On occasion of Women’s Day, SILENT VOICE wishes all the women of the world a Very HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY…..
But is it a Happy Day in reality to all the Women? We doubt Very Much. Our Church, particularly the Archdiocese of Bombay, where SV is stationed, announces lot of programmes for women. But does the Church acknowledge the other side, the persecution of the religious sisters within the Church at the hands of male dominated Clergy?
The religious Sisters bear it silently in the name of LORD JESUS CHRIST….
Here is one such case, where a Religious Sister has openly denounced her persecutor and seeking justice.
Dr (Sr) Mudita Sodder RSCJ on this issue.
Kudos to Sr. Metti for her excellent thought provoking article in The New Leader, March 1-15, 2015 entitled, “The Silenced Half in the Church Dares to Speak”. Thank you for daring to speak about the skeletons in our own cupboard-the Church. In early January 2015, I got an email from Theological Forum, Women for Change and CRI, Delhi-together with a copy of the letter submitted to CBCI to give my views on the sexual harassment to Sr Anupama Joseph SRA. On reading the letter, I was shocked and disturbed, and immediately dashed off a brief letter to Cardinal Toppo, the Archbishop of the Ranchi Diocese, a part of which was published by CNUA. I also wrote personally to Sr Anupama SRA and wanted to meet her during my brief visit to Jamshedpur on 18th January but finally could not meet her.
I stayed with the SRA sisters from 11th to 13th February 2015 while attending the Vatican Colloquium at Bodh Gaya, where I got first hand information from a significant sister of the SRA congregation. While she told me that the matter was amicably settled, I found it difficult to accept the fact that the seminarian Pradeep John Ekka was sent back to Rome to continue his theology studies, without any written assurance from Archbishop Toppo that he would not be allowed to continue with religious life. I was also informed that he could perhaps teach as a lay theologian.
On deeper reflection I wondered, “Do we want such sick theologians to teach our impressionable young seminarians? We can only give others what we have. If I as a teacher am sick, what do you expect me to give my students?” Only mature, balanced theologians, who live by what they preach in their daily lives, should be allowed and entrusted the care of our malleable young formees to religious life.
The assault on Sr Anupama Joseph SRA is only the tip of the iceberg-of a larger problem that exists in Holy Mother Church. It is a fact that women and religious sisters are being sexually victimised by some clergy. What bothers me is the lack of fear “once a priest, always a priest”, the patriarchal attitude and the lackadaisical ecclesiastical response. The consequence is that we women especially religious, continue to experience pain, sadness, fear, feel intimidated and unsafe, are treated unjustly and as second class citizens and at times even blamed as temptresses.
The only silver lining in the dark cloud is our present Pope Francis who is pro-women. In the recent Vatican Colloquium at Bodh Gaya-among the 60 special delegates from across the globe, there were 5 Catholic religious sisters, 2 Buddhist abbesses, and one lay Buddhist woman. What’s more! A Buddhist abbess and I were facilitators for two of the five groups and we were also asked to be the Mistress of Ceremonies for two separate sessions. The interventions made by some of us women were seriously taken up by the Vatican which was evident in the final message of the colloquium. I feel hopeful. Cheer up women, we are slowly but surely being noticed, accepted and respected as God’s images and not sexual objects!
Dr (Sr) Mudita Sodder RSCJ
6th March 2015
Patna, Bihar, India
Testimony of the Persecuted and appeal to higher authorities for action
INDIA : “Taking action against the seminarian Pradeep John Ekka” Sr. Anupama Joseph SRA (CNUA) Sr. Anupama Joseph SRA, petitioned to His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India
Your Beatitude, I am Sr. Anupama Joseph SRA, a sister of the congregation of the Queen of the Apostles, Ranchi Province, working currently in the Catholic Charities of Diocese of Jamshedpur as the Health coordinator of the Diocese from 3rd July 2014. With a lot of pain and sadness I would like to bring to your kind attention a very traumatic experience I have had at the Social Development Centre (SDC) Ranchi on 16th August 2014, for which I have not received justice till today.
I was at the SDC, Ranchi to attend the Annual General Body meeting of the Catholic Health Association of Bihar- Jharkhand- Andaman (CHABIJAN) and to present the Diocesan report in the said AGBM. I was allotted the room No. 14 in the ground floor of SDC along with Sr.Sneha PHJC, President, CHABIJAN, and Sr. Rosita SRA Executive Director, CHABIJAN.
On the first day after the meeting while I was having bath between 09.00 and 09.30 pm, I noticed someone taking my video through the ventilator from the bathroom of the adjacent room, which is room no.15. I called for help and came out of the room and I locked room no. 15 from outside so that the person inside won’t escape. Soon many sisters and fathers gathered and I send someone to call the in-charge of the Social Development Centre. Fr. Praful Tigga the Assistant Director of the SDC, came to the place. I explained to him that someone has taken my video from the next room, so please open the room and get me the video. He refused to act saying, “It’s my brother inside, I can’;t do that, I can’;t do harm to my brother.” Then we realized that it was a seminarian inside. I was shocked by his stand and asked him, “Then who am I?” Then I also told him “you are in charge of this place, please do something and get me the video immediately.” I repeatedly asked him to get me the video and he kept repeating that it is my brother. At this juncture, I lost my cool and I slapped him, though I realized later that it was not the right thing to do.
I sent Fr. Petrus, one of the participants at the meeting, to call the priests from bishop’;s house. When they came, they opened the door and we realized that he is a seminarian belonging to the Archdiocese of Ranchi doing theology in Rome. When the priests inquired about the incident, he refused at first, but later confessed that he has taken the video through the ventilator of the bathroom. In his room we found a laptop, a tablet, a camera, an external disk and his mobile. Sr. Sneha PHJC and Sr. Rosita SRA took all that and kept these in our room.
In desperation I called up my provincial superior Sr. Laila to come to SDC immediately and she came within 30 minutes along with her counselors. They took me to the Provincialate, on arrival there, Sr. Laila asked me to give her all the gadgets which we collected from the seminarian’s room and I handed them over to her.
The following day, on the 17th August 2014 about 09.30 a.m., the then auxiliary bishops elect of the Archdiocese of Ranchi, Rev. Theodore Mascarenhas SFX, and Rev. Telesphore Bilung SVD came to my Provincial House and met my Provincial and me. Both the bishops elect promised me saying, “Sister, we are sorry for what has been done to you by our seminarian, this should have never taken place, you are important to us, we are with you and we will do everything to protect your privacy and dignity. We will recommend to Cardinal Telesphore Toppo not to promote the seminarian to priesthood, and that’;s our strong stand. As soon as the Cardinal comes back from Bangalore we shall dismiss the seminarian. We do not want such priest for the Catholic Church. We will do justice to you.”
Rev. Theodore Mascarenhas SFX, and Rev. Telesphore Bilung SVD went to the SDC along with my Provincial Sr.Laila to verify the matter with the seminarian. At about 11.00 am, Sr.Laila called me to SDC to check how the seminarian took the video as there was a confusion as to whether he used a mobile camera or a video camera. The seminarian confessed that he used his mobile and had taken the video through the ventilator of his bathroom. At the request of the bishops elect, in the presence of the Provincial Sr. Laila, Sr. Jaya SRA, Fr. Shishir and myself, he demonstrated how he climbed on the chair and took the video. Before leaving the place the Bishops elect asked the seminarian if he had anything to tell me. He said he was sorry for what he did. Then they asked me if I had anything to say to him. I asked the seminarian “if it was your sister in my place what would you do?” and his reply was, “I will kill him”. Then I told the seminarian, “I leave you, if you change your life and become a holy man. Then that will be great before God.”
On 19 August Sr. Laila met the Cardinal and he told her that he had spoken to the seminarian, Bro. Pradeep. (Initially I was told by someone at SDC that the seminarian’s name is Pradeep Xalxo, but later I came to know that he is Br. Pradeep John Ekka). Since the bishops elect were to be consecrated at the end of August, the Cardinal expressed his difficulty to address the issue then as he was going to be occupied until then.
On 26th of August my provincial and her councillor Sr.Kavita SRA took me to SDC again to meet Fr.Praful and ask his forgiveness for slapping him. I asked pardon for what I did and Fr. Praful said that he has forgiven me. He also said that he was unable to respond to my request that time as he did not know what to do at that moment.
Meanwhile, I contacted my Superior General Sr. Nandita Periera who was already informed of the matter and she also assured me that justice will be done to me. Time lapsed without any action being taken by the Cardinal or by my superiors and in the beginning of October I got the information that Br. Pradeep was sent back to Rome to continue his theological studies. On hearing this, I was deeply pained, hurt and troubled, and I asked myself why the authorities concerned are taking such a stand on the heinous crime done to me.
Feeling more desperate about the situation, that no action has been taken even after two months, I took the matter to Fr. Fransis Kurian SJ, President of CRI, BIJAN; Fr.Thomas SDB President of National CRI; Fr. Tomy IMS, Director General of CHAI; Fr.Mathew, Health Secretary to CBCI and Sr. Manju Kulapuram SCSC, the National Secretary of Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace (FORUM) asking their intervention in this matter.
Now more than four months have passed since the incident has happened and yet no action has been taken. I am unable to sleep thinking whether the seminarian would abuse me further using what he has videotaped. I am terribly perplexed and shocked at the irony of the situation- the offender is sent back to continue his studies while me the victim remains broken, undergoing mental torture on being denied justice. I am in trauma, being distressed at the delay in getting justice. However, I continue with my regular work as the health coordinator.
Your Beatitude, I am writing this letter to you at the end of the year 2014 with much anguish, but also with some hope that at least you will address this issue. As the President of Catholic Bishops Conference of India, I trust that you will heed this plea and respond to this issue. Br. Pradeep needs to be tried according to the law of the land. Besides this, I would earnestly request you to take some action to see that sexual violence in any form is not tolerated or covered up in the Catholic Church in India. I hope you will not disappoint me in this matter.
Thanking you in anticipation,
Sr. Anupama Joseph SRA, Catholic Charities, Patel Bagan, Sundernagar, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand – 832107 Mob: +91-9973962232
Extract from the Letter submitted to CBCI President To His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, by Indian Women’s Theological Forum (IWTF).
- Dismiss the seminarian Pradeep John Ekka from his priestly formation.
- Ensure justice to Sr. Anupama Joseph, SRA
- Advice the member bishops of CBCI to show earnestness in implementing the gender policy of CBCI by showing zero tolerance of sexual crimes and misconduct. (Ref. Gender Policy of the Catholic Church of India, 2010, p. 29).