the woman for sexual favors. One of them had allegedly filmed a sexual encounter with the woman in the 1990s and threatened her with exposure if she didn’t submit.