The controversy surrounding sexual abuse allegations against five priests of Malankara Orthodox Church in Kerala has turned murkier.
On Monday, Mathrubhumi News aired portions of a declaration said to be hand-written by the survivor, in which she mentions five priests of the Orthodox church.
This document was reportedly given to the Church by her husband along with his complaint two months ago.
However, a senior police officer with the Kerala Crime Branch who is part of the investigation told TNM that the statement will not stand in a court of law. He added that the â€˜declarationâ€™ that hinted at consensual relationships was only half the truth as there are clear signs of abuse in each of these â€˜relationshipsâ€™.
"This declaration cannot be considered as proof, it is only one that was given to the Church. We have recorded the survivor's detailed statement, in which she has said that one of the priests threatened her using her confession statement, based on which, we have booked them," the officer said.
The survivor had on Sunday given a statement to the Crime Branch, that is investigating the case.
A senior officer in the Crime Branch, part of the investigation team that has now booked four priests for rape and molestation, however said that the declaration given to the Church does not hold any legal importance.
According to sources in the Crime Branch, the survivor's relationship (prior to her wedding) with Fr Abraham Varghese began in 1999. She was a minor then and Abraham was studying to be a priest.
Though the priest got married, he wanted her to continue the relationship, according to her statement. It went on after her wedding too.
In 2009, during her child's baptism, she reportedly confessed to another priest about her relationship with Fr Abraham Varghese. He in turn, is alleged to have threatened her and demanded sexual favours.
Following this, she confided in another priest Fr Job Mathew who was also her friend. TNM does not have details of the nature of her complaint against him.
The fourth priest that she has mentioned in her complaint is a counsellor who works with the church. During the course of counseling, this priest is also alleged to have sexually abused her.
From December 2016 onwards, the counsellor had asked the woman to book themselves in five star hotels. The survivor told the police that unable to afford the hotel bills, she was even forced to borrow or steal money from her family.
The Crime Branch has booked four priests Fr Abraham Varghese, Fr Job Mathew, Fr Johnson Mathew and Fr Jaise George on charges of rape and molestation.