ucanews.com reporter, KochiUpdated: September 06, 2019 10:44 AM GMT
Some 500 Catholic religious protest in front of the office of Mathrubhumi newspaper in Kerala on Sept. 4. (Photo supplied)
Hundreds of Catholics demonstrated on a public road in India’s Kerala state to protest what they called a deliberate media disinformation campaign to ridicule and discredit Catholic religious life.
With lit candles, prayers, speeches and hymns, some 500 religious, mostly nuns from more than 50 religious congregations, gathered in front of the office of Mathrubhumi (motherland), a prominent daily newspaper, in Kannur town on Sept. 4.
“We strongly oppose the manner in which the newspaper has been projecting Catholic religious life,” said Father Varghese Vallikkatt, spokesman for the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council.
He said the immediate reason for the protest was a disparaging presentation in the newspaper’s Sept. 1 edition of the lives of priests and nuns who have taken vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.
It published an interview with Catholic nun Sister Lucy Kalapura, who was dismissed from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) for violation of her vows of obedience and poverty.
The nun in the interview called for a revision of religious vows to reflect modern life. She continues to live in her Kerala convent pending the decision of her appeal in the Vatican.
Father Vallikkatt said the article justified rebellious moves and defiance to regulations, portraying in a poor light the thousands of religious who follow the vows.
The daily’s “coverage in the past two years has been aimed at maligning and defaming Catholic religious life,” the priest said. “We understand it as a motivated campaign against Catholic religious life.”
Sister Emestina, superior general of the Dina Sevana Sabha (Servants of the Poor), told ucanews.com that the newspaper and other media outlets “use isolated incidents as an excuse to despise Catholic religious life.”
Most media coverage, she said, presents Catholic religious as a group of disappointed people suffering inside their convents and monasteries under superiors who follow outdated systems and rules.
“That is far from the truth. We took up this life of our own free will and we lead a life of contentment in serving others,” Sister Emestina said.
FCC provincial Sister Noble Mary told ucanews.com that in her interview Sister Kalapura had tried to project entire religious life as one of strife and bondage.
She said the FCC alone has 7,300 professed nuns. “It is painful when the media project the views of one rebellious person to tarnish the image of several thousand who lead a happy religious life.”
Media in the southern state highlighted Sister Kalapura’s case after she connected her dismissal with a public protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, who was accused of raping a nun of a diocesan congregation — Missionaries of Jesus — under his care.
Sister Kalapura maintains that the FCC began action against her after she supported the public protest of five Missionaries of Jesus nuns last September demanding the arrest of the bishop. The prelate was eventually arrested and charged but was bailed and is facing court proceedings.
In mainstream and social media, nuns have been portrayed as victims trapped in convents under an ancient patriarchal system, often exploited by priests and bishops.
“We are upset and annoyed with such biased reports that send a negative message about Catholic ascetics to people who are totally ignorant about the Catholic religion and its ascetic life,” said Father Joseph D’Cruz, a priest in Kannur Diocese.
Father D’Cruz, who was among 20 priests who supported nuns at the Sept. 4 protest, told ucanews.com that they had collected signatures of protesters to be sent to Mathrubhumi’s management.