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Kerala priest Robin convicted of raping minor girl removed from priesthood by Pope

Author: Neethu Joseph @neethujoseph_15
Publication: The News Minute
Date:  March 1, 2020
URL:      https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/finally-pope-francis-defrocks-kerala-priest-robin-convicted-raping-minor-girl-119238

Robin was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment in 2019 for raping and impregnating a 16-year-old girl in 2016.

Pope Francis has removed Kerala priest Robin Vadakkumchery from the priesthood after he was convicted of raping and impregnating a minor girl. Robin was convicted by the Thalassery POCSO court in February 2019 for raping and impregnating a 16-year-old girl back in 2016. Robin has been sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment.

In the statement released by Catholic Diocese of Mananthavady on Sunday, Pope Francis ordered on December 5, 2019 that Robin be defrocked from the status of priesthood. The Mananthavady diocese handed over the decree to Robin, currently serving his jail sentence, last month, thus completing the defrocking procedures. An official confirmation that Robin had accepted and signed the decree has been sent back to Rome, the statement notes.

The church's action, however, is much delayed. Many elements in the church had in fact aided Robin's attempt to escape the law. Though the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council had published a set of guidelines for the protection of minors from sexual abuse and assault in the Church and Church-controlled organisations, Robin was not defrocked. One of the suggestions in the guidelines included defrocking priests, but the church in India has hardly ever taken that step. The document was drafted as per the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) guidelines on the same issue from October 2015.

The survivor, who was a teen when the crime occurred, was a student at a church-run institution where 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. In the early days of the case, the father of the survivor woman took responsibility for the crime after coercion from the church. 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, which could possibly lower the magnitude of the crime.

But a birth certificate of the survivor showed that she was only 16 years old when she was raped by Robin. Moreover, a DNA test conducted also revealed that Robin was responsible for the crime.

The church also put out statements blaming the survivor for the crime. In a column in the church’s magazine called Sunday Shalom, the survivor was blamed, while a soft stand was taken against Robin. It stated that a priest can be tempted and even if he forgets himself for a moment, the survivor should have corrected him.

The statement further says that the Mananthavady diocese had in February 2017 suspended Robin from his priesthood.
 
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