The campaign comes after an Indian court acquitted Bishop Franco Mulakkal of charges of raping a Catholic nun
Indian women protesters demand action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is accused of raping a nun, in Jalandhar on Sept. 12, 2018. (Photo: AFP)
Catholic priests and nuns have joined a global campaign demanding the ouster of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar from all ecclesiastical responsibilities after an Indian court acquitted him of charges of raping a nun.
“We would like to emphasize that while this [court] judgment has acquitted the accused bishop, this should not deter the ecclesiastical courts from conducting an inquiry and giving the victim the right to participate in the proceedings and claim compensation for damages,” said Sisters in Solidarity, a forum of Catholic women including nuns in India.
It urged the Vatican to avoid giving Bishop Mulakkal “any administrative responsibilities and spiritual leadership” as the survivor nun and the prosecution were preparing to appeal against the order in higher courts.
The Indian Catholic Forum, a lay group in India, went a step further demanding that the Vatican conduct an internal probe and defrock Bishop Mulakkal.
A former superior general of Missionaries of Jesus (MJ), a diocesan congregation under the patronage of Bishop Mulakkal, had accused him of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016.The alleged crime took place in the congregation’s convent in Kuravilangad, Kerala state, southern India.
The district court in Kerala on Jan. 14 acquitted the prelate of all charges citing the prosecution’s failure to prove the charges.
The supporters of Bishop Mulakkal hailed the order as vindication of his innocence but the rape survivor and her supporters stepped up their campaign for justice within the Church.
Catholic women criticized what they called "the callous" approach of the Vatican and Indian Church leaders in addressing the grievances of the survivor.
“We are appalled at the callous attitude of Church leaders in India and the Vatican, who failed to respond sensitively and constructively to this grave issue of sexual assault,” they said in a complaint to the Vatican and top Church leaders in India on Feb. 6.
“The survivor nun made every effort to resolve the issue within internal Church structures… and it was only when her complaint was ignored that she approached the police,” they said.
“Had the Church authorities responded to her desperate pleas, the issue could have been resolved internally. Instead, they negated her existence as a daughter of the Church by denying her the right to seek justice within the ecclesiastical family,” the Catholic women felt.
They also urged the Vatican to put in place an effective mechanism in the Church “to prevent the recurrence of sexual harassment, abuse and assault”
“Canon law and the theology of priesthood must be revised to cleanse it of elements that breed clericalism which is an enabler of clerical sexual abuse,” they added.
More than 1,200 persons including priests, nuns, and eminent personalities from across the world endorsed their stand taken by Sisters in Solidarity.
Meanwhile, the Indian Catholic Forum, in a communiqué to the Vatican and Cardinal Oswald Gracias among others, accused Bishop Mulakkal of violating his vow of celibacy.
The Forum’s convener Chotebhai told UCA News that “a perusal of Bishop Mulakkal’s acquittal order gives the impression that he had violated his vow of celibacy and hence, he is not fit to continue in the Catholic priesthood.”
The women’s wing of the Conference of Religious in India, a national body of religious priests and nuns, too has come out in support of the survivor nun and urged the Church leadership to provide her all help including financial support and security.
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