A collective of Catholic Indian nuns, women’s groups and activists are staging protests in Kochi, the financial hub of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The nuns and other groups are demanding justice for another nun, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a bishop. Five priests have been arrested in relation to the allegation.
Franco Mulakkal, the current head of the Jalandhar diocese in the northern state of Punjab, has been accused by the nun for repeatedly raping her between 2014 and 2016 at the Catholic Congregation Missionaries of Jesus, a convent in Kerala.
The abused nun filed a complaint with the police on June 27, however, activists and others have accused the police of taking too long to apprehend the accused, since it took five days of sit-in protest for Mulakkal to be called in for questioning.
Felix Pulludan, secretary of the Joint Christian Council and the organizer for the ‘Save our Sisters’ protest told Al Jazeera: “Arrest this man who is a culprit, that’s the demand of the nun who was raped. She has given a statement to the police saying she was raped, why is the government hesitating to arrest this rapist?”
Mulakkal has denied all allegations against him and shifted blame to the nun, who according to his version of events attempted to blackmail him after he took disciplinary action against her. Mulakkal's legal representatives have also said the allegation is a part of an anti-Christian conspiracy.
On Tuesday, the nun wrote to the Vatican’s envoy to India, Reverend Giambattista Diquattro, alleging that Mulakkal and others in the church had used the wealth and influence of the diocese to derail the probe. Pulludan said: “No doubt he is using the clout of the Roman Catholic Church,” but added they wouldn't back down in the face of such intimidation.
Missionaries of Jesus, a Jalandhar based organization, released a statement Monday stating that an attempt was being made to “to crucify an innocent man. We condemn the act by the sisters of our congregation who are protesting outside the High Court. As far as our congregation is concerned, we are ashamed and saddened by this protest.”
Adding fuel to the fire, an elected member of the Kerala State Legislative Assembly, PC George, described the victim as a “prostitute” Sunday, a comment, which drew sharp criticism.
“No one has doubt that the nun is a prostitute. 12 times she enjoyed it and the 13th time it is rape? Why didn’t she complain the first time?” George said, drawing condemnation from the chairperson of National Commission for Women, Rekha Sharma, who said that such remarks were shameful.
The case against Mulakkal comes at a time when the Catholic church as an institution is under fire globally for cases of abuse.
On Wednesday, a report on sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in Germany revealed that 3,677 people were abused between 1946 and 2014. The report, commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by three German universities (Giessen, Heidelberg, and Mannheim), concludes that more than half the victims were 13 years or younger and male. At least 1,670 clergies were involved. The German Catholic Church reacted to the report as “depressing and shameful”.
Following the incident in Germany, Thursday, after a series of accusations against a United States-born bishop and a series of failed attempts to cover it up by the local authorities, an investigation was ordered by Pope Francis. According to the Vatican, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has been ordered to conduct an investigation into the various allegations of sexual harassment by the now-resigned bishop Michael Bransfield of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia.