NEW DELHI (AP) — A Roman Catholic diocese in southern India is considering using security cameras and other measures to curb sexual abuse by priests after a vicar was arrested on charges of raping a teenage girl, a spokesman said Thursday.
The bishop of the Mananthavady Diocese has also removed the Rev. Robin Vadakkancheril from his job as vicar of St. Sebastian church in Kottiyoor and from conducting any priestly functions, said the Rev. Nobel Parackal, a media officer for the diocese in Kerala state.
Vadakkancheril was arrested late last month after a 17-year-old girl from his parish gave birth to a baby. Investigating officer Sunil Kumar said police are searching for at least five nuns who allegedly helped the priest cover up the rape and subsequent pregnancy.
Kumar said the girl, after initially refusing to name the father of the baby, said the priest had raped her in the place where the church provided computer lessons.
Kumar said the girl’s family was bitterly poor. Her child has been placed in a local orphanage and the girl is being looked after by the town’s child welfare committee, he said.
Parackal said there were no previous complaints on record against Vadakkancheril.
Sexual violence against girls and women is endemic in India and the shame associated with such incidents makes victims and families hide the crime. The girl never told her family about the rape and when her pregnancy became apparent her parents never made a complaint. A child protection group tipped off the police after the teenager gave birth at a local hospital, Kumar said.
The case is one of several in which Indian priests have been accused of abusing minors, indicating that scandals that have convulsed the Catholic Church in the United States, Europe and Latin America have not spared Asia. In 2011, the Asian bishops’ conference convened a special meeting on abuse and warned that “drastic and immediate measures” were needed to deal with the issue.
The Vadakkancheril case has come to light as the Vatican tries to recover from the resignation of prominent abuse survivor Marie Collins from Pope Francis’ sex abuse advisory commission, citing frustration over resistance to the commission’s proposals within the Vatican.
It also comes ahead of Francis’ expected visit to India and Bangladesh later this year.
Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this story.