The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council has published a set of guidelines for the protection of minors and ‘vulnerable adults’ from sexual abuse and assault in the Church and Church controlled organisations. The document has been drafted as per the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) guidelines on the same issue. Titled KCBC Guidelines for Safe Environment Programme for Church Personnel Connected with Institutions where Minors or Vulnerable Adults are Given Particular Care, the guidelines provide for defrocking of priests (remove a person from the priesthood) who are found guilty of sexual abuse, and are found to be a ‘threat to minors’.
The guidelines have come on the back of serious allegations of sexual abuse inside the Church – including the rape and impregnation of minors, and an allegation of rape against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar diocese, by a nun from the Missionaries of Jesus.
The purposes of the guidelines, as per the document, include providing a secure and safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the faith communities within the KCBC’s dioceses and eparchies (church provinces); and to protect them from any form of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
‘Church Personnel’ – meaning clerics, lay employees, volunteers, men and women religious and seminarians – have been told to follow these rules:
No viewing sexually explicit material in the presence of minors and vulnerable adults.
No sexually offensive humour.
No pictures of minors while they are dressing or undressing.
No engaging in physical, mental, psychological, written or verbal harassment of staff, volunteers or parishioners, and no tolerance if such harassment is witnessed by others. Harassment here has been defined as per the workplace sexual harassment law – and includes quid pro quo sexual favours.
Boundaries – physical and emotional – while dealing with minors.
Minors, unless accompanied by parents or guardians, not allowed to stay in living quarters of priests.
No overnight trips with minors.
Church personnel bound to report cases of sexual offences to civil authorities and cooperate with investigations.