After Fr Augustine Vattoly, the Catholic Church has now targetted Sister Lucy Kalappura, who was one of the prominent faces in the protest against rape-accused Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal near High Kerala High Court in September. Sister Ann Joseph, Superior General of Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), of which Sr Lucy is a member, issued her a warning letter on January 1, directing her to appear before the Superior on January 9 to give an explanation to the allegations against her, or face expulsion.
A few days after joining the protest, Sister Lucy Kalapura of Mananthavady diocese, Wayanad, was banned from prayer, teaching the Bible, attending worship service and other activities of the parish, including offering holy communion. And now in a letter, which TNM has accessed, the Superior General lists out a series of allegations against Sr Lucy, including joining the nuns in the protest against Franco Mulakkal.
Accusing her of leading a life “against the principles of religious life” and “against the rule and constitution of the Franciscan Clarist congregation”, Sr Ann wrote, “I have received many allegations against you and have witnessed some of them.”
Allegation 1: Disobeying transfer order
According to Sr Ann, Sr Lucy received a transfer order on May 10, 2015, from her then provincial, Sister Stephina, which she, reportedly, has failed to obey. "I remind you that any failure to comply with the transfer and appointment order amounts to wilful disobedience," Sr Ann warned.
Allegation 2: Publishing poems
Sr Ann also says that Sr Lucy published her book of poems ‘Snehavaziyil’, despite being denied the permission from the local hierarchy to publish it. “For the publication of the book, you have used Rs 50,000 without proper permission, which exceeds the amount that even the Superior General of FCC can use for extraordinary expenditure,” it read.
Allegation 3: Learning driving, buying car
Accusing Sr Lucy of violating the vow of poverty, the letter pointed out that she learned driving, took licence and bought a vehicle without permission. “You learned driving, took a licence, bought a car and registered it in your name. For the loan, you approached the headmistress without the permission and knowledge of the superiors. These are grave violations of the law of obedience,” the letter said.
“You have administered a thing of very high monetary value, which even the superior can administer only with the consent of the council. You have not entrusted your salary from December 2017. These are a grave infringement the vow of poverty,” Sr Ann said in the letter.
Allegation 4: Taking part in nuns’ protest
Sr Lucy’s participation in the nun’s protest, on September 20 and the following days, has been termed as “of most grave external scandal and harm to the church and FCC", in the letter.
“You went to Ernakulum High Court Junction and participated in the protest held by the SOS (Save Our Sisters) action Council without the permission from the superior. You have published articles in some non-Christian newspapers and weeklies like Mangalam, Madyamam etc, gave interviews to 'Samayam' without seeking permission from the superior. Through Facebook, channel discussions and the articles, you belittled the Catholic leadership by making false accusations against it and tried to bring down the sacraments. You tried to defame FCC also. Your performance through social media as a religious sister was culpable, arising grave scandal,” it read.
Sr Ann says that Sr Lucy has received several corrections and warnings from her provincial superior for her “improper behaviour and violations of religious discipline”.
“Instead of correcting yourself, you are simply denying the allegations against you stating that you have to live your own beliefs, ideologies and conviction. You are repeatedly violating the vows of obedience and poverty. The evangelization and social work you do should be according to the FCC values, principles and rules. The present mode of your life is a grave violation of the profession you have made,” she warned.
In her first canonical warning, which came with “the threat of dismissal from the FCC”, Sr Ann has asked Sr Lucy to meet her personally and “rectify the grave faults” she has committed till now.
‘I don’t consider it as violation’: Sr Lucy
Reacting to the warning letter, Sr Lucy says that it aims to silence her and her activities. “The church leadership has been trying to silence whoever questions their actions,” she added.
Regarding the allegations, Sr Lucy said, “Generally, we must seek permission before publishing a book, if we want to do so. However, after repeatedly asking for permission, since 2016, they refused to consider my request. I have always wholeheartedly offered my salary to the Congregation. However, when I requested the Superior for some money to buy a car to travel for my social works, they denied it. When I was completely denied my benefits, I was determined to take a loan and buy the car. I do not consider it as a violation. In fact, the congregation has violated my rights.”
Last week, Sr Lucy Kalapura posted a picture of herself wearing a salwar on Facebook, stating that she was in support of the government’s Women’s Wall event in Kerala. In her post, Sr Lucy also told the public not to raise their eyebrows or rush to her superiors. She clarified that if male priests can wear plain clothes while travelling, the nuns have the same liberty in the Church.
Last month, Ernakulam-Angamali archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Mar Jacob Manthodath issued a letter to Fr Augustine Vattotly, a senior priest belonging to Ernakulam-Angamali archdiocese and the prominent face of the nuns’ protest, for speaking out against the church.
(Edited by Shiba Kurian)