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Our View: Disgraced bishop deserves to be defrocked

Former Bishop Chrysostomos of Kition (left)

Some societies progress faster than others and things that were deemed acceptable or ignored in the past, no longer are.

Cyprus is moving slowly but it’s getting there, and even though there was outrage over the fact that the former Kiti Bishop, Chrysostomos, was not jailed for sexual assault, he has been tried, convicted, and sentenced in a court of law.

This is a huge step for a country where the Church has always had great influence, and even more so that a woman without power or privilege was brave enough to take it on. Forty years ago, when the assault took place, a teenage girl could not have found someone to listen to her and take any action.

Many think the bishop has not been adequately punished, especially as he has shown no remorse or apologised for his actions that have affected other young women who did not come forward but are said to exist.

Prison is supposedly a deterrent not to commit the same crime again. This is not likely to happen as the offending bishop is now so disgraced, no one will seek him out for spiritual guidance ever again. But punishment is still called for.

It will now be down to the Holy Synod to mete it out when it meets on Tuesday. Defrocking is probably the most it can do, however. It might not seem like much, since defrocked or not, he will likely live out his days in relative comfort.

But the Synod’s decision will be an indicator of whether the Church leadership cares at all about, truth, honesty and justice and the flock it claims to care for. Not defrocking this disgrace of a human being – if that’s all they can do – would be a complete mockery.

That aside, the Church likely knows who the perverts are within its ranks but to date has turned a blind eye, under the belief that the Church is untouchable, which it has been for too long. There could be a trail of sexual assault victims going back decades.

There are some reports that the Synod might merely demote the former bishop rather than defrock him using the excuse that he wasn’t put into a prison cell. This is a strong possibility, but it would be a grave mistake on the part of the Church leadership. Of course, with reports that the former bishop is to appeal the court ruling, it’s possible the Synod will use this as an excuse to postpone any decision at all.

In a narrow sense, the offender has gotten away with it by not being jailed, but it is a step forward for society as a whole. It is the other victims or potential victims of any priest who can benefit. It opens the way for them to seek justice knowing that someone may finally listen to them. The takeaway for the Church is that society is no longer willing to tolerate the impunity priests have enjoyed for centuries.

If the Synod is unable to see this, then it needs to look at the demise of the Catholic Church in recent years for exactly these reasons.

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