Claim that clergy knew of girl's death, abuse is 'extortion'

Mother of dead teenager allegedly abused by priest in southern India seeks compensation
Claim that clergy knew of girl's death, abuse is 'extortion'

The mother of a dead girl who claims that a priest in southern India sexually abused her daughter says church officials covered up the abuse and knew of details about her unproven murder. Church officials deny the claim. ( photo)

A mother's accusation that five clerics from a southern Indian diocese covered up the death of her daughter who she claims was sexually abused by a priest is an act of extortion, said a church official.

A district court has asked police to investigate S. Shanthi Rosalyn's claim that Bishop Thomas Aquinas of Coimbatore and four priests suppressed information about how a priest had sexually abused and allegedly murdered her daughter Fathima Sofiya, who was 18 years old at the time of her death.

"We are all shocked to read the news in the media but the whole case is fabricated aiming for compensation," said Father John Joseph, vicar general of Coimbatore Diocese in Tamil Nadu.

The bishop and priests "are unnecessarily being dragged into the case with the aim of extracting compensation from the diocese," said Father Joseph who added that the mother is seeking 20 million rupees (about US$297,000) in compensation.

Rosalyn has accused the clergy of suppressing information about how her daughter was sexually abused over seven years by H. Arockiaraj the then priest of St. Stanlislaus parish in Walayar, Kerala state, which comes under Coimbatore Diocese.

She also accused the clergy of withholding information about how Arockiaraj strangled her daughter to death.

"Both the allegations are baseless," Father Joseph said, noting that Arokiaraj made no confession on either accusation during diocesan investigations, which the five clergy members were involved in.

The clergymen only heard of Arokiaraj's alleged abuse of the teenager after her death, he said. Arokiaraj was then suspended from his clerical duties on Aug. 23, 2013 and the Vatican dismissed him from priestly responsibilities the following month. Arockiaraj was not accused in a civil court for any crime and so was not investigated by police over the alleged abuse.

Kerala state police at the time investigated Sofiya's death and declared it was suicide. Police reopened the case a year ago after Arokiaraj allegedly confessed in a telephone recording played by a TV current affairs program that he killed Sofiya.

Sign up to receive UCAN Daily Full Bulletin
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
© Copyright 2019, All rights reserved
© Copyright 2019, Union of Catholic Asian News Limited. All rights reserved
Expect for any fair dealing permitted under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance.
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior permission.