Weekly magazine Warta Minggu published by the Tomang Roman Catholic parish in West Jakarta reported that at least 56 people were subjected to sexual abuse in Catholic churches across Indonesia.
The report, titled Sexual Abuse in Indonesian Churches: An Iceberg Phenomenon?, was published on Sunday and is based on a discussion held at Atma Jaya University late 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 Joseph Kristanto said that, while he did not have definitive data about the number of sexual abuse victims in Catholic churches in the country, his team had received reports from informants detailing at least 56 victims.
“That number includes 21 victims from among seminarians and brothers, 20 nuns and 15 laypeople,” Kristanto said as quoted by Warta Minggu.
“Who were the perpetrators? There were 33 priests and 23 non-priest perpetrators. Many of the incidents occurred in education centres for prospective priests.”
Kristanto said the data only represented “the tip of the iceberg”.
“There are 37 archdioceses in Indonesia. If every archdiocese has even five or 10 cases, just count for yourself,” he said. “And that is only at the archdiocese, not counting schools or orphanages.”
Kristanto said one of the ways the KWI tried to prevent such abuse was through a stringent selection and education process for seminarians.
Lidia Laksana Hidayat, a psychologist and counsellor for seminarians, who attended the discussion, echoed Kristanto’s comments and said the root of sexual abuse often lay in the sexual abusers’ past.
Kristanto said Pope Francis had made the church’s position clear 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.
Warta Minggu’s editorial said the report was published to mark International Human Rights Day, which falls on December 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 from their suffering.”
When reached for comment, KWI Council on Laity secretary Paulus Christian Siswantoko told The Jakarta Post on Monday that he was not aware of the report.
Kristanto was not immediately available for comment when contacted by the Post.
National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) commissioner Mariana Amiruddin told the Post that the commission had yet to receive any report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
Another Komnas Perempuan commissioner, Adriana Venny, urged any sexual abuse victims to file reports with the police and the commission regarding the matter.
“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],” Adriana told the Post.
“Victims can report to the police and also to Komnas Perempuan. Our complaint and referral unit will analyse the victims’ needs and if they experience trauma, they will be referred for counselling,” she added.
The Roman Catholic Church has been widely criticised for the failure of officials to take action on sexual abuse allegations against priests, with thousands of reports surfacing in the US, Europe, Australia, Chile, Canada, and India over the past few years.
Through his apostolic letter, Pope Francis passed an ecclesiastical law obliging every diocese to create a system for the reporting of sexual abuse by clerics by June next year.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK