Fr Lawrence Johnson (51), accused of abusing a teenage boy from his parish in Shivaji Nagar, could be disrobed or divested of priesthood if allegations against him are substantiated.Fr Johnson was arrested for allegedly sodomizing the 13-year-old at Christ the King Church in Govandi on November 27. The police have registered offences under Section 377 of the IPC and POCSO Act.

Senior inspector Balasaheb Jadhav told TOI that a medical examination had revealed grievous injuries to the victim’s private parts. “We have also sent fluid samples for chemical tests but those reports could become available after weeks.

Such cases from all parts of the state are examined in sequential order,“ he said. Another officer said Fr Johnson did not appear remorseful. He said, “Even as the boy and his mother were sobbing, Fr Johnson shrugged and said, what is the need to arrest me?“ The case’s outcome will be the benchmark for how the Church deals with abuse.

Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesman of the Archdiocese, indicated that they have a zero-tolerance policy in such matters. The Church has appointed a threemember committee to conduct an internal investigation. The inquiry report will be submitted to the Vatican, which will decide if there is merit in the allegations. Punishment could range from censure, suspension or dismissal from priesthood.

Should Fr Johnson be exonerated, he may be reassigned to another place given the “loss of faith“ at his present parish. The accused is receiving legal aid from the Conference of the Diocesan Priests of the Archdiocese of Bombay . Priests receive legal aid as part of their right to defence. Church representatives are reaching out to the victim’s family and helping them. The neighbouring parish has been requested to assist in the pastoral needs of Christ the King.