Last month a shocking news hit the Catholic community in Kerala. A Catholic priest in the state was arrested on charges of raping and impregnating a minor girl. The 16-year-old girl gave birth to a child at a private hospital in January. Once caught, the disgraced priest tried to worm his way out by putting the blame on the father of the girl as having abused his own daughter.

 

Robin Vadakkancheril, 48, had been serving as vicar at St Sebastian's Church at Kottiyoor in Kannur, the diocese where the incident happened. There was so much pressure on the girl and the family to hide the event from becoming known that when the asked about the parentage, the victim said it was her father’s doing. Childline, the NGO investigating the case forwarded the matter to the police who then quizzed the girl further and then it came to light that the girl had falsely implicated her father in order to save the priest from a bad name and also because the victim and her family had been threatened with dire consequences if they were to reveal the truth .

 

In an interview to the Indian Express, the father of the victim who had been falsely implicated in the case, spoke out.  Their family consists of five children and initially worried about what society would say about his minor daughter becoming pregnant, the father sought to hush it up and since this was a matter of faith and religion, he chose to keep mum.

 

Also read:Catholic priest rape: Five nuns evade cops, go into hiding

 

It was only when the police arrested him on the charge of impregnating his own daughter that the realisation sunk in. He was responsible for the whole family and if he would be imprisoned then who would take care of his children? The poor farm labourer was barely making ends meet and on top of that the fear of being ostracised from church or taking on such powerful elements as the priest kept him silent.

 

The distressed father revealed in his interview that the priest had paid for delivery and even assured the man that he would atone for his sins, instead the accused tried to escape from India itself. The parents were unaware of the abuse the girl was undergoing and never suspected the priest of such conduct as the image he portrayed was of a loving ‘father’.

 

Despite the incident which has turned the families upside down, the family still insists that they are staunch Catholics and believe in the church. They also say that their daughter is concentrating on her studies and is trying to overcome the trauma.

 

Also read: Facebook post of Woman reveals torture at Catholic convent in Kannur

 

The most important revelations in the incident is how the fear of the church has stifled such news from coming to the forefront. In this case as well, the father was willing to undergo the humiliation out of fear that the church and religion would get a bad name. This is just a tip of the iceberg and you will notice how there many such intermittent cases of abuse in the church with normal parishioners and even the members of the clergy. 

 

The family’s poverty and belief in the church forced them to keep quiet and undergo the humiliation. That the priest managed to get away with something like this for over a year and more under the garb of religion is also worth noting. Power politics in the church backyards and cooperation from nuns and other members of the laity is what is encouraging such elements from practicing their immoral deeds.