Indian bishop resigns 16 months after rape trial

The Tablet [Market Harborough, England]

June 2, 2023

By Hannah Brockhaus, CNA

The Vatican did not indicate whether it carried out its own investigation into the accusations against Mulakkal.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of an Indian bishop who was cleared last year of charges of raping a religious sister in his diocese.

The resignation of the 59-year-old Bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal, comes 16 months after his acquittal by a court in India’s Kerala state in January 2022.

The judge in the case found that “the prosecution failed to prove all the charges against the accused”.

The Vatican did not indicate whether it carried out its own investigation into the accusations against Mulakkal, who has denied the claims and contends he was falsely accused after he questioned alleged financial irregularities at his accuser’s convent.

A religious sister with the Missionaries of Jesus accused the bishop of raping her in May 2014, during a visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed in June 2018, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

The Missionaries of Jesus is based in the Jalandhar diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal was its patron.

Malukkal was arrested in September 2018 amid protests calling for a police investigation into the allegation. He was subsequently released on bail.

The bishop was charged in April 2019 with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation. Malukkal tried to have the charges dropped before the trial, but the Kerala High Court found there was enough evidence to proceed.

He was cleared of all charges by the Kottayam court on 14 January, 2022.

Malukkal had also claimed the allegations were made in retaliation for his investigation into the sister’s sexual misconduct. He said the sister was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin’s husband.

Mulakkal was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Jalandhar in 1990. In 2009, he was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Delhi, and became bishop of the Diocese of Jalandhar in June 2013.