Kerala sexual abuse case: Two more priests surrender

Kerala sexual abuse case: Two more priests surrender

Two priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (MOSC), accused of sexually exploiting a 34-year-old woman, surrendered on Monday.

Fr Abraham Varghese, first accused in the case, surrendered before the Thiruvalla magistrate court, in Pathanamthitta district, and Fr Jaise K George, fourth accused, surrendered at the Police Crime Branch office in Kollam.

Last week, the Supreme Court cancelled interim protection from arrest provided to the priests and directed them to surrender. Fr Job Mathew and Fr Johnson V Mathew, the second and third accused, respectively, were arrested and released on bail in July.

On July 2, three priests were booked for rape and one for molestation. Fr Mathew is alleged to have used the woman’s church confession regarding a relationship she had with Fr Varghese, before and after her marriage, to intimidate and sexually abuse her.

Fr George is alleged to have sexually abused her after she approached him for counselling and revealed the details about her relationship with the other priests. The survivor said Fr Mathew molested her in a car and sent her sexually explicit messages on WhatsApp.

Fr Varghese is alleged to have been in a relationship with the survivor since she was a minor. The priest, who has denied the allegation, courted another controversy when he uploaded – and later removed – a video message on YouTube in which he revealed the identity and other details of the survivor.

The allegation against the MOSC priests was first made by the survivor’s husband, in a complaint submitted to the Niranam Diocese of the Church, in May.

The allegations have rocked the Kottayam-based MOSC as it faces protests and calls for a re-look on the sacrament of confession which was "misused" by one of the accused.

The National Commission for Women called for an end to the practice of church confessions, against the backdrop of the case, which also set off a controversy.