By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi, Jan. 24, 2019: A prominent Catholic lay leader on January 24 urged the Apostolic Nuncio to India to take immediate steps to relocate a rape-accused bishop to ensure justice and fair trial of the case.
“That Franco Mulakkal, the powerful accused, be forthwith relocated from the geographical area of Jalandhar diocese, and be forbidden to interact with the MJ [Missionaries of Jesus] congregation, directly or through intermediaries,” says chhotebhai, former national president of the All India Catholic Union, in a letter to Apostolic Nuncio to India Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro.
Bishop Mulakkal, who has been accused of sexually abusing the former MJ superior general multiple times between 2014 and 2016, is currently out on bail in Jalandhar diocese that covers the entire Punjab state and parts of neighboring Himachal Pradesh.
Chhotebhai, who now coordinates the “We Too are Church,” a collective of concerned Indian Catholics seeking the reform and renewal of the Church, has shared his “open letter” with the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), and presidents of the Conference of Religious India and Council of Catholic Women of India, besides Catholic media outlets in the country.
The lay leader has also urged the nuncio to direct the either the CBCI president or the president of the Latin bishops’ conference to immediately meet with the alleged victim and submit his findings to Pope Francis.
CBCI president Cardinal Oswald Gracias is part of a four-member committee the Pope has set up to organize the February 21-24 meeting on “Protection of minors and vulnerable adults” in Rome.
Chhotebhai’s letter echoes a letter the organizing committee has written in December to all participants of the Rome meeting that takes place in the backdrop of a series of abuse cases reported from around the world, including the alleged rape of the Indian nun.
The committee has urged each episcopal president “to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome, to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured.”
The organizing committee wants the Church leaders to first acknowledge “the truth of what has happened” for a “comprehensive and communal response,” the healing of victim survivors.
If this is not done, the “very credibility of the Church” will be in “jeopardy,” the organizing committee asserts.
Another request from chhotebhai to nuncio is to help provide the nun allegedly raped by the bishop emotional, spiritual and ecclesiastic support. The lay leader also wants Archbishop Diquattro to ensure that the victim and her supporting nuns stay together in Kerala until their statements are recorded before the concerned judicial officer hearing the case.
The MJ superior general has transferred five nuns supporting the victim from their convent in Kuravilangad in Kerala. The congregation had earlier condemned the five nuns for joining a sit-in demanding Bishop Mulakkal’s arrest.
Chhotebhai wants the nuncio to press upon the superior general to submit to the authority of the court concerned and revoke the transfer orders “so that the course of justice is not impeded.”
He says that for several months Catholics in India have been reading and hearing, ad nauseum on TV channels “the Frightening Franco Mulakkal case.”
The Catholic lay leader says his letter was prompted by Swami Agnivesh, a renowned Hindu ascetic, who wrote to Pope Francis a day earlier against the transfer of the MJ nuns.