It has not been an easy fight for them and despite the threats, intimidation and offers of bribe, these five nuns are determined to get justice for their colleague. Sisters of the Missionaries of Jesus in Kottayam- Anupama, Alphy, Josephine, Neena Rose and Anaitha- sat in protest near the Kerala High Court, demanding that powerful Jalandhar bishop Father Franco Mulakkal be arrested and questioned, based on a complaint of rape filed against him by another nun and their colleague.
A 44-year-old Catholic nun from the Missionaries of Jesus had accused bishop Fr Franco Mulakkal of raping her 13 times from 2014 onwards. When the Catholic Church failed to take any action on her complaint, she approached the Kerala police in June this year. He was then booked under Section 376 of the IPC (punishment for rape).
Though the Kerala police questioned the bishop on August 13, they have made no move to arrest him ot question him further. Slamming the police’s inaction, Sister Alphy said, “The police has repeteadly taken the statement of the victim nun, but they have taken Franco Mulakkal’s statement only once. It’s been 74 days since she gave a complaint, but other than the police questioning the victim, we don’t see any other progress.”
Bishop Franco Mulakkal
All the five nuns who had come in support ot the survivor and their families have undergone mental trauma and have come under considerable pressure from the church.
In July, a leaked audio conversation revealed how Father James Erthayil attached to the Kanjirappally diocese of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate attempted to bribe and lure Sister Anupama in return for withdrawing support to the survivor. Following media reports of the audio conversation, Father James was asked to step down from his position and transferred to Idukki by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. The Kerala police also registered a criminal case against him.
Anupama says she too won’t back down, despite the emotional torture. “We want our friend to get justice, we want Franco Mulakkal arrested. He has to admit to his crimes,” sister Anupama said.
Though the Kerala police have maintained at various times that there was substance in the complaint against the bishop, the police’s reluctance to arrest the bishop has been criticised by many.
It was the bishop who first filed a complaint against the survivor claiming that the nun had accused him of sexual abuse after he removed her from an administrative post. The Kerala police registered a case against the survivor under IPC Section 295 A - deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting the religious beliefs.
Later, the Kerala police called the bishop’s complaint a farce.
Inputs and reporting by Lenin.