UCA News


Vatican dismisses Indian priest jailed for rape

Completion of laicization takes away all the rights and responsibilities of priesthood from the jailed priest

UCA News reporter, Kochi

UCA News reporter, Kochi

Updated: March 03, 2020 12:03 PM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Vatican dismisses Indian priest jailed for rape

Indian police escort priest Robin Vadakkumcherry (center) after his arrest in Peravoor, some 300 kilometers north of Kochi in the southern state of Kerala, on Feb. 28, 2017. A court convicted the priest of raping a minor. (Photo: AFP)

Share this article :
A diocese in southern India has announced completion of the process of laicization of a priest who is serving a 20-year jail term for raping and impregnating a minor girl three years ago.

The laicization of Father Robin Vadakkumcherry has been completed with his acceptance of the Vatican's dismissal decree and by informing the Vatican of his acceptance, Mananthavady Diocese in Kerala state said in a press release on March 1.

Police arrested Vadakkumcherry, now 51, in 2017 on charges of raping a 17-year-old girl and fathering her child. Sex with a girl under 18, a minor under Indian law, is considered a crime.

Vadakkumcherry was then parish priest of St. Sebastian's Parish in Kottiyoor under Mananthavady Diocese and manager of the school in which the girl studied.

A court in Thalassery town sentenced Vadakkumcherry to 20 years in jail in February 2019.

The completion of laicization takes away all rights and responsibilities of Catholic priesthood from Vadakkumcherry forever, the release said.

The diocese had suspended Vadakkumcherry from priestly duties in February 2017 following a preliminary investigation, soon after the media reported the case.

A diocesan committee investigated the allegations following the norms of church laws and a report was sent to the Vatican's Congregation for the Propagation of Faith.

Based on the civil court's conviction and the report of the diocese, the Vatican began the process of laicization in June 2019, the diocesan release said.

Pope Francis dismissed Vadakkumcherry from the priesthood on Dec. 5, 2019. Only the pope has the right to remove one from the priesthood, it said.

Vadakkumcherry signed and accepted the decree, which was sent back to the Vatican in February, in completion of all canonical requirements, the release said.

No action against others accused

Besides Vadakkumchery, seven others including a priest and four nuns were co-accused in the case. The court exonerated them for lack of evidence.

The seven were accused of not reporting a crime and assisting in the destruction of evidence. They were diocesan priest Father John Therakom, who was then chairman of the district's Child Welfare Committee, two doctors at a hospital where the minor girl delivered her baby, and four nuns in the hospital and an orphanage.

Father Manoj Kakkonal of Manathawady Diocese's media commission, told UCA News that the diocese did not take any action against others because the "court also has not found any charges against them. Therefore, there is no point in acting against them," he said.

"The diocese," he added, "always maintained that the other priest and nuns were innocent."

Police accused Father Therakom and doctors of not reporting the crime, the nuns of illegally helping deliver the baby in a church-run hospital, and moving the baby to a church-run orphanage in their attempt to cover up the crime. Police also accused them of tampering with records on the age of the girl.

The court exonerated the seven for want of evidence.

However, Vadakkumchery was convicted on three counts and given 20 years in jail for each crime, which can be served concurrently.

The court convicted him of raping a minor under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and violating various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The court also slapped a fine of 300,000 rupees (US$4,300) on the priest and ruled that the amount could be used as compensation for the victim.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."