Pope Francis has dismissed the Kerala vicar Robin Vadakkumchery from the priesthood who was last year convicted of raping and impregnating a minor girl and jailed for 20 years, Times of India reported.
According to media reports, Fr Jose Kocharakkal, official spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Mananthavady, said, "From now on, he will not have any priestly rights and duties. He will be known as Robin Vadakkumchery."
He had been convicted and sentenced by the Thalassery Protection of Children from Sexual Offences court in February 2019. Vadakkumchery was the vicar of St Sebastian Church at Neendunoki, in Kannur district. Only the Pope has the power to dismiss the priest of the Catholic Church from the priesthood.
On February 7, 2017, the girl developed severe pain in her abdomen. Her father, a labourer, was away from home. Her mother, a homemaker, and a family friend, Thankamma Nelliyani, took the girl to a nearby hospital, which referred her to Christu Raja Hospital, Koothuparamba, in Kannur, run by nuns of the Sacred Heart Congregation.
On examination, it was revealed that the girl was pregnant; she subsequently gave birth. She told her mother about the incident at the parsonage (house provided by a Church for its pastor), after which the family took up the matter with Vadakkuncheril, who offered to pay the hospital bill of Rs 30,000. The Bishop of Mananthavady, Mar Jose Porunnedom, was informed. The hospital informed ChildLine, the nodal agency of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, that a minor had delivered a baby.
The survivor, who was a teen when the crime occurred, was a student at a Church-run institution where father Robin was a teacher. She was sexually abused by Robin multiple times in 2016, leading to the girl being impregnated. In February 2017, she gave birth at Christu Raj Hospital in Thokkilangadi of Kannur District.
The case had undergone several hurdles, as the Church was accused of attempting to pressurise the family into covering up the incident. At one point, the survivor and her mother turned hostile in court, stating that the survivor was 18 years old when she was sexually abused. However, a Birth Certificate of the survivor showed that she was only 16 years old when father Robin raped her. Moreover, a DNA test conducted also revealed that Robin was responsible for the crime.
The Church was taken a soft stand against father Robin. In a column in the Church's magazine called Sunday Shalom stated that a priest could be tempted and even if he forgets himself for a moment, the survivor should have corrected him.
Several cases of sexual abuses by Church priests were registered. Goa Chronicle and Indian Expose – both publications mapped the crimes of the Christian clergy from 2014 based on four categories. The study revealed 109 cases of sexual assault, murder, fraud, and assault between 2014 and August 2019. According to the data collated by India Expose and Goa Chronicle, Kerala is the State with the highest number of reported cases of sexual abuse by clergymen - 21. Tamil Nadu ranks next with 18 cases of sexual abuse by clergymen reported in the State. In, Andhra Pradesh, 12 cases of sexual abuse in Church has been reported. Telangana and Karnataka each have 2 cases of sexual abuse by clergymen which have been reported since 2014. Many cases of sexual abuses by Church clergymen may be still uncovered. By fearing the Church’s action of excommunication, the victims may be not coming forward.