The Catholic Church has faced an avalanche of sexual abuse accusations since the last few decades in cities across the US and schools in Ireland and it has now travelled to India.
The recent harrowing incident keeping the issue in headlines is a case filed by a nun alleging Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese (Jalandhar) of raping her over a dozen times since the last two years.
An array of allegations continued to dog the Catholic Church as there were other nuns who came forward with their own share of accusations against the Bishop.
This is what the Kerala Bishop had to say after being questioned by the Kerala Police for 9 hours stating that the nun was taking revenge against him for ordering an inquiry into a complaint that alleged she was in a relationship with a married man,
“I feel there are people who are against the Church, they’re using these sisters. This is a conspiracy and several people are taking advantage of the situation, they are putting sisters at the forefront.
I have no plan to file for anticipatory bail. I deny all charges, want the truth to be out.”
How Easy It Is For A Bishop To Exploit Nuns?
With Catholic nuns taking a vow to poverty, chastity, and obedience, nuns in India are socialized into a culture of submission to men. They serve in congregations such as the Missionaries of Jesus which are funded by the bishop.
These nuns, in turn, provide them with free professional service either as teachers, principals, supervisor, and other household staff. The nuns who are invited by bishops to serve in their dioceses can be asked to pack up and leave as they are accountable to the bishop.
Hence, most of these nuns try their best not to expose themselves to the bishop’s displeasure which can lead to consequences.
The reason that the case is moving at a snail’s pace is the organizational power of the Church. Even the Missionaries of Jesus (Roman Catholic order for Women) came out in support of the bishop calling him an ‘innocent soul’ thereby shaming the survivor.
The Catholic Church has been known to use its power to protect their own, thus avoiding public abuse and intimidation and sweeping the victim under the rug.
The determined reporting by the Boston Globe newspaper callously showed how priests were moved around new parishes to cover their widespread child abuse as captured in the 2015 movie Spotlight, it is high time for a decisive action condemning clerical sex abuse.
Why Did The Nun choose To Stay Silent For A Long Time Before Speaking Up?
As per the hierarchy in the Church, a nun is similar to an employee at the mercy of the bishop who holds the purse strings. The bishop has vowed to celibacy and obedience to Pope.
For a nun to process such an experience considering the fact that she is devoted to her faith and the patriarchal conditioning, the experience can be traumatic.
They are not in a position to come out and speak against their spiritual guide bluntly with the first reaction being a denial by the authorities in power, only to be made worse by shaming and victim-blaming.
This is an excerpt from the letter that was written by the nun to the Vatican envoy when the Church denied justice:
“Though the Bishop had sexually abused me several times I could not reveal the full story to my superior general or to her councilors. I only told them repeatedly that the Bishop is taking many disciplinary actions through them just because I resisted to lie down with him. As they failed to understand the seriousness of these words I could not tell them more than this. And I had the fear that Bishop Franco may harm me with the support of my superiors.
Bishop Franco had always an eagle’s eye on few other sisters of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation. Whichever sister he felt attracted to, he tried to put them in his trap by force or taking advantage of their weaknesses.
They are arranging people to attack us and Bishop Franco is using his political power and money to get higher authorities on the investigation and the government to bury legal proceedings that I have filed against him.”
Will The Church Be Ever Held Accountable?
The Church will only admit its culpability after the State administers its responsibility in protecting the rights of an individual. Rape is a crime and the punishment is meted out by the judiciary.
Only when the State tries to look at the accused by turning a blind eye to the religious associations as a case where the Indian Penal Code has been violated, the matter can be set right.
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