The Malankara Orthodox Church in Kerala has suspended five priests over allegations that they sexually abused a woman from Thiruvalla.
According to a complaint submitted to the Church by the survivor's husband, his wife was sexually preyed upon by the five priests. This after they allegedly blackmailed her based on her secret confessions.
Confirming the complaint to TNM, Church spokesperson PC Elias said that the five priests have been suspended pending inquiry in the wake of allegations against them.
"We received a complaint from the woman's husband and the priests who have been accused have been suspended pending inquiry. We do not know if these allegations are true. Only after the inquiry can we say if it is genuine or fake. Future course of action will be decided based on the internal inquiry report," he said, refusing to divulge the identities of the five accused priests.
The priests have been indefinitely suspended, until the inquiry is completed. If the allegations are found to be false, they will be reinstated, the spokesperson added.
According to reports, three of the priests belong to Niranam Diocese in Thiruvalla, and one each from Thumbamon in Pandalam and Delhi. The church has 30 dioceses across the country.
In the last few days, an audio clip purportedly of the woman's husband, has been doing the rounds on social media.
The audio clip, which is a telephonic conversation between the man and another person, says that he confronted his wife upon seeing a hefty hotel bill in her e-mail account in February this year. Saying that he was raised as a believer of the Orthodox church and has lived all his life in purity, the man says:
"The first bill in the statement was my wifeâ€™s hotel bill where she stayed in a five-star hotel. When I confronted her, she said that she was being blackmailed by one of the orthodox priests into having a sexual relationship with him. Many years ago, before we got married, a priest had sexually abused her and was blackmailing her since then. During my daughterâ€™s baptism, she was mentally upset about what was happening and so she confessed her ordeal to another priest, who threatened that heâ€™ll tell this to me. Threatening her so, he demanded sexual favours from her. He even took pictures of them together and shared those pictures with a third priest. He too, later started abusing my wife. They kept circulating the videos and now around 5-8 priests are involved."
The man then goes on to name five priests from different Dioceses, and says that there are more priests involved, but that he hasn't been able to verify their identities. He added that his wife has not divulged the extent of the abuse, fearing that the priests would do something.
"I was told that maximum punishment will be that they will be suspended. That is not enough for me, I want them defrocked and no other Church should take them in. They should be punished so that no one else does this," the man says in the audio.
A police complaint is, however, yet to be filed in this regard.