UCA News

Indian Catholic priest held for sexually abusing minor girl

Francis Fernandes is reportedly charged under stringent laws to protect minors and members of disadvantaged communities
An Indian Catholic priest was arrested and sentenced to judicial custody after a minor girl filed a complaint alleging sexual abuse in southern Karnataka state, on July 20

An Indian Catholic priest was arrested and sentenced to judicial custody after a minor girl filed a complaint alleging sexual abuse in southern Karnataka state, on July 20. (Image: Pixabay)

Published: July 21, 2023 11:20 AM GMT
Updated: July 21, 2023 12:43 PM GMT

A Catholic priest serving as the principal of a diocese-run college in a southern Indian state has been remanded in judicial custody for allegedly abusing a minor girl. 

Police arrested Father Francis Fernandes, principal of Sacred Heart College under Shimoga diocese in Karnataka, on July 20 following a complaint from a girl, reported to be below 18 years of age.

Local media reports said the priest has been charged under provisions of the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act and the Scheduled Caste (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

After daylong interrogation, police produced the priest before a special court on July 21 and he was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.

Offenses under the laws meant to protect minors and vulnerable groups are treated as non-bailable and the arrested can file a bail application before the court.

The complainant, according to media reports, belongs to the Banjara community, a nomadic ethnic group in India, and was a second-year student at the diocese-run college.

The Shimoga diocese, led by Jesuit Bishop Francis Serrao, confirmed the priest had been arrested and remanded.

Father Veeresh V Moras, its public relation officer, said police made a friendly request for Fernandes to accompany them to the police station on July 20, saying “they had to seek some clarifications from him."

"They did not mention any case against him. We were shocked at his arrest and judicial custody,” Moras told UCA News on July 21.

We are “unaware of the exact charges leveled against him,” Father Moras added. “We have deputed a lawyer to represent him.”

The initial reports suggested that he was charged under the provisions of POCSO and the prevention of atrocities laws, he said.

“Father Fernandes used to be kind and gentle and we never ever heard any such allegations against him at all,” Father Moras claimed.

The police reportedly arrested the priest after a group of people from the Banjara community staged a protest demanding action against the priest in front of the local police station on July 20.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in its biennial gathering in Bengaluru, the capital city of Karnataka state, in February 2020 adopted a resolution of “zero tolerance to sex abuse” cases in the Church.

The meeting was attended by 192 bishops. They said that the Church “will not tolerate any kind of sexual abuse.”

They also agreed not to shield any instance of abuse from prosecution by civil authorities.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Lent is the season during which catechumens make their final preparations to be welcomed into the Church.
Each year during Lent, UCA News presents the stories of people who will join the Church in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is their Lord. The stories of how women and men who will be baptized came to believe in Christ are inspirations for all of us as we prepare to celebrate the Church's chief feast.
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
UCA News

Share your comments

1 Comments on this Story
This Zero tolerance is not to be seen in the soft pedaling of cases against bishops Franco Mulakal of Jalandhar and William of Mysore.
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia