Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu – 18/9/18
Statement by Rev Valson Thampu (Indian educator, Christian theologian of the Anglican Church, former Principal of St Stephen’s College and the Editor of Ecumenical Spirituality @ the Editorial Board of Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE) on the Kerala Nun Rape Case.
MY APOLOGIES TO THE MISSIONARIES OF JESUS
“While participating in a news hour discussion the other day on the rape of the nun case, I happen to mention, most regrettably, that the Missionaries of Jesus have admitted that consensual sex between bishop Franco and the nun did take place. Dr. Jaison Paul, the principal of Jyoti Engineering College, Thrissur, drew my attention to the fact that this is factually incorrect. I re-examined the information available to me thoroughly and my finding is as follows.
The admission of consensual sex happened in the earlier case of the four priests of the Orthodox Church taking advantage of a woman confessant misusing her confessional admission. The admission of consensual sex was made by one of the four accused. I got the two episodes mixed up, which is inexcusable on my part. I sent a message to the anchor and requested the matter be published appropriately with my apologies. That doesn’t seem to have happened; though I am still hopeful that it will be done.
It is farthest from my intention to malign anyone or to deviate from the truth. I would have kept out of this event altogether, except for two reasons. First, the attempts to malign and discredit the nuns provoked me beyond measure. Second, I am convinced that there are issues that need to be addressed in the life of the church, to which the events unfolding in recent times are a compelling signpost. Today there is a cleavage between loyalty to the church and commitment to one’s biblical faith. This should not be glossed over.
Be that as it may, falsehood is the weapon the devil uses to disarm the repentance and regeneration of a people. I should not be a party to it, even unwittingly. It is because of this that I feel most ashamed of myself in having erred in respect of a bare fact pertaining to this case. Hence this public apology to the Missionaries of Jesus. But the scope of my apology is limited strictly to the factual discrepancy in which I happen to involve myself.
In my opinion, the demand to arrest Franco deflects attention from the real issue. The arrest of an accused, while it has much legal significance, has very little spiritual value. The goal that matters most to the Christian community is not the arrest of the culprit -I am not saying that he should not be arrested- but THE ARREST OF THE ALARMING TRENDS OF SPIRITUAL AND ETHICAL DEGRADATION in the life of the church. If we get focused exclusively on getting the accused arrested, we lose sight of the real issue.
There are two essential goals. First, the outraged nun must get justice. For that, it is imperative that the truth, the whole truth, be established dispassionately. Second, all nuns should be safe from male lust and aggression, especially of a priestly kind. If the church is not a safe place for its own daughters, who have given themselves over unconditionally to serving Jesus Christ through the church, then it is hard to justify its existence.
Jesus is the foundation of the Church universal. He revealed himself as the truth. I failed by that standard, through my confusion. Maybe, it is my failing memory. So, I am having a serious re-think on if I should participate in any media discussion at all henceforth. The non-availability of other options, especially within the church, to tell the truth makes me hesitate to take a final and irrevocable decision to abstain from the media altogether.
The Christian community in Kerala is passing through unprecedented trials and traumas. These are hard times. But it is what we have brought down upon ourselves, and not a bolt from the blue. Realizing this is a necessary starting point for our journey towards spiritual normalcy.
The Church, not less than individuals, needs to repent. The alternative to repentance is -says Dostoevsky in Brothers Karamazov- hardheartedness and debauchery. “Repent,” Jesus proclaimed, “for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu