Nuns demonstrate in Kochi, Kerala, on Sept. 11, 2018, pressing for action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal after he was accused of sexually abusing a nun belonging to the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in the southern Indian state. (Photo: IANS)
A federal body that protects women's rights in India has sought an explanation for the dismissal of Catholic nun Lucy Kalappura from her Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC).
The National Commission for Women (NCW) issued a notice to FCC superior general Sister Ann Joseph seeking an explanation for Kalappura’s dismissal, which a Vatican court reaffirmed last week.
The notice came after Sister Joseph asked Kalappura to vacate the FCC convent in Manthavady Diocese in Kerala state where she has been living for several years.
NCM chairperson Rekha Sharma in her June 18 notice asked Sister Joseph to provide a satisfactory explanation as soon as possible.
The commission “has taken serious note of the continuous harassment being rendered upon Sister Lucy only because she protested against the rape-accused bishop,” the notice stated.
I have studied her case and found the charges against her are frivolous and do not warrant a punishment to the extent of dismissal
But Sister Joseph says the dismissal came after a series of warnings and corrections that Kalappura ignored after she displayed disobedience and violated religious vows.
The commission also directed Kerala’s chief secretary, the southern state’s top official, “to provide all possible assistance to Sister Lucy so that she can live her life with dignity and continue her fight against alleged injustice meted out her.”
The head of the federal body that functions under the government led by pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party said it “is distressed with continuous harassment being perpetrated on Sister Lucy so as to intimidate her for standing with the rape victim against the bishop.”
Kalappura was expelled from the congregation on Aug. 5, 2019.
Her appeal against dismissal was rejected by the Supreme Tribunal, the Vatican's highest appeal court, last week.
On Oct. 11, 2019, the Vatican's Congregation for Oriental Churches rejected her appeal against dismissal.
“Even two days after the NCW notice to the chief secretary, no police personnel had approached me to know my situation,” Kalappura told UCA News on June 21.
The Kerala administration, especially the police, she said, are supporting the congregation and the Church.
FCC officials said Kalappura was supposed to vacate the convent on June 20 and the deadline had passed.
However, Kalappura, maintained that she “will not vacate the convent as I have a direction from a trial court to continue with my stay in the convent.”
The nun had moved a trial court in Wayanad district in December 2019 after the congregation asked her to vacate the convent. The case is scheduled to come up for hearing on June 26.
Meanwhile, a retired high court judge has demanded a fresh probe into the case.
“The nun was dismissed without even giving her natural justice to present her side,” Michael F. Saldanha told UCA News on June 21.
“I have studied her case and found the charges against her are frivolous and do not warrant a punishment to the extent of dismissal. She should be admonished or given some other minor punishment.”
Saldanha has also written to the Vatican and its nuncio to India appealing for the case to be reopened
The nun was dismissed for charges such as obtaining a driving license, purchasing a car and printing a book among other things without prior permission from her superiors.
Saldanha has also written to the Vatican and its nuncio to India appealing for the case to be reopened and for Kalappura to be given a chance to present her side, which is mandatory under any law even canon law.
He also sees the Vatican order as a strong warning to all the nuns who are supporting the rape accuser against the bishop.
The second witness in the rape case is Sister Lissy Vadakkel, also a member of the FCC. She is living under police protection after members of her congregation allegedly started to harass her when she refused to withdraw her statement given to police against Bishop Mulakkal.