Even as the Kerala Catholic Church battles a series of controversies, from sexual abuse to corruption and financial fraudulence, Pope Francis has expelled the rape convict priest Fr. Robin Vadakkumchery, sending out a stern message that there will be ‘zero tolerance’ for clergymen, who sexually exploit minors.
Fr. Robin who is currently serving prison term, was accused of raping and impregnating a 16 year old child in February 2017 while he was serving as the vicar of St. Sebastian’s Church, Kottiyoor in Kannur district. The priest raped the girl several times in 2016.
After his conviction, the priest was suspended from his priestly responsibilities in 2017. Now, with the Papal expulsion, Fr. Robin will be only a layman with no priestly rights or privileges.
It was the Thalassery POCSO Court which convicted the priest who raped the child while she was studying in a church-run institution. The court sentenced the priest to 60 years of rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.3 lakhs. However, Fr. Robin needs to serve only for 20 years in prison as the terms would run concurrently.
It is one of the sensational sex scandals in Kerala. The case had several twists and turns as the powerful Church influenced the family members of the girl including her parents. The heart-broken father falsely admitted that he had raped his own daughter. The girl and her mother claimed that she was not minor at the time of the rape. The priest paid the hospital bills of the girl’s delivery and promised all help.
However, the effective intervention of the police and social activists turned successful and finally the priest was booked. The DNA of the child also matched with Fr. Robin.
The laity organisations welcomed Pope Francis’ decision. "When a bishop is facing allegations of sexual abuse raised by a nun, the Vatican’s decision assumes much significance. We hope, justice will be delivered in the case against Bishop Franco as well," said Prof. Joseph Varghese of Church Act Action Council.