DIBRUGARH, May 18 - In a significant move, the Catholic bishops of Assam have taken a serious stand on punishing priests and other clergymen who are found involved in immoral and antisocial activities.
The bishops have stated that the religious heads would in no way protect any member of the church if accused and convicted of any crime such as paedophilia and other offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, a release stated.
In a meeting held at St Clement College, Nagaon, the Assam bishops said that the perpetrators of such crimes must know that the superiors would never protect them from civil and ecclesiastical sanctions. The bishops, who are apprehensive about the abuse of women and others in church institutions, said that they are bound to report to the civil authorities if such offences are committed. The bishops resolved to initiate serious action against the perpetrators of such crimes by way of dismissal, suspension or legal proceedings. Any demands for compensation against such crimes by the victims will have to be met by the perpetrators and the diocese will not be responsible for it, the bishops resolved.
During the daylong meeting presided over by Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati Archdiocese, the Catholic heads of the State also stressed the need of maintaining transparency and accountability in the use of church resources. All church resources must be properly used and no consecrated person should stain himself by misuse of church money and other resources, the meeting resolved. The other Catholic heads in the meeting included Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh, Bishop Thomas Pulloppillil of Bongaigaon, Bishop Michael Akasius of Tezpur and Bishop Paul Mattekatt of Diphu.
The meeting further resolved to promote skill-based and job-oriented higher education, including coaching for various State and national-level competitive examinations among the youths of the State.
The meeting adopted a resolution to encourage the local youths to go for various civil services including administrative, managerial and banking jobs.
There are about 200 schools run by Catholics in the State, but there are very few institutes of higher education. The bishops recently started a coaching institute – Guwahati Insight Academy – to train youngsters for various competitive exams. The bishops felt that value-based education among future bureaucrats, administrators, managers, etc., is a must for good governance.
The bishops also discussed networking with the churches of other Christian denominations and building cordial relationships with them.