Sex abuse scandal threatens to rock Indonesian Church

Catholic media report claims at least 56 seminarians, nuns and laypeople were abused
Sex abuse scandal threatens to rock Indonesian Church

Father Joseph Kristanto says that church institutions in Indonesia are preparing protocols that will be used as guidelines in handling sexual abuse cases. (Photo: Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews)

The Indonesian Church will take serious steps to address claims in a Catholic media report that dozens of people have been abused in Catholic institutions across the country, a bishops’ conference official has said.

At least 56 people were abused within Catholic institutions in Indonesia, according to the report titled “Sexual Abuse in Indonesian Churches: An Iceberg Phenomenon?”

It appeared in Warta Minggu, a weekly magazine published by Tomang Parish in West Jakarta, on Dec. 8.

Indonesian Bishops' Conference (KWI) seminary commission secretary Father Joseph Kristanto confirmed the claims, telling ucanews that his commission had received reports from sources detailing at least 56 abuse victims. 

That number comprised 21 seminarians and brothers, 20 nuns and 15 laypeople, while the perpetrators included 33 priests and 23 non-priests, he said.

“The information we have is still limited,” he said, adding that it is sufficient to prompt the Church into taking action.

Indonesian bishops are introducing protocols that will be used as guidelines in handling such cases in response to Pope Francis' firm stance on this issue, Father Kristanto said.

"Some educational institutions already have such protocols, and some dioceses have just started to draft guidelines," he told ucanews.

He said all Indonesian dioceses and religious orders must have a mechanism to respond to sexual abuse complaints and these 56 cases would be followed up.

Franciscan Father Peter C. Aman, a moral theology lecturer at Driyarkara School of Philosophy, said the reported abuse was “clearly a disgrace that was detrimental to the Church.”

“It needs a serious response from the Church so that people and victims believe the Church is serious about handling it," he told ucanews. "Perpetrators should be at least suspended, and victims and their families must be compensated, in whatever form, for the sake of justice.” 

Father Aman called for all abuses to be reported to church authorities. Preventive measures are always better to avoid problems in the future, he said.

"Candidate selection for priests and religious must include psycho-tests related to sexual tendencies so that they can be addressed promptly," he said.

Beka Ulung Hapsara of the National Human Rights Commission said the body had not yet received any complaints related to sexual abuse in the Church.

If victims want to file a complaint, the commission would certainly follow it up and ensure the rights of victims are protected, he said.

“I hope the Church is proactive in processing abuse cases, not only at diocesan level but also at parish level to prevent them from recurring,” he added.

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