In what is being seen as a face saving measure for the Church, after the Missionaries of Jesus congregation released a photograph of the rape survivor nun from Kerala seated by Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the priest accused of raping her, the accused bishop has stepped down from his position citing his need to be present for further questioning.
Image Courtesy: Reuters
In a letter Bishop Franco says, “I would like to thank all of you for your continued support and prayers for me at this time continued problems affecting my Episcopal ministry. As you have probably come to know from the media the investigation into the allegations raised against me there are several contradictions in the evidences collected against me as per the report of the police. It is reported I am likely to be called for further clarifications by the investigating officer in Kerala."
By releasing the picture, Missionaries of Jesus had not only broken the law protecting the identity of rape survivors, but the move was also seen as an alleged bid to malign the survivor nun’s character and dilute the strength of her claim. Earlier Kerala MLA PC George had called the nun a prostitute. He was forced to retract the comment under intense pressure after the National Commission for Women (NCW) demanded action against him and a social media backlash where people started a campaign to send him duct tape to shut his mouth!
The Kerala Police have already filed charges against the congregation for releasing the survivor’s picture. The case was registered by the survivor nun’s brother at the Kuravilangadu Police Station in Kottayam district.
Brief Background of the case
The nun had filed a police complaint saying that she was allegedly raped 13 times by Jallandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal over a period of two years (2014-2016), when she was at a convent in Kuravilangad, a small town near Kottayam in Kerala. The accused Bishop admits to have stayed in a room at a mission house at the convent on 13 occasions when he visited Kerala during that period.
The nun said that she had approached church authorities on multiple occasions, but her complaints fell on deaf ears, forcing her to approach the police. In fact, during police investigations, Joseph Kallarangatt who is Bishop of the Syro-Malabar diocese of Pala, told investigators that the nun had met him and told him about her ordeal.
Meanwhile, Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the accused, had claimed in an interview to Times of India that his conscience is clear. In fact, in the same interview he launched a counter allegation against the nun claiming that she was getting back at him because he was investigating her for her alleged affair with the husband of one of her cousins. The Church was accused of not only victim shaming, but also an alleged cover up!
But many within the church stood by the survivor nun and several senior priests and nuns wrote to Cardinal Oswald Gracious, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and Vatican Nuncio Giambattista Diquattro, demanding that that the accused Bishop be relieved of his duties.