Priests of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, who allegedly sexually assaulted a married woman, can be excommunicated if the charges against them are proved, senior clergymen said today.
"Not only rape, adultery is also a sin in our faith and proving the charges is enough to excommunicate them," they said.
A senior priest, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the charges of adultery or rape against a priest have to be proved before a church-appointed panel before officially excluding him from participation in the sacraments and services of the Church.
"Adultery, even with mutual consent, is a sin. If they are found guilty of committing rape or adultery, they can no longer function as priests," the clergyman told PTI.
Once excommunicated by the Church, the priests will never be treated as part of the clergy, another clergyman said.
They will not be barred from wearing the clergy attire, but they will only be treated as laity, he added.
The incident came to light after an audio clip containing the victim's husband's purported conversation with a church official alleging sexual abuse of his wife by the priests was widely circulated on the social media.
The Crime Branch of the Kerala Police slapped rape charges against four of the five priests and registered an FIR against them after recording the victim's statement. The name of the fifth clergyman was not included for want of substantial evidence.
The Kerala High Court had yesterday rejected anticipatory bail pleas of three priests -- Abraham Varghese alias Sony, Job Mathew and Jaise K George -- observing they acted as "predators" and took "undue advantage" of the woman.
Father Job Mathew, the second accused in the case, surrendered before the Crime Branch today and is being questioned, police sources said.
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