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'Bishop Mulakkal must be removed from his post'

September 12, 2018 19:25 IST

'The problem is not lack of evidence, but the unholy alliance between political parties and church authorities.'
'If you are raising a voice against the priest, you and your family will suffer.'

IMAGE: Nuns join a protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal in Kochi. Photograph: PTI Photo

On June 29, a nun from the Missionaries of Jesus order in Kerala filed a first information report alleging that Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic diocese in Jalandhar had raped her a dozen times over a period of two years from May 2014, sending shockwaves through the Catholic community.

Following the nun's complaint, the Kottayam police registered a case and questioned the bishop.

Suspecting inaction in the matter, the nun petitioned the papal nuncio -- the Vatican's envoy -- in India to remove the bishop from his post, and charging him with using political and money power to bury the case, as he has not been arrested.

Bishop Mulakkal dismissed the case against him and charged a group with conspiracy against the church.

'The nun is lying, made up the case against me because I had ordered action against her. The police have no evidence against me that's why they have not arrested me,' he told the media.

While instructing the state government to file a progress report about the investigation into the rape, the Kerala high court on Monday, September 10, said no one is above the law. Meanwhile, Bishop Mulakkal has refused to step down from his post.

Even as the controversy snowballed over the police's perceived inaction in the matter, many nuns protested against the bishop for the first time.

That opinion within the Catholic community stands sharply divided over the nun's complaint came to the fore when P C George, an Independent legislator in Kerala, kicked off a furore by his shocking comment about the nun.

"With the help of financial power these people are destroying the entire administration of Kerala," advocate Indulekha Joseph -- vice chairperson, Church Act Action Council and one of those spearheading the protests against the bishop -- tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

 

What is the reason for your protest?

It is almost 75 days since the complaint was lodged with the police and the accused has still not been taken into custody.

The accused was questioned only once, whereas the victim was questioned five times. Moreover, there was no (medical) examination of the accused.

Going by the Code of Criminal Procedure Section 41, it is at the discretion of the investigating officer to decide whether a person has to be arrested or not.

In this case, the investigating officer is not permitted to arrest, as superior officers are calling official meetings with respect to this crime.

Special treatment is being given to Bishop Franco Mulakkal. Another aspect is that the witnesses are influenced or threatened.

A priest offered huge money and land (to the victim) to withdraw the case.

The police claim there are discrepancies in the victim's statement, and therefore they have not taken action against the bishop.

Social activists filed a case in this matter and in that, the investigating officer has admitted an affidavit that he has got ample evidence to show that victim was raped continuously by the accused person.

If such an affidavit was filed, you cannot say there are discrepancies in the victim's statement.

As far as the rape case is concerned, the central issue lies with the statement of the victim.

For rape, we cannot have direct witnesses. Further, her statement is corroborated by other men who were part of the convent.

In rape cases, you cannot have a direct witness and it is with the help of circumstantial evidences that you have to prove such (a crime).

Hari Sankar, the superintendent of police, Kottayam, said there is no scientific evidence to substantiate the rape charges and there has been a two-year delay in filing the case.

As far criminal law is concerned, there is no limitation in initiating a criminal case.

There is ample evidence. The problem is not lack of evidence, but the unholy alliance between political parties and church authorities.

That is the central issue.

Political parties -- and that includes the Opposition -- are being manipulated because of vote bank politics.

Secondly, churches have an enormous amount of money without any accountability. They are using this money against the (victim).

Bishop Mulakkal must be removed from his position subject to the outcome of this case.

There has also been controversy over the nun inviting Bishop Mulakkal for a family function after alleging rape by him.

I will give you an example. A CEO's private secretary has to do what the former says.

Just like that, the bishop is the CEO of the church and this nun is working under him as a subordinate.

She has to go by the bishop's decision. Just because she attended the ceremony with the bishop does not mean that she was not raped.

Why did she file a case more than two years after the alleged incident?

What I understood is that the situation inside the congregation can be entirely different from our lives.

For orthodox Christians, the priest is equal to god.

And whatever I have learnt about Catholicism classes personally is that if you are raising a voice against the priest, you and your family will suffer.

And here she was a nun. She was shocked and not able to retaliate.

She did complain within the church establishment, but her complaint was not heeded.

It was only when she went to a retreat where another priest told her she should complain that she lodged a complaint.

What about the National Commission for Women? What does the NCW say?

The ruling and Opposition parties are all on one side because of vote bank politics. They are not interfering because of the financial power of the church.

These politicians want help all the time (for votes) and these churches have influence on the social system.

According to me, it is a part of a minority inducement policy.

IMAGE: Bishop Franco Mulakkal has said, 'The nun is lying, she made up the case against me because I had ordered action against her.' Photograph: ANI

The bishop's spokesman, Father Peter Kavumpuram, said the diocese and the bishop are fully cooperating with the probe as the bishop has not yet taken anticipatory bail and he is not running away.

That is another plot by them. Any person who is accused in such a case applies for anticipatory bail, but here, the bishop is damn sure that the state government is not going to arrest him.

Such an assurance has been given to the bishop.

According to my experience, I can tell you that if the bishop applies for anticipatory bail, he will be told to surrender to the police first.

A counter case was filed by the bishop against the nun under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for 'outraging religious feelings'.

In this case, the nun did not complain to the police (about the rape) first, but to the authorities of the church.

At that time the bishop realised the nun could go to the police against him and, in anticipation, he filed a case against the nun.

It seems as if very few are raising questions about the bishop's action; most do not believe the victim.

The basic issue is about money power.

As far as the churches are concerned, there is no authority to regulate their finances.

Technically speaking, the bishop is the owner of the church and there is no mechanism to control him.

They use the money as they like. There is no transparency, no accountability and they are never questioned about the money.

Once a person donates money to the church, his job is done and, after that, he can only go to church and pray. He has no right to ask questions about the donated money.

And with the help of financial power these people are destroying the entire administration of Kerala.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf