Home Equality & Justice Known cases of sexual abuse in Indonesian Catholic churches, institutions are ‘tip...

Known cases of sexual abuse in Indonesian Catholic churches, institutions are ‘tip of the iceberg’

At least 56 people have been subjected to sexual abuse in Catholic churches and institutions across Indonesia, according to a weekly magazine report published by a parish in West Jakarta. 

The report, titled “Sexual Abuse in Indonesian Churches: An Iceberg Phenomenon?”, appeared in Warta Minggu, a weekly magazine published by Tomang Parish on Dec. 8.

It is based on a discussion held at Atma Jaya University last month to mark the international campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

During the discussion, Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) seminary commission secretary, Father Joseph Kristanto Suratman, admitted that, his commission had received reports from sources detailing at least 56 abuse victims. 

“That number includes 21 victims from among seminarians and brothers, 20 nuns and 15 laypeople,” Warta Minggu, quoted Father Kristanto as saying reported The Jakarta Post.

“There were 33 priests and 23 non-priest perpetrators. Many of the incidents occurred in education centers for prospective priests.”

Father Kristanto said these cases were most probably “the tip of the iceberg.” 

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“There are 37 archdioceses in Indonesia. If every archdiocese has even five or 10 cases, just count [the number] for yourself,” he said.

“And that is only counting archdioceses, not schools or orphanages,” he added.

Father Kristanto said the KWI had tried to prevent such abuse through a strict selection and education process for seminarians. 

Lidia Laksana Hidayat, a psychologist and a seminarian counselor, who took part in the discussion, said the root cause of sexual abuse often lay in the sexual abusers’ past. 

Father Kristanto said that Pope Francis had made the Church’s position clear on sexual abuse in his apostolic letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi issued in May.

“The pope reiterated that sexual crimes hurt our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual harm to the victims and damage the community of the faithful,” he said.
In an editorial Warta Minggu said the report was published to mark International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

“We are thankful that the Church is big-hearted enough not to deny its weaknesses. Of course, it is not enough to stay silent. Action must be taken to prevent worse things from happening and to uphold justice,” the editorial said.

“The perpetrators must be corrected, we must condemn their actions but not their humanity. […] Meanwhile, the victims should be saved and raised up from their suffering.”

A senior bishops’ conference official, Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, denied any knowledge of the magazine report, while National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) commissioner Mariana Amiruddin said the commission had not received a report about sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

Another commissioner, Adriana Venny, said abuse victims should file complaints with the police and the commission.

“Every perpetrator of sexual abuse must be processed legally and should not be allowed to go free. Victims must be given access to [legal recourse],” The Jakarta Post quoted Adriana as saying.

“Victims can report to the police and also to Komnas Perempuan. Our complaint and referral unit will analyze the victims’ needs and if they experience trauma, they will be referred for counselling,” she added.

Pope Francis has passed an ecclesiastical law requiring every diocese to create a system for the reporting of sexual abuse by clerics by June 2020.

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