The Franciscan Clarist Congregation had expelled Sister Lucy Kalappura for participating in the protest against rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, writing poems and learning how to drive, among others.

Sister Lucy potrait where she is smilingFile image
news Controversy Monday, June 14, 2021 - 21:14

On June 12, the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), which is part of the Catholic church in Kerala, issued a circular on the "heart-breaking issue" concerning Sister Lucy Kalappura. The Vatican approved the Kerala nun’s expulsion from the congregation, said the circular, calling on the congregators to "raise their hearts praising the Almighty for His unspeakable gift!" In 2018, Sr Lucy took part in the protests against the rape-accused bishop, Franco Mulakkal, and later testified against him. Since then, Sr Lucy said, the church has been using her ‘lifestyle’ as a reason to expel her from the congregation. The congregation found Sr Lucy’s lifestyle — publishing poems, buying a car, learning how to drive and taking part in protests against Franco — in violation of the canon laws, and so, it decided to expel her as she failed to give a satisfactory response. 

This is the third time that the Vatican has rejected Sr Lucy’s appeal against her expulsion from the congregation. In early 2019, Sr Lucy had appealed to the Vatican against her expulsion by the FCC. In September that year, the Vatican’s Congregation of Oriental Churches rejected her first appeal. In November 2019, Sr Lucy approached the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the apex judicial authority in the Catholic Church) against the decision. This was rejected in February 2021. She filed an appeal for the third time in March 2020, which was rejected on May 27, 2021. “The appeal of Lucy Kalappura is rejected by Apostolica Signatura and the dismissal is confirmed,” the letter issued by FCC said. 

However, Sr Lucy said that the Vatican approving her expulsion is baseless. “My lawyer and I have not received any official intimation on this matter. We have not received any reply from the Vatican for the petition that I filed in March 2020. Besides, the official letter from the Supreme Tribunal, which states my appeal has been rejected, is dated May 27, 2020 (the letter later says May 27, 2021). The new proceedings are happening without my knowledge and the congregation authorities are spreading fake documents,” she said. 

Sr Lucy told IANS that she will not move out of the convent at Karakkamala in Wayanad’s Mananthavady. “I was not even heard by the Vatican, which is a denial of natural justice. I have been asked to move out from the Convent where I am staying in a week's time. I am not going to move out," she said.

After the Vatican issued the rejection decree, the Superior General of FCC wrote a letter to Sr Lucy on June 13, directing her to vacate the convent within one week. It also warned her of legal action if she fails to do so. Superior General Sister Ann Joseph also pointed out that she no longer had the right to wear the religious habit. 

In the letter, Sr Ann Joseph stated that there was no further legal remedy available to challenge her dismissal within the legal system of the Catholic Church. "You have received all the three levels of appeals possible within the Catholic legal system and in all these levels your recourse against the decree of dismissal are rejected. I would like to bring to your attention the fact that your right to continue as a member of the FCC is now definitely and irrevocably extinguished. You no longer have the right and duty to wear the religious habit of the FCC hereafter," the letter said.

The letter reminded that a prolonged stay will be considered criminal trespass, and that the church will initiate legal remedies if required. It also stated that since she was dismissed, she will not be subject to any claims, receive benefits or money for the work done during the membership at the congregation. She would only be entitled to receive the amount handed over to FCC as patrimony (a share of inheritance submitted to the convent) at the time of joining the congregation, said the letter. Congregations usually buy patrimony from the nuns. If the nun has left or is dismissed from the convent, the congregation only repays the money without interest.

The Church had earlier issued several warnings to Sr Lucy, claiming that she broke the vow of poverty by participating in the protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, publishing her own book (titled 'Snehamazhayil'), taking part in television channel discussions, registering the car in her own name, taking out a loan without seeking permission, and publishing her articles in non-Christian weeklies and dailies. Sr Lucy was also accused of learning to drive and taking a license without the permission of the congregation’s Superior General. 

Franciscan Clarist Congregation expelled Sr Lucy on August 7, 2019, for failing to give a satisfactory explanation for her ‘lifestyle’ that went against the various rules of the congregation. Last year, the Synod of the Syro Malabar Church had concurred that Sr Lucy’s dismissal was as per all canonical process.

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