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Eerie silence from Bishop’s House

How many more Consolitas were sexually abused?

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(April 26, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) While there is international outcry over war crimes where soldiers committed rape on civilians during the last throes war, the media is unable to obtain the names of the two Catholic priests from Bishop’s House who are alleged to have sexually harassed 22 year old Consolita which tragically resulted in her death.

Giving evidence in Court this week, Consolita’s father was insistent that she was murdered and had not committed suicide as reported in the media from the North. The argument from the Bishop’s House in response is that her parents had not voiced a complaint that she was sexually harassed or abused by the said priests.

Not attempting to cast aspersions on the Catholic clergy in general, it is still incumbent on the Bishop’s House that it speaks out and name the two priests concerned. If indeed they are innocent of the allegations made by the parents it is in the interest of all concerned they clear their names and exonerate the church and protect its reputation.

Until this matter is dealt with and probed, the Catholic clergy would be held in doubt and become the cause of deep concern among its parishioners. No more can it bury its head in the sand like an ostrich and hope this too will blow away.

Given the social stigma attached to admitting that a young girl taken advantage of by priests who she believed to be her spiritual mentors, it must have been quite difficult and painful for her to tell her parents she was being sexually harassed . Despite the fact she was forbidden to attend the Catholic institution where she hoped to receive religious education and incarcerated at home for six weeks until her untimely death, there is something very peculiar in the manner she died.

Consolita ‘s body was discovered in a well close to St Patrick’s College, a stone’s throw from Bishop’s House in Jaffna. Her tragic death is a warning signal that sex offenders who prey on those who trust - be they priests, soldiers, politicians or people in authority - should be hauled up before a Court of Law, named, shamed and meted out punishment accordingly.

Consolita’s death is a matter for a deeper investigation into the Catholic clergy’s turning a blind eye within its portals and re-examining the conduct of just a few of its priests who took an oath of celibacy.

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)