A priest in Jaipur was booked under POCSO Act last month for allegedly sending indecent messages to a class 9th student at an Alwar school. Instead of condemning his actions and excommunicating him, the Bishop of Jaipur, Oswald J Lewis, has asked people to ‘fast and pray’ for the accused Georgish Britto. The accused is currently in police custody.
The FIR was filed by the victim’s parents on April 18 and Georgish Britto was booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Deputy Principal and coordinator of the school, Georgish Britto, is accused of sending indecent messages to a 15-year-old girl on WhatsApp. In the FIR, it is also stated that Britto touched her inappropriately in the school.
On April 24, Bishop of Jaipur, Oswald J. Lewis, wrote a letter to the members and religious clergy of Jaipur Catholic Diocese stating: “I request you to fast and pray that we may tide over this situation and that Fr Georgish Britto may have the strength and courage to bear the cross that the Lord has given him.” These religious clergies believe that messages by Georgish Britto were taken out of the context. Father Prasad from Bishop’s House said, “We are like a family. Since he joined the diocese as a full-time priest, he is also a part of the family. Bishop is his father now. So even if he has committed a mistake, we cannot disown him. If any crime is proved against him, he will undergo punishment as per the law. We can’t help it. Even then, we won’t disown him.” If father Prasad, who was speaking on behalf of Bishop Lewis, thinks that Britto is not guilty then he should circulate those messages sent by the accused which were taken out of the context. Forwarding a letter and asking the support on religious lines sets a dangerous precedent. This also shows how seriously the church takes sexual violence against children. This attitude is unacceptable in law-abiding society. They are giving the benefit of doubt to the priest because he’s one of their own. The religious establishment can not absolve or crucify a perpetrator of sexual violence. Only the law of the land has that authority to do so.
This problem of child abuse by the Catholic Church is rampant all over the world. About seven percent of all priests who worked in Australia from 1950 to 2010 were accused of sexually abusing children. Pope Francis defended Chilean Bishop Juan Barros who is accused of concealing cases of child abuse by a priest. Child sexual abuse is a systematic problem within Catholic Church. Father Michael Baker is accused of molesting 23 boys during his 30 years as part of the clergy.
India is also not an exception. In India, child abuse by the church is rampant. In 2014, Raju Kokkan, the vicar of the Saint Paul’s Church in Thaikkattussery, Thrissur, Kerala, was arrested on charges of raping a nine-year-old girl. In 2017, Father Robin aka Mathew Vadakkancheril of St Sebastian church in Kannur, was arrested in Kochi on the charges of sexually abusing a minor girl who later gave birth to a child.
It’s not hard to imagine the outrage that would have happened if the same had been done by any Hindu Organization. The hypocrites from Bollywood would have gone mad with their colourfully designed placard campaign maligning entire Hindu religion. Media has also maintained a stoic-silence on this. This selective outrage shows how much these self-appointed guardians of society are unethical and immoral. They will only outrage when the issue suits their narrative.