Shaken by recent sex scandals involving bishops and priests, the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church on Thursday decided to implement “a safe environment policy”, which envisages security for all people working in churches, convents and institutions under the sect.
The decision was taken at the Synod of the church, currently underway in Kochi and attended by 55 bishops. This is the first time that the church is adopting a policy for the safety of nuns and laity at church-run institutions.
As per the policy, all dioceses would have grievance redressal cells, which would also have representatives of laity. The cells would hear complaints against the clergy.
Church spokesman Fr Jimmy Poochakkatt said the Church wanted to ensure a situation in which every member discharges his or her duties safely. At present, a safe environment prevails in convents and other church institutions. The new policy wanted to encourage that safe environment for all, including children in the church, he said.
However, Reji Njallani, the chairman of the laymen body Kerala Catholic Reformation Movement, said the decision is only an eyewash. “The church has already several bodies to debate about complaints. However, decisions are taken only by the bishop or other church heads. The same situation would prevail in the new policy also. So, I don’t expect this would render justice for the aggrieved persons in the church,” he said.