Kochi: In a precursor to the Papal Summit on dealing with the evil of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church to be held in Rome on February 21st to 24th; the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) decides to take a positive step in addressing and arrest the growing concern of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable from sexual abuse and assault in the Church and Church affiliated organisations.
The KCBC has issued a set of guidelines titled Kerala Catholic Bishops Guidelines for Safe Environment Programme for Church Personnel Connected with Institutions where Minors or Vulnerable Adults are Given Particular Care.
Considering sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults are heinous crimes and grave sins, the guidelines focuses on an endeavour on behalf of the Catholic Church to put in place a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults in Church dioceses; and in affiliated organisations including educational institutions of the Church.
The guidelines mentions to formation of a Safe Environment Committee in each parish, Safe Environment Director. The Safe Environment Committee will also conduct Safe Environment training for the minors in the Church-related dioceses and institutions.
Interestingly, the guidelines also mentions reporting of sexual abuse cases to the local authorities if a case is brought to the notice of the Church members and after Church inquiry into allegations.
The guidelines also strongly advocates the defrocking of clergy and removal of members working in Christian organisations if found guilty of sexual abuses offences.
Furthermore to keep the Church personnel in check the KCBC guidelines, instructs; 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, maintain 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
But the most important is Church personnel are bound to report cases of sexual offences to civil authorities and cooperate with investigations.