Kerala’s Syro-Malabar Church has published the photograph of rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal in their official calendar for 2021. This move has been criticised by the followers of the Church, who have burnt the copies of the calendar in protest.
As per reports, the Church had not only printed the photograph of Mulakkal on the annual calendar, they also specified his birthday on it. Following criticism from several quarters and burning of calendar copies in Thrissur and Kollam, the Syro-Malabar Church has defended its move and claimed that charges against the accused have not yet been proven and that he continues to remain a Bishop.
Managing Editor of Catholica Sabha, Fr Akkamattathil Raphael, stated, “Mulakkal continues to be a Bishop. Only his administrative duties have been taken away. Sp along with birthdays of other Bishops, we mentioned his birthday too. That’s all. He faces some charges and a trial is progressing. Let the verdict come. Some people are needlessly trying to create a controversy against the Church.”
Protests against the Church
The decision of the Syro-Malabar Church was heavily criticised by the members of ‘Save Our Sisters Action Council’. The group, which protects nuns from persecution by the Church authorities, expressed their angst by burning copies of the contentious calendar outside the administrative buildings of the Church in Kollam and Thrissur. They have accused the Archdiocese of ‘eulogising’ a rape accused and sending the wrong message to the society about their professional ethics.
The rape case of Franco Mulakkal
Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, was accused of raping a 44-year-old nun at a guest house in Kuravilangad in May 2014 and subsequent sexual exploitations afterwards. The nun had registered a complaint in June 2018 and has also claimed that despite her complaints, the church took no action on the bishop.
He was however charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 376 (c)(a) sexual intercourse by a person in authority), 376(2)(k) (sexual intercourse by exhorting authority), 377 (unnatural sex) and 506 (criminal intimidation). Earlier in August, the Supreme Court dismissed his petition seeking to quash Kerala High Court’s order that had dismissed his discharge plea in the rape case. The Kerala High Court had ruled that the rape-accused Bishop must face trial in the case after the prosecution had argued that there was enough evidence against him.