By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, has been dragged into another controversy — this time for inaction in a nun’s sexual abuse complaint against a Catholic bishop.
The nun, whose name cannot be revealed for legal reasons, approached the Inspector General of Police in Kerala, southern India, on June 30 alleging that the cardinal had not acted on her complaint against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.
A day earlier, she had filed another case in Vaikom, Kerala, against Bishop Mulakkal. She alleged that the bishop first raped her in May 2014 at a guest house in Kuravilangad near Kerala’s Kottayam town and later on subjected her to rape and unnatural sex on 13 different occasions.
The nun, who is reportedly in mid 40s, has worked for decades in Jalandhar diocese that covers the northern Indian state of Punjab.
Bishop Mulakkal, 55, has denied the charge and dismissed it as an act of revenge for transferring her from superior’s post in the Missionaries of Jesus, a 25-year-old diocesan congregation for women that works mainly in Punjab.
The nun’s case against Bishop Mulakkal was filed ten days after the prelate complained to the police in Kottayam about a life threat from her brother.
The Jalandhar diocese shared with Matters India an audio clip of the bishop’s interview with a Malayalam TV channel. In it, the prelate said the nun was acting vengefully for probing a complaint he had received from a married woman accusing the nun of sexual relations with her husband.
Amid such allegations and counter allegations, the Kerala police on July 1 said they would send a team to Jalandhar to question Bishop Mulakkal.
The nun, who is now based in Kerala, her native place, says she had informed Cardinal Alencherry about her abuse two years ago but he took no action.
The police questioned her for five hours on July 1 and she reported stuck to her complaints. She clarified that she stood firm in the sexual assault allegation against the bishop. The police recorded her statement at a convent near Kuravilangad.
She was subjected to medical tests on June 30.
Meanwhile, a group of Syro-Malabar Catholics filed another complaint against the cardinal for allegedly failing to act on the nun’s sexual abuse complaint.
The cardinal is already mired in a controversial land scam where prime property of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese was sold at much lower prices.
John Jacob, who represents the complainants, said the cardinal should have forwarded the nun’s complaint to police.
This was the view of Kerala State Women’s Commission chairperson M C Josephine. She told reporters that the cardinal should have handed over to the police if the nun had raised charges of rape.
Sources in the Syro-Malabar Church said the Oriental rite has nothing with the charges as both Bishop Mulakkal and the nun served the Latin rite.
Latin rite dioceses such as Jalandhar come under the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India and Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, is its president. Mulakkal, who was ordained a priest for Jalandhar in 1990, became its bishop in 2013. He was earlier the auxiliary bishop of Delhi archdiocese.
Meanwhile, supporters of Bishop Mulakkal rejected the charges against the prelate. They said the nun filed the complaint after an official of the Jalandhar diocese lodged a police complaint against her relatives on charges of threatening the bishop.