The incident was reported to the police. The parish priest and bishop of the diocese of Bogor want transparency in publically reporting this sexual scandal within the Church and the perpetrator brought to justice.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - For the first time, a trial could take place within the Catholic Church of Indonesia, as the parish priest of the St. Herculanus Parish Church of Depok (pictured), supported by the bishop of Bogor Mgr. Paskalis Bruno Syukur OFM attempts to make a sexual predator face justice.
In that West Java church, about 21 altar boys were led to perform sexual acts by their tutor known as SPM (42).
SPM is a lawyer and holds a law degree from the Catholic University of Jakarta. After being tutor for altar boys for years, the new pastor assigned him to head of the liturgical desk in February 2020.
This shocking case of a sexual predator involving a man from the inner circle of the parish church initially surfaced when the parents of victims complained of some "oddities" in the behavior of their 11-12 year old children.
Assisted by the KWI Commission for Justice and Peace, an investigative team was set up to search for clues to the origin of the suddenly changed behaviors of these altar boys.
In the end they discovered the unimaginable: their children had often been seduced by SPM to perform sexual acts. Sometimes in the pastoral building of the parish church, in the predator’s residential house and in other places. What shocked these parents is also the fact that the same case with the same predator had been discovered in 2014.
The mother of one victim unexpectedly surprised the sexual act committed by SPM on her son at her home and then filed a complaint with the parish priest. But a "family deal" was made to put an end to the case by the then pastor at the time when these SPM sexual acts against altar boys came to light for the first time.
What prompted the Catholic community in the parish church of St. Herculanus to feel uneasy was the decision of the then pastor who continued to keep SPM as tutors to the altar boys.
It is unclear why he was not dismissed or seriously reprimanded for this sex scandal since the then pastor still kept SPM in the same tutor position as the altar boys until a new priest moved him to a another assignment in February 2020.
Supported by the KWI Justice and Peace Commission and a lawyer from the legal team, the parents of the victims finally presented the case to the Depok police and the perpetrator was therefore blocked despite his initial refusal to admit such a crime.
The case attracted a lot of attention in the Indonesian Catholic community when police publicly exposed the story last week.
The positive steps taken by the Church
Speaking to AsiaNews about this case that shocked the entire Indonesian Catholic community, the lawyer of the families of the victims Azas Tigor Nainggolan says that the number of victims could increase. The scandal has been taking place since 2002 and it makes sense that more and more victims are expected to come forward, despite the fact that today "we still only have 21".
What makes Nainggolan safer to act is the fact that both the parish priest and the bishop of the diocese of Bogor, Msgr. Paskalis Bruno Syukur share the intention that this type of sexual scandal within the Church must be transparently brought to light and that the perpetrator be brought to justice.
Speaking to AsiaNews about this incident, Bishop Syukur confirmed that he supported Nainggolan's legal action to bring the culprit to justice. "I authorized him to deal with this problem," he said.
The current parish priest of the St. Herculanus Parish Church, Fr. Sirilus Yulius Natet echoed the same sentiments. Interviewed by dozens of journalists about the scandal, he told the media "almost everything". He will not cover up this incident, in the hope of ending this type of crime in the church: "This type of legal process should become a best practice to be exercised in the Church, not covering the case but ending it appropriately," he told AsiaNews
It is logical that such a "new" approach proposed by the bishop of Bogor and the parish priest of St. Herculanus could provoke different opinions among the church community and among the priests of the same diocese. Some of them expressed concerns and criticisms about publicizing the case in how much this sexual crime within the church has been officially presented to the police.
"Why don’t we deal with it within our own community?" Asked a parishioner without giving his real name to AsiaNews since the case is so sensitive for all the parishioners of St. Herculanus.
Nainggolan, who is now the advocate for the victims and their families, does not deny this claim. "There are truly - he tells AsiaNews - dissenting opinions among priests and in the Catholic community on how to deal with this problem. Even some priests have openly accused me of 'destroying' the good image of the Catholic Church." "However, the bishop of Bogor and I have a common goal: to end this sexual crime involving people internally on the legal basis of our community ".
"Our goal is clear, namely to protect the victims, while showing the understanding and protection of the Church for them. The Church must act as protector of the victims and their families. And not fight them," explains Nainggolan, who spent years working with the Jesuit social apostolate in the now dissolved Social Institute, before starting his own law firm.
"I am still a devoted Catholic and my professional position as a lawyer is to defend and guarantee the interest of the victims and their families as authorized by the bishop of Bogor", he adds, rejecting any "accusation" by a priest who charged him with being disrespectful for telling the story to the public.
"This story could only be the tip of the iceberg, given that we don't have the courage to openly reveal culprits among consecrated persons in the Church," he says.
The legal team and support group includes a nun, a psychotherapist and a priest who work behind the scenes to protect the victims and their families.