The Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) has released a ‘Preliminary Inquiry report’ on the allegations of sexual assault made by a nun on Bishop Franco Mulakkal. Not surprisingly, the congregation that functions under Bishop Franco has said that the allegations against him were baseless and part of a larger conspiracy.
The three-page report says that the survivor and the five other nuns who are now sitting in protest in front of the Kerala High Court came to Kuruvilangadu convent to conspire with the help of four other people.
“The sisters were already given transfer orders by the congregation in 2017. The inquiry conducted by us has found out that they came to Kuruvilangadu convent, disobeying the congregation rules, and conspired with four other people. Even after giving them several letters of warning, they were not ready to go back to their designated convents,” read the report.
The inquiry committee was constituted only two days ago and they seem to have finished the report on record time.
The report said that the nuns had fallen prey to the ideas of rationalists. The congregation had, hence, decided to keep an eye on the visitors to the convent. It also says that the nuns have not consented to renewing their oaths , which is the most important part of the convent life and that this refusal to undergo the ritual is a clear proof of them being guilty.
The report also claims there are loopholes in the guest register in the convent, which was one of the main pieces of evidence supporting the claims of the nun.
“The guest register in the Kuruvilangadu convent was maintained by a nun who was a friend of the survivor. Names and other details were entered in the register only after the guest left the convent. Signatures of the visitors were never taken in the register. Not just that, details to be written in that register according to the order of Mother Superior. Hence MJ congregation has found out that it was easy to manipulate the register to act as proof in some controversy,” the report said.
Reiterating its claim that on the day of the incident, May 5, 2014 -- the date when the Bishop is alleged to have raped the nun for the first time, the Bishop had gone to another convent to stay, MJ said that the evidence to support this will be handed over to the investigators.
The report also alleges that the nuns manipulated the position of the CCTV cameras inside the convent so as to mask the identity of people who helped them create this conspiracy.
“In order to not identify the people who visited the convent to be a part of the conspiracy against the Bishop, it has been understood that these sisters have forcefully shifted the control system of the CCTV camera to their room, which otherwise should have been under the control of the Mother Superior. This has intensified the concern that people who are strangers to the Mother Superior had visited the convent during this period,” the report stated.
The report also cast aspersions on the credibility of the nun’s claims by saying that if she had indeed been sexually assaulted, she would not have accompanied the Bishop who is accused in other events and trips. The Missionaries of Jesus seems oblivious to the fact that many sexual crimes have their own power dynamics and the women survivors are forced to carry on without reacting to it, sometimes for long periods of time.
Their statement says, “The Missionaries of Jesus has understood that the allegations about the Bishop repeatedly raping the nun multiple times between 2014 and 2016 is false and is part of a conspiracy. In the month of May in 2015, the sister had invited the Bishop for a function and even after that, it has been found that the sister has taken part in a lot of functions with the Bishop. Any woman, who was raped by a man, would never attend functions or travel with that man. This is a truth that cannot be denied.”
Reacting to this report, Fr Paul Thelakkat, the former spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Church told TNM, “This is an attempt to malign the nun who dared to speak out and I sternly disapprove of this act by the Church. Their aim is to tarnish the name of the victim and to isolate her in the society."
The Kerala police in an affidavit filed at the Kerala high court had, however, claimed that there was evidence that the nun was sexually assaulted by the Bishop and has issued summons to the Bishop to appear on September 19. Meanwhile, five nuns are sitting in a protest in front of the Kerala high court, alleging police inaction on their complaint seeking justice for their friend.