Looks like Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of raping a Kerala nun, might actually end up standing trial for the same. The survivor had accused Mulakkal or raping her between 2014 and 2016.
A Special Investigation Team probing the case had arrested Mulakkal in 2018. He was subsequently charged with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.
Mulakkal, in his plea before the Additional District and Sessions Court, claimed that prima facie there was no case to frame charges against him. But the prosecution opposed this plea and the court agreed that the bishop should stand for trial in the rape case.
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 nun said that she had approached church authorities on multiple occasions, but her complaints fell on deaf ears, forcing her to approach the police.
After accusations first emerged, Mulakkal had made counter allegations against the survivor launching a virtual smear campaign against her. In an interview to Times of India, Bishop Franco Mulakkal, had claimed that his conscience was clear and that the nun was getting back at him because he was investigating her for her alleged affair with the husband of one of her cousins. Infact, the Missionaries of Jesus congregation had released a photograph of the survivor nun with the accused Bishop in a purported bid to discredit the nun’s claims. This attracted the ire of women’s rights groups as well as the National Commission for Women.
Following this there was a huge outcry and the Church came under tremendous pressure to take action against the Bishop. Not only did the survivor nun’s fellow sisters stage a sit-in protest, the treatment meted out to her, but several senior priests and nuns have written 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. Catholic activists from feminist organizations Safe Cities and the Zero Tolerance Campaign also wrote to the Pope demanding justice for the survivor nun.
In what appeared to be a face saving measure by the Church, the accused bishop stepped down from his position on September 15, citing his need to be present for further questioning. On September 20, the Vatican relieved him of his duties, replacing him with Bishop AR Gracias. Shortly afterwards, Mulakkal was arrested.
But 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. His family suspected foul play. Earlier, Father Kuriakose has alleged that he was under severe pressure by church officials for his support of the nun who has accused the bishop of rape. In an interview to Mathrubhumi, Fr Kuriakose had said, “The sisters had approached me complaining about Bishop Franco. They did not approach the Kerala police fearing the bishop. In fact, I fear what will happen to me for speaking out against him.”
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