Kerala: Congregation Calls Rape Accused Bishop "Innocent Soul", Condemns Protest By Nuns
In a first, five nuns took part in a protest near Kerala High Court on September 8 to get justice for their colleague, a fellow nun, who was allegedly raped by Bishop Father Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar. They also demanded the immediate arrest of the accused Bishop. Reportedly, Catholic reformation organizations also joined the protest which had been called by the Joint Christian Council.
According to The Indian Express, earlier in June, a fellow nun from Missionaries of Jesus in Kottayam filed a complaint against the Bishop accusing him of raping her repeatedly 13 times since the year 2014. When the church failed to take action on this matter, the nun approached the Kerala police. Following her complaint, the bishop was booked under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code. Police have questioned him on August 13 but failed to arrest him and to any further probe in the matter. However, following the protest, the Kerala High Court on September 10 asked the police to submit a report on the action that has been taken since the complaint was lodged.
Nuns in conflict with the congregation
The five nuns of Missionaries of Jesus are determined to get justice. The nuns and their families are facing mental trauma and continuous pressure from the church, but they are keen to fight for their fellow sister. One of the nuns, while slamming the police’s inaction in nabbing the accused said, “The police have repeatedly taken the statement of the victim nun, but they have taken Franco Mulakkal’s statement only once. It’s been 74 days since she gave a complaint, but other than the police questioning the victim, we don’t see any other progress.”
Reportedly, this is the first time in the Catholic church’s history in Kerala that nuns have come out in protest against the church authorities and the police, who have been allegedly trying to delay the process of investigation and the resultant arrest. However, their move did attract some strong criticism as The Missionaries of Jesus congregation, to which the nuns belong, on September 10 condemned the protest by the five nuns. In a statement, the congregation said, “We strongly condemn the protest in Kochi. We cannot crucify an innocent soul based on such allegations,” reported News18. The statement has also said that the allegations against the Bishop are completely baseless.
We condemn 5 nuns protesting with some orgs working against church. Our conscious doesn't allow us to crucify an innocent soul (Jalandhar Bishop) based on sexual abuse allegations by a nun. We suspect nuns have been forced into protest by external influence: Missionaries of Jesus
— ANI (@ANI) September 10, 2018
What does the police have to say?
Reportedly, a special team has been looking into the case and after a preliminary investigation, it found that the Bishop had abused his position and had raped the nun repeatedly. According to The Indian Express, SP Hari Sankar has said that there is a lack of scientific evidence which could substantiate the rape charges and the delay in informing the police is an impediment. Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kottayam, K Subhash had earlier on August 13 informed the High Court that the investigation is going on effectively and in an impartial manner.
However, Poonjar MLA PC George while speaking at a press conference had stirred up fresh controversy regarding the case where he reportedly questioned the nun’s character as well as questioned her allegations. At the press meet, he said, “No one has doubt that the nun is a prostitute. Why didn’t she complain the first time?”, reported The News Minute. Such derogatory remarks have raised eyebrows and National Commission for Women chief Rekha Sharma has slammed George while demanding initiation of strict action against him.