In recent years, it has emerged that the male Catholic leadership, from priests up to bishops, have been the main violators of their organization’s nuns. Nuns, in case you do not know, are Catholic women who decide to take a vow of poverty and dedicate their life entirely towards Jesus. They believe in living a life like Jesus, serving the poor and needy. They take this vow in the form of a literal marriage to Jesus.
Part of that vow involves a vow to celibacy, meaning they cannot have any relation with a man. So imagine the shock of a nun who is taken advantage of by a parish priest in her district who forces her to have intercourse with him, in violation of her vows. That is the story of Sister Lucy Kallapura. Between 2014 and 2016, she said in a police complaint that a bishop of the church, Franco Mulakkal forced her to have sexual intercourse against her will. It was rape, in other words.
He is now head of the diocese in Jalandhar, where he resides to this day. It took a long time to have charges filed against him. Some Catholic organisations and Christians came together in support of Sister Lucy to move the Kerala high court to issue an arrest warrant against Bishop Mulakkal but to no avail. Mulakkal was eventually arrested, but was given bail in 2018. He was arrested again in 2019 and was again given bail this year. We pray that he gets the justice he deserves.
Sister Lucy had to go through quite the ordeal to make sure her complaint was heard. Her FIR complaint filed in Kottayam was deliberately acted upon slowly. Then after her complaint was taken up by the Kerala High Court, she and other nuns who backed her up experienced great harassment by their own parish priests and by its leadership. Sister Lucy was starved, browbeaten, and not allowed to do any sort of work such as sewing clothes or any work serving the poor. She was kicked out of the convent and has appealed to the Vatican to allow her to stay in the order, to no avail.
Other than a handful of Catholics and other Christians, her story has fallen on deaf ears within the Catholic and Christian fold. It is a question of image. The Catholic church does not want to look bad. In an era of rampant sex scandals worldwide, the Catholic church does not want to have another big scandal tarnish this steadfast institution.
It is only steadfast due to ill-gotten wealth, forced conversion of Europeans (then later the natives of North and South America), theocratic rule of the Catholic church into the 18th century and undue influence on the world stage. The Protestant churches are no longer anti-Catholic, with the exception of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Even so, what is their excuse for the indifference shown to Sister Lucy?
Clearly, Bishop Mulakkal did not adequately ‘resist temptation’. When Christians deal with the problem of sin, often they turn to the verses of Matthew 18:8-9: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell”.
During the regime of Justice Party in Tamil Nadu in the 1930s, under the British rule, the blatantly anti-Hindu party which was the pre-cursor to the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu, fueled by divisive missionary forces, worked hard in showing the DevaDasi system in poor light to India and finally banned the system in the Madras Presidency which covered the entirety of Tamil Nadu and significant portions of the other three south Indian states today.
The Devadasi system is a very ancient system in India whose references can be found in many scriptures including the “Kovil Ozhugu”, the record of activities maintained by authorities of the Sri. Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam. From these sources, we clearly understand that even Kings gave away their daughters in marriage to the deity of a temple of their choice where these women, protected by the temple and the rulers lived a life of austerity in service of the deity of the temple. The range of services included simple things like making garlands to the deity to institutionalized training in dance and music which readied the girls to dedicate their talent in front of the deity during festival times.
This holy tradition did come under minor misuse during the British times due to the lack of protection of the women involved and absence of patronage by the colonial Government. The Justice party, which was fueled by the divisive tactics of the Church, was ready to paint any minor issues within the Hindu Sampraday as evil those days. They outlawed the system of Devadasis rather than working on reforming the system.
While the women who fell prey to lustful men in the Devadasi system where typically taken advantage by the rich Zamindar types in town, the case of nunneries is even more serious. The accused and convicted mostly turn out to be desperate priests of the Catholic Church themselves which tells one that the Church itself is ill-equipped protect the nuns. This serious lack of security for the nuns is going unquestioned by anyone today for two reasons:
- The clergy of the Catholic Church themselves want to hush the matter as explained above in the story that was brought to light by Sister Lucy.
- The majority of Hindus in India, unlike the Justice Party atheists, consider the whole issue as out of scope for them to even comment on as it’s the internal matter of the Catholic Church.
But, it’s time that the majority in India stops thinking of this issue as “None of our business” and take cognisance of the harm this inflicts on gullible women in the broader society. It’s time to ask for justice for the nuns and question the idea of continuing the nunneries and the need to continue the tradition that is no longer kept sacrosanct by the clergy of the catholic church. It’s time for it to go in India. This is screaming for Government’s intervention.
Author: Maya Ram was born to a Hindu father and Christian mother and raised in America by two Indian immigrants. When she was young, she was forced to embrace Christianity by her mother and struggled with it but embraced Sanatan Dharma later on. She works in the field of health technology, but also writes for various outlets.