The advisory body wants to prevent the transfer of the nuns who might testify at the trial of Mgr Franco Mulakkal, who stands accused of raping a former superior of the Missionaries of Jesus. The nuns say they have been subjected to pressures and threats.
Kochi (AsiaNews) – The National Commission for Women wrote to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asking for action to prevent tampering with material evidence and witnesses in the case against Bishop Franko Mulakkal.
The prelate resigned as bishop of Jalandhar (Punjab) after he came under investigation in Kerala for the rape of a nun. His trial has been languishing for months and the Commission is concerned that the investigation might be sabotaged.
The allegations of rape of nun by Bishop Mulakkal have sent shockwaves across the Church in India. The nun, a former superior of the Missionaries of Jesus, filed charges against the prelate last September for multiple acts of violence committed between 2014 and 2016 in a convent in Kuravilangad, Kottayam (Kerala).
At first her accusations fell on deaf years, but gained notoriety in the national and international press when five other nuns staged a public protest, supported by several Catholic leaders (one of whom died under mysterious circumstances).
Following the protest, the new mother superior ordered the nuns transferred, even though they wanted to remain in Kottayam to support the victim. In fact, they fear that, by going away, the bishop's supporters might have a free hand to suppress evidence.
For his part, Mgr Mulakkal has always claimed his innocence, accusing the alleged victim of filing charges against him to cover up an illicit affair with a married man.
After his arrest in Kerala, the bishop was released on bail in October after three weeks in prison and returned to his diocese. Meanwhile, a temporary administrator was appointed to run the Diocese of Jalandhar.
Since then the investigation has gone nowhere, prompting the National Commission to speak out. In a letter to Pinarayi Vijayan, its president, Rekha Sharma, writes that two of the five nuns told to leave the St Francis Mission Home in Kuravilangad, Kottayam, Sr Neena Rose and Sr Ranit Pallasseril, have complained about their situation.
"The complainants,” the letter reads, “alleged that the transfer orders were aimed to split them and ‘to sabotage the case’ against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, which is pending trial. Further, they alleged that the same were issued to pressurize and threaten them as they are prominent witnesses in the case. The complainants also apprehend danger to their lives, if transferred to distant regions.”
The abuse case involving the nun has prompted the Catholic Church in Kerala to try to right the wrongs suffered and prevent new violence.
A few days ago, the bishops released new guidelines that reaffirm a "zero tolerance" policy involving priests and members of the clergy who are guilty of sexual crimes against children and vulnerable adults.
A meeting on the topic is scheduled to take place from 21 to 24 February in the Vatican, and has the strong backing of Pope Francis.
The pontiff spoke out against rapists inside the Church on his flight back from the United Arab Emirates, where he signed an historic document on human brotherhood with the Sunni Great Imam of Al-Azhar.