Kerala nun rape case: Congregation expels nun who protested against the accused

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: August 7, 2019
Sister Lucy Kallapura, a Kerala nun who raised her voice against the rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal has been dismissed by the Fransiscan Clarist Congregation (FCC). This dismissal comes nearly a year after Sister Lucy joined other nuns at a protest in Kochi against the manner in which Mulakkal was allowed to operate with impunity with full blessings of the church authorities.

Sister Lucy

Interestingly, the FCC’s reason for dismissal was the nun’s lifestyle. They objected to her learning how to drive and writing poems! Supervisor General of the FCC Ann Joseph reportedly wrote to Sister Lucy informing her of her dismissal claiming they had approval from the Vatican to do so!

According to The News Minute, a part of the letter of confirmation from Vatican read, “The Congregation for the Oriental Churches, by virtue of the faculty given to it by the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis having considered everything seriously, has granted the confirmation, as per the request, so that the same professed one remains freed from her religious profession and other obligations and separated from her Religious Congregation, and to be considered dismissed from her religious life, and to be considered as a simple layperson the other things to be done what are to be done according to the law.”  

All of this is particularly disturbing in light of how the case has developed so far.

Brief Background of the rape case
The rape survivor 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.

Cardinal claims never received any rape complaint
Then, fingers were being pointed at Cardinal George Allencherry for knowing about the abuse but failing to act against it. However, the Cardinal claimed that his office did not receive any complaint of rape! When a police team led by Vaikom Dy SP K Subhash questioned the Cardinal, he said he never received a rape complaint from the nun, though she did raise some concerns about some issues at her convent for which she was directed to approach the concerned congregation.

In fact, the official communique from the Church said, “It is unclear from media reports who is this nun. However, a nun working with Jalandhar diocese had met the cardinal and complained about some appointments and transfers in her congregation and the inconveniences she faced. Since her congregation belonged to Jalandhar diocese, which comes congregation belonged to Jalandhar diocese, which comes under the Latin hierarchy, she was advised to approach it as the cardinal had no jurisdiction.”

Accused priest engages in victim shaming
Meanwhile, Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the accused, 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. In 2016, the nun was posted with the Mission of Jesus Sisters in Jallandhar, where the accused is the Bishop of the diocese.

According to Sister Regina, Superior General of the mission, in November that year, the nun’s cousin had approached the church alleging that the nun was having an affair with her husband and she urged the church to step in to save her family. Sister Regina and a committee of four sisters pursued the investigation after getting the go ahead from Bishop Mulakkal. Interestingly, Bishop Mulakkal’s duties have neither been terminated nor has he been even suspended pending investigation.

Senior clergy and nuns write to CBCI and Vatican
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. "Now that the case has gone to the courts, we urge you to please advise Pope Francis to relieve the bishop concerned of his pastoral responsibilities, so that the Church is seen to actually practice the 'zero tolerance' it professes to observe in abuse cases. With the accused bishop continuing to remain in his position, it will continue to erode the faith of the people in the credibility of the Church to implement its policy of zero tolerance and act justly in abuse matters," said the letter to the CBCI president.

“The accused bishop continuing to remain in his position will erode the faith of the people in the credibility of the Church to implement its policy of zero tolerance and act justly in abuse matters," said the letter to the Vatican Nuncio.

Congregation releases rape survivor nun’s picture, Bishop forced to step down
After the Missionaries of Jesus congregation broke the law by releasing a photograph of the rape survivor nun from Kerala, the church authorities were forced to take action against the accused Bishop as a face saving measure. The congregation, in a bid to shame the survivor, had released a picture showing her seated by Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the priest accused of raping her. But after outrage against this despicable move, the accused bishop was forced to step down from his position. He of course claimed he had done this of his own volition citing his need to be present for further questioning.

The Bishop was temporarily relieved of his duties by the Vatican. The Bishop had applied for anticipatory bail before the Kerala High Court and was questioned by the Crime Branch in Kochi.

Nun protest sexual exploitation, Bishop finally arrested
In an unprecedented protest nuns came out on the street demanding the arrest of the Bishop. The protest went on for two whole weeks. Sister Lucy played a prominent role in this protest and challenged the patriarchy within the Church. This, even as Mulakkal was being questioned by the police. Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal was arrested on charges of rape after a three day long drilling by Kerala police in Kochi.  

Key witness dies under mysterious circumstances
In October 2018, Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, 62, a priest at St Paul’s church in Hoshiarpur district, Punjab, was found dead in his room in the church on Monday morning. He had testified against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the Catholic priest accused of raping a Kerala nun and supported the protests by other nuns. He had made statements claiming that he feared for his life.
His family has filed a police complaint calling it a "mysterious, sudden death" and alleging he feared for his life and was attacked earlier. The police said that no injury was found but there were signs he had vomited. This death came just a week after the accused was released on bail.