07 March 2017, The Tablet

Five nuns arrested on suspicion of covering up the rape of 17-year-old girl by Catholic priest in Kerala

During their investigations police found evidence of an alleged attempt to cover up the whole incident and bail out the priest

Police in Kerala have arrested five nuns on suspicion of covering up the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl by a catholic priest.

Father Robin Vadakkumcherry, parish priest of St Sebastian church in north Kerala’s Kannur district, was arrested on February 27 while allegedly planning to flee the country. He is accused of raping the teenage girl, who gave birth in a private hospital on 17 February.

The five nuns, along with two doctors, have been booked under non-bailable sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Juvenile Justice Act, a member of Kerala’s police force told Hindustan Times.

During their investigations police found evidence of an alleged attempt to cover up the whole incident and bail out the priest. The girl’s father, who belongs to an economically backward family, was promised around £12,000 (Rs 10 lakh) to own up to the crime.

Among the accused is the doctor in-charge of the private hospital in the Kerala district, where the 17-year-old girl gave birth to a boy. Although the hospital has claimed it was unaware of the rape, police reportedly found that at least two doctors knew about the incident.

Two days after the delivery, the baby was discreetly moved to an orphanage run by nuns. The Mother Superior in charge of the orphanage is among the accused. Instead of reporting the incident, all the accused entered into a conspiracy to hush up the case, police claimed.

The Mananthavady diocese, under which the accused priest worked, has released an apology to the girl and her family, reports the catholic news service UCAN India.

“I endure your pain and agony. And I am also in pain,” said Bishop Jose Porunnedam in a statement. 

“The loss of self-respect and spiritual damage caused to the church by this incident is huge. I don’t know how to pacify the child and her parents. I too join in their tears. I can only apologise to you,” the bishop said.

Soon after the incident came to light, the diocese had removed the priest from all posts.

A police report has been submitted to the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The report recommends action against the Child Welfare Committee of Wayanad district for concealing details of the newborn from the authorities, reports the Hindustan Times. 

The case came to light last week following an anonymous call that a 17-year-old schoolgirl gave birth and that the Catholic church authorities in Wayanad were doing their best to cover up the case.

Following the arrest of Vadakkanchery, who also was the manager of the Church-backed school where the girl was a student, police opened investigations into the hospital authorities and the orphanage run by the Catholic church.


PICTURE: Indian activists protest a rape incident in New Delhi, India, February 21. 


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