Days after the dismissal of Sister Lucy Kalapura from the Franciscan Christ Congregation (FCC), an exclusive report by The Times of India revealed that she was removed by the Vatican over frivolous charges. Sister Lucy had supported the nun, who accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal in a rape case. And this drew the ire of the Apostolica Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church.
The former nun had joined the FCC at the tender age of 17. According to the Church, she has committed a long list of ‘crimes.’ It includes buying a car and publishing poems without permission. Despite being served a summons for supposedly breaking her ‘vows’, Sister Lucy remained undeterred. In an act of defiance, she shed her nun’s habit for a salwar kurta. Pointing out the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, she said priests were allowed to wear normal attire, unlike the nuns.
The Vatican was also miffed after the former nun wrote a memoir, hinting at sexual abuse with the Church clergy. Sister Lucy had sought permission to buy a car but it was turned down. She however went ahead to purchase a white Alto and learnt driving from a woman, who ran a driving school. “Sisters travel day and night in hired cars with male drivers. Wouldn’t it be safer for nuns to drive?” Sister Lucy had argued.
She pointed out that owning a car was useful during the Coronavirus pandemic in providing emergency services and assisting the police in managing the lockdown. However, the rationale behind owning a car could not convince Franciscan Christ Congregation (FCC). As such, the Church dismissed her from the Congregation and the appeal was too turned down by the Vatican last week.
But, a determined Sister Lucy is unwilling to give in to the Church’s coercion tactics. She remarked, “Other than my room, they have denied me access to all the other areas in the convent. They don’t talk to me. Still, I will continue my fight and I won’t be leaving this convent.” The former nun lamented that she faces ‘extreme isolation’ from her fellow nuns. Sister Lucy, however, received the support of the joint-convenor of the ‘Save our Sisters’ forum Rijju Kanjookkaran.
Sister Lucy receives support of activists and Church reformers
The activist emphasised, “The ‘Vow of Obedience’ doesn’t mean that one should obey anything and everything. There is a difference between obedience and slavery Action against her was sped up only after she attended the nuns’ pro-test. The irony is that Franco Mulakkal, who was arrested for rape, and Sr Sephy and Fr Thomas Kottoor, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Abhaya murder case by a CBI court, are all still Bishop, nun, and priest respectively.”
Rijju Kanjookkaran pointed out that there is a huge support base for Sister Lucy among the laity and the public. Church ‘reformer’ Indulekha Joseph said that not many nuns have the courage to fight the system from within, unlike Sister Lucy. While speaking about the upcoming challenges for the former nun, Joseph added, “If a nun decides to come out of convent life or if she is expelled, she is not eligible for any benefits through her service lasted for years. Also, there is a lot of stigmas associated with nuns leaving monastic lives.”
Sister Lucy has to leave the convent: Church activist
Following the dismissal of Sister Lucy from the Franciscan Christ Congregation (FCC), several people have raised objections to her continued stay within the convent premises. One activist named Kennedy Kartmbinkalaytl alleged that the former nun had smeared the name of several priests and nuns in her memoir on the basis of ‘unfounded allegations.’ He claimed, “She is connecting her indiscipline with the Franco issue to politicise it. She was given several show-cause notices before the said protest and what has happened now is only a natural conclusion to this process.”
How Sister Lucy became a target of smear campaign
It’s worth noting that the Church has waged a smear campaign against Sister Lucy since she supported the protest against rape suspect Bishop Franco Mulakkal. Sister Lucy was expelled from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) in August 2019 on grounds of indiscipline and failure to provide a satisfactory explanation for her lifestyle ‘in violation of rules’. A few days later, Sister Lucy filed a complaint to the Vellamunda police in Kerala against a convent in Karakkamala at Mananthavady in Wayanad district.
She had accused the convent of illegal confinement. Sister Lucy in her complaint had said she was not able to attend the holy mass in a nearby church because of the illegal confinement. She found that the gates of the convent locked from outside on Monday after which she called the police, who helped unlock the gates. The convent later forced her to withdraw two cases she had filed against it and tender an unconditional apology if she wanted to continue living there. In January 202, the 52-year-old nun accused the authorities of denying food but she said she will remain at Franciscan Clarist Congregation’s convent even if she was starved to death.