One more priest, belonging to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, accused in a rape case has been arrested by Kerala police on Friday. Fr Johnson V. Mathew, the third accused in the case for raping a 34-year-old woman, was arrested from Pathanamthitta district of Kerala and brought to Thiruvalla Crime Branch office for questioning.
Mathew's is the second arrest in the rape case. The second accused—Fr Job Mathew—had surrendered on Thursday. The crime branch of Kerala Police have slapped rape charges against five priests for allegedly sexually exploiting the woman.
The arrests come only a couple of days after the anticipatory bail pleas of Fr Abraham Varghese alias Sony, Fr Job Mathew and Fr Jaise K. George were dismissed by the Kerala High Court on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the priests could be excommunicated if the charges against them are proved, senior clergymen said on Thursday.
"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," said the clergyman.