By Matters India Reporter
Kochi: Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, on September 8 witnessed a unique protest
Five members of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation, dressed in habits and veils, joined the family members of Catholic nun, who was allegedly raped by a bishop.
They staged a sit-in demonstration at the High Court junction, a busy area in the city to protest laxity in arresting the accused bishop.
The protest was jointly organized by various groups such as the Kerala Catholic Reformation Movement that tries to unite estranged members of the Church.
They demanded the prelate’s immediate arrest and accused the Kerala police of delaying the probe into the case.
The case began on June 28 when the former superior general of the Missionaries of Congregation complained to the police that Bishop Franco Mulackal of Jalandhar had repeated abused her sexually between 2014 and 2016.
She belongs to a congregation that is under the Jalandhar diocese, which covers the northern Indian state of Punjab. It was started Bishop Franco’s predecessor, Capuchin Bishop Symphorian Keeprath.
Bishop Franco and his accuser are natives of Kerala.
The nun said the bishop abused her in their convent in Kuravilangad, a Catholic dominated village some 50 km southeast of Kochi, where she was the superior.
The bishop has not only denied the allegations but accused the nun of resorting to vendetta for his disciplinary action against her.
One of the nuns at the sit-in demonstration said they were forced to come to the streets as the police and the Church have denied them justice.
She and other nuns came from their Kuravilangad convent, where the alleged rape survivor continues to remain.
“There is no one to protect us. We will stand firm with the complainant nun. There are efforts in the background to sabotage the case,” the nun added.
The five nuns bemoaned that the Church too has disowned them after they leveled charges against Bishop Franco.
“We had hoped that the Church leadership would take a favorable decision but it didn’t happen,” they added.
They regretted that the police have not arrested the bishop even after several other nuns complained against him.
“The arrest of the bishop is not happening. So we are proceeding with the protest,” they added.
The Kuravilangad convent had nine nuns, including the complainant. One left the order recently disgusted with the lack of action in the case.
Meanwhile V. S. Achuthanandan, the seniormost leader of Kerala’s Marxist party, termed it as “a grave matter” that nuns had to come to the streets to seek justice.
The nuns have resorted to the sit-in demonstration as there was no apparent action against the bishop even after two months either from the police or the Church authorities, the 94-year-old leader noted.
“It is not right in our judicial system to allow the Church to deal with criminal cases involving its own members,” the former chief minister of Kerala told reporters.
He says the victim nun now suffers great mental tension as the bishop continues to reign free despite all investigations. The nun has so far undergone police interrogation several times in her convent and at police stations in Kerala, whereas the bishop was questioned only once at his residence in Jalandhar.
Achuthanandan urged the police not to delay the bishop’s address as they were allegations that the diocese had resorted to bribery and intimidation to force the nuns to drop the case.
A senior Catholic priest in Kerala too says the delay in granting justice to the nuns does not augur well for the Church.
“I will only say that there was a delay on the part of the Church to give justice to the nuns,” Father Paul Thelakat, editor of the Sathyadeepam weekly, told mangalam.com, a Malayalam news portal. He also blamed the Kerala police inaction in the case.