ICWM delegation meets Oswald Cardinal Gracias on Jalandhar Issue
ICWM members, Hazel D’Lima, DHM, Noella de Souza, MCJ, and Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, met with Oswald Cardinal Gracias (President, Catholic Bishops Conference of India & Catholic Conference of Bishops of India) at Archbishop’s House, Mumbai, on 18th August, 2018, at 6 p.m. to discuss the Church’s stand regarding the alleged sexual abuse of a woman religious by the bishop of Jalandhar.
After apprising the Cardinal of first hand reports received from ICWM members who had visited the survivor, and priests and sisters from Jalandhar, the ICWM representatives asked that:
a. The accused be asked to step aside while the police investigations were going on so that he does not in any way influence or hinder the same;
b. An internal enquiry be conducted by the Church to determine whether the accused should continue as a bishop.
c. The Church reach out and offer care and support to the survivor and her congregation who were as much members of the Church as the bishop.
They were informed that:
i. The bishops’ conferences (CBCI, CCBI) had no authority to interfere in the functioning of a diocese.
ii. In case of an appeal only the Metropolitan could take action.
iii. Only the Vatican can remove a bishop from office and this can be done only by the Nuncio who is the Vatican’s representative in India.
The ICWM representatives pointed out that in every instance that had come to the media the survivors said that they had gone public as a last resort since all their efforts to get justice from the Church had failed. They also acknowledged that instances of clergy sexual abuse were part of the larger problem of sexual abuse in society, and while they were sensationalized when it occurred in the Church, if the Church was seen to act swiftly with justice, it would be commended and serve as a model to other institutions.
Copies of the writ petition; Court Order; Police Report; letters written by the survivor to Cardinal Alenchery, the Apostolic Nuncio, her Superior General and the Secretary of State, Vatican; ICWM letters sent to Pope Francis, the Apostolic Nuncio and to the President of the CBCI and CCBI; a letter of the National Secretary of CRI, Women’s Section; an evaluation of the diocese by the priests of Jalandhar, and the US Bishops’ Statement written in response to the recent allegations of clergy sexual abuse in Philadelphia, were submitted to the Cardinal.
The following recommendations were made by the ICWM representatives:
1. CBCI should release a statement informing the Faithful of action taken by the Church.
2. A meeting should be organized of bishops and women who have met the survivor, and in consultation with this group an investigation should be planned.
3. The internal enquiry committee should include experts from the wider Church, not just bishops and priests.
4. The bishops should review canon law to enable a system to be put in place to address cases of clergy sexual abuse since this was not the first case to happen and would not be the last, and was not particular to India but a concern for the universal Church.