Kerala nun links dismissal with bishop's rape case

Franciscan Clarist Congregation says Sister Lucy Kalapura was sacked for defiance and violating norms
Kerala nun links dismissal with bishop's rape case

Sister Lucy Kalapura poses for a picture with some of her students near her convent in Kerala. She was dismissed from her congregation on Aug. 5 after being accused of violating norms. (Photo supplied) reporter, Kochi 
August 8, 2019
An Indian Catholic nun has been dismissed from her Kerala-based congregation for violation of its norms, but the 54-year-old says she plans to fight the action in court.

Sister Lucy Kalapura of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation maintains that she was sacked from her nunnery on Aug. 5 for publicly seeking action against a bishop accused of rape.

The congregation’s letter to the nun said she had been dismissed for defiance, violating the norms of the congregation, and infringing on the vow of poverty.

The nun had been given required canonical warnings but failed to show “needed remorse” and an explanation for her lifestyle in violation of the regulations of the congregation, said the letter signed by superior general Anne Joseph.

Sister Kalapura told on Aug. 7 that she will fight the case in the civil court to restore justice to her. She did not elaborate.

Media reports said her superiors began to trouble her in September 2018 after she joined a public protest of a group of nuns from another congregation who were seeking action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, who was accused of raping a nun.

Church sources maintain the dismissal was not a vindictive action for her support for the nuns. They say Sister Kalapura has been defiantly violating the rules of the congregation over a decade and spent her salary on her expenses, including buying a car. She teaches in a government-aided school.

She published a book by spending close to US$1,000 against the advice of her superiors. She also ignored warnings against appearing in media and giving interviews explaining her support for the protesting nuns.

Sister Kalapura told media on Aug. 7 that authorities began to move against her after she supported the nun and spoke to media seeking action against the accused bishop.

"I did not do anything wrong. All I did was to lend support to the hapless nuns who were protesting. What's the problem if I own a car or write a book?" asked the nun.

"I will now seek legal recourse with the help of my well-wishers. I don't think I am bad in any respect compared to the other 7,000 nuns in our congregation. I consider myself a very good nun."

Vow of poverty

The canonical “first warning letter” sent to her in January referred to three other “warnings and corrections” issued urging her to change her “unsuitable ways” to live in the congregation and her refusal to obey a transfer order.

It also said owning a car and publishing books without permission were against the rules of the congregation and “are grave infringements of the vow of poverty.”

Local media discussions and social media have presented the dismissal as an oppressive action against those who protested against the bishop. Some observers also said it was a human rights violation against the nuns.

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But Capuchin Father Xavier Vadakkekara told that “every religious chose that life fully aware that they have to follow rules of the congregation. It includes suspension of rights such as marriage and ownership of properties.”

He added: “No one is compelled to religious life. At any point in time, one can walk away. But if one chooses to lead the life as a religious, he or she must follow its norms. A vow of poverty is as important as vows of chastity and obedience. Defiant violation of vows is serious in any religious life."

Father Noble Thomas Parackal, a spokesman for Mananthavady Diocese, said the “whole episode has been scandalous for the common people.”

He told that the nun’s congregation will be ready to arrange for her food and accommodation if she needs it.

“In any case, she now earns a salary and after retirement she is also entitled to a government pension,” Father Parackal said. “There is no rights violation here. I think the media is sensationalizing it, deliberately linking a rape case to it.”

Police charged Bishop Mulakkal in April with raping a nun multiple times. A 2,000-page charge sheet listed charges of wrongful confinement, rape of a woman incapable of giving consent, causing grievous bodily harm during rape, unnatural offense and criminal intimidation.

If found guilty, the bishop faces imprisonment of not less than 10 years or up to life in jail.

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