Concern over nun’s safety after Indian bishop’s rape acquittal

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

January 17, 2022

By Bijay Kumar Minj

Complainant and her supporters are in danger of further victimization after the verdict, says Catholic women’s group

A Catholic women’s group in India has urged church authorities to protect the rape complainant nun, her companions and witnesses in the Bishop Franco Mulakkal case.

Bishop Mulakkal of Jalandhar was acquitted of all charges including raping a nun from the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) congregation by a court in Kerala on Jan. 14, with a judge saying the prosecution could not prove the allegations against him.

Sisters in Solidarity, a group comprising nuns, doctors, lawyers and other professionals, said that “they are in deep shock, disappointment and disbelief at the ‘not guilty’ verdict awarded to Franco Mulakkal.

The group’s statement dated Jan. 15 said the reaction appearing in media holding the court verdict as a “major victory for the Church” is very disturbing.

“We are pained to see how insensitively a daughter of the Church is disowned, discredited and devalued by the members of the ecclesiastical community,” the statement added.

“Is the survivor nun not part of the same Church?” 

The letter is addressed to Bishop Agnelo Gracias, apostolic administrator of Jalandhar Diocese, the five congregational provincials and the chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Office for Clergy and Religious.

The letter is also copied to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the CBCI, and officials of the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ of India, Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council and the Catholic Religious of India.

The letter detailed how the nun and her companions have already suffered much within the Church, having been alienated from their mission and ostracized by the community.

“Even after she pleaded for help to church authorities at various levels, not one of them ever responded to her in any manner to understand the truth,” the statement said.

The nun and her companions experienced harassment and hostility from supporters of the accused. They have become even more vulnerable and are in danger of further victimization after the verdict, the group said.

The group also expressed its deep concern regarding the safety of Sister Lissy Vadakkel, a Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) nun who was a prime witness in the case and was ostracized by her congregation at Jyothi Bhavan in Muvattupuzha, Kerala.

She remains under police protection and her frail health and isolation from the rest of the community are a matter of grave concern, the group added.

“We urge the Church, the MJ and FCC leadership to be sensitive to the survivor and her supporters to ensure their safety and dignity in this crucial time,” the letter urged.

The group hoped church authorities would comply “considering the fact that there are related cases still under investigation” and do not shift the affected nuns from their present residences “where they are provided with full protection by the concerned police stations.”