Mumbai: The office of the Archbishop of Bombay has asked Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar to step down to help unfold an inquiry against him.
It says the reputation of the Church, not just in Kerala but all over the country, is at stake and stepping down would be the right thing to do at this juncture. If the bishop isn’t guilty, he can get back to his position, says Father Niget Barrett, spokesperson for the office of Archbishop of Mumbai.
The priest told a press conference on September 12 that it is only the Vatican which can initiate an inquiry.
“It would be best recommended that the Bishop of Jalandhar steps down and an impartial enquiry, I hope a judicial enquiry, would be done so that it can’t be intimidated using the church mechanisms and enquire into the authenticity claims of both parties and if the Bishop of Jalandhar is guilty, then since it’s a criminal act, the court should take cognizance and act accordingly,” said Father Nigel.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, who is also the head of the Indian Catholic Church, is one of the nine cardinal advisers appointed by the pope and so is currently in Vatican. The Vatican is currently pondering over the accusations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former chief Vatican diplomat in the United States who has accused the Pope of covering up sexual abuse and giving comfort to a “homosexual current” in the Vatican.
Father Nigel says that before leaving India, he had met Archbishop Oswald but he had not indicated that discussing the current allegation in India was on the card. “Cardinal Oswald has apparently indicated that he would communicate this matter to the authorities concerned and ensure that the processes are in place so that justice is given,” said Father Nigel.
Talking about the delay in initiating this enquiry, Father Nigel added, “I honestly believe that the credibility of the church is at stake. It is my honest opinion that we have not acted sufficiently, fast and effective enough to ensure that justice is done both to the bishop as well as to the nun. If the bishop is innocent, having an enquiry will only help him and if he is guilty then action would need to be taken. I am not sure as to why the enquiry has not taken place. These are aspects of the church law and I am not preview to that kind of information so I will not be able to say why it has taken so much time.”
Normally the enquiry is initiated from the Vatican which appoints a senior bishop to conduct the investigation. An enquiry team is constituted which would have persons from various fields like there would be legal experts, retired police commissioner level officer, who would understand the investigation, and then there are people who understand the church law. There also would be people who’d be sensitive to women in general to ask the right kind of questions with the right kind of disposition so that the victim does not suffer more humiliation.
In June, a Kerala nun had filed a case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, accusing him of raping her 13 times.
Since then, the police have been investigating the case. However, the nun has also written to the Vatican alleging that the bishop is using his power and money to silence her and other nuns who, too, have come forward accusing the bishop of inappropriate behavior.