‘Child sex abuse by Catholic priests not rampant in India’

Panaji: Cases of child sex abuse are not rampant among Roman Catholic priests in India as appears to be the case abroad, senior Catholic priests who arrived in Goa for a high-level conference said on Monday.

They said the Vatican, the global seat of Catholicism, has approved guidelines for India as far as handling cases of priests found accused of child sex abuse is concerned.

“In India, it (child sex abuse) is not very rampant, maybe in foreign countries (it is),” Fr. Philemon Doss, president of the Conference of Diocesan Priests of India, told IANS ahead of the three-day conference of Diocesan priests which gets underway in Goa on Tuesday.

The aim of the conference, in which 275 priests from across India are expected to participate, is aimed at helping priests in India foster a expert understanding of their priesthood and encourage collegiality amongst priests of the Diocesan order, which runs several premier educational institutes in the country.

There are around 10,000 serving Diocesan priests in the country.

The theme of the conference is “Priest as a minister of god mirrored in the person of Pope Francis”.

Patron of the conference Bishop Udumala Bala, a moral theologist, who is in Goa to oversee the conference and is also part of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said that “three or four months ago” the Vatican had approved guidelines for Indian priests as far as the issue of child sex abuse was concerned.

“We bishops had prepared a paper and got it approved from the Vatican. The approval came 3-4 months back. Each country is supposed to adapt it based on our civil laws,” Bala said.

“Anybody found (facing an) allegation will be immediately dismissed… sent on vacation. Second is to inform the civil authorities and if some truth is found, (practise) zero tolerance as we call it. In child abuse, zero tolerance. No forgiveness,” Bala said.

Bala said that since the Vatican approval, there were two allegations of child sex abuse against priests, after which they were sent on vacation and the matter was being reported to the civil authorities.

He added that if a priest faces an allegation of child abuse, the onus is on the priest to disprove it, according to the new code of conduct approved by the Vatican.