Indian theologian Virginia Saldanha (centre) takes part in a protest by victims of sexual abuse and members of Ending Clergy Abuse at a papal summit in Rome. (File Photo - Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)
Two Catholic priests have been removed from their priestly duties following allegations of sexually abusing women in a parish in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
According to sources, the Archdiocese of Tellicherry, under which the two priests worked, in an order on June 14 banned Fr. Mathew Mullapally and Fr. Jose Poothottal from their priestly duties. Both of these priests served Pottanplav parish successively.
Fr. Poothottal is a priest belonging to the Congregation of St. John the Baptist Precursor. Following the allegations of sexual abuses, the archdiocese has asked his superiors to take action against him.
The archdiocese also has set up a three-member panel to probe into the charges against Fr. Mullapally, another priest of the archdiocese.
Records of telephone conversations and video that have gone viral on social media claim these priests forced and coerced several women in the parish to have sex with them.
The shocking expose followed after Fr. Poothottal in a telephone conversation with parishioner Paul Ambatt admitted to having sex with female parishioners. The priest was heard pleading with the layman to not make it public. The audio recording went viral on social media.
According to Media reports, Fr. Poothottal learned that his predecessor Fr. Mullapally had illicit relations with some women, including Catholic wives, in the parish. He allegedly tracked those women and sought sexual favours.
A parishioner also captured a video of Fr. Poothottal’s intimate scenes with some mothers and girls. This was also revealed in the audio conversation.
In the audio recording, Fr. Poothottal is heard pledging to change his ways and pleading for it not to be released to the media as his sick mother would not tolerate this shock.
The parishioner is also heard saying that he had already informed the local bishop about the audio clip. He also promised not to make it public. The archdiocese notice about the action comes after the video and audio went viral.
“As soon as the audio clip of Fr. Mullapally came to the public domain, the priest was restrained from his priestly ministry and a probe was initiated,” the archdiocesan statement said.
The archdiocese also apologized to Catholics for the priests’ misdeeds and urged them to “ignore the social media campaign” against the archdiocese, the statement said.
These developments follow a clergy sex scandal in Idukki Diocese in Kerala in March. A senior priest in that diocese was suspended after videos and photos of him having sex with a parishioner, a mother of two children, went viral on social media.
India has reported a series of clerical sex cases in recent times, including allegations against two bishops of having sexual relations.
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