It is a well-known truth that the Catholic Church is a powerful institution in the state of Kerala. It is also well-known that the Church heads are questioned by none, as their authority is supposed to be beyond criticism. Bishop Franco Mulakkal, it seems, is no exception.
Even after two weeks of long protests by five nuns against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, who is accused of raping a nun from Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) Congregation, officials of the congregation are busy whitewashing the heinous crime by playing the victim-blaming card.
Recently in a press release issued by Sister Regina, Mother General of the MJ congregation, she said that they will be fasting for the accused Bishop on Wednesday, as they believe he is innocent. The congregation is in “deep sorrow and anguish” that “our innocent father Bishop Franco Mulakkal had to face arrest and jail for a crime he has not committed,” said Sister Regina in the press release.
Shifting the blame on the police, Sister Regina and team allege that a ‘grave situation’ has arisen as the police have targeted their congregation with “a clear agenda” and arrested the prelate without any concrete pieces of evidence.
She, in her desperate attempt to defend the accused Bishop, went on to castigate the police for pursuing the case “We noticed that the investigation team members and the nuns of the Kuravilangad convent have been sharing some lighter moments in the convent till 2 am in the recent days. We would like to assert that this is in violation of the convent rules. We suspect that there is a conspiracy behind the move and they have joined together to create more proof against the bishop.”
However, these assertions should not come as a surprise considering the Missionary of Jesus Congregation has previously also slandered the victim and stood in support of the accused Bishop calling him “an innocent soul”. In their pursuit to prove the Bishop innocent, the Congregation had claimed of conducting an inquiry and released a “preliminary inquiry report” defending the Bishop to be virtuous and called the misdemeanour a ‘conspiracy’.
In fact, Sister Alphonso, who happens to be the secretary to the present Mother Superior, was also caught on camera slamming the nun who accused the Bishop Franco Mukkalal of rape.
This incident came to the light when a nun accused the Bishop Franco Mullakkal of Jalandhar diocese of committing rape and unnatural sex with her between 2014 and 2016 on 13 different occasions. The nun had further alleged that she had approached the Syro-Malabar Church authorities over the matter but no action was taken against the Bishop which made her approach the Police.
It is pertinent to mention that the alleged victim had written to the Vatican seeking justice. But given the history of the Vatican, which has a track record of covering up sexual abuse by its clergy, it is unclear whether the Vatican will be inclined to turn the tides for her. It is also pertinent to mention that Pope Francis himself has been accused by an Archbishop of elevating a sexual predator to a position of power despite being aware of the sexual abuse allegations against him.
The minute the incident caught public attention the churches and its entire concorded ecosystem swiftly reacted to shield the Bishop. Magazines suddenly came up with articles praising the Bishop. The influential and powerful people of the society, like Kerala MLA PC George, came up with statements disparaging the nun, who is actually the victim in this case and needed the support indeed.
Shockingly, one of the nuns who dared to stand up for the victim and attempted to speak against the atrocities had been dismissed by the Syro-Malabar church. Though the order was reverted later after media outrage.
The culture of shielding the accused and blaming the victim of Catholic Church’s is a well-established fact, but what is alarming is that even the political parties in the state are yet to show their strength to seek justice in one of the most sensational cases the state has witnessed in connection with the Church.
A protest was organised lately by the youth organisations under the United Democratic Front – that is in the opposition – in front of the Secretariat. But instead of raising the Bishop Franco case, for which the protest was technically organised, the party took a political stance, focusing on sexual harassment cases since the CPI (M) led Left Democratic Front came to power.
Cases of sexual abuse by priests have long been reported in India and the world. what becomes most bothersome is when the entire ecosystem starts advocating the wrongdoer because of the position he holds and power he adheres.