Editor’s NoteOpinion

Is NCW afraid of the Catholic Church?

Its been nine-days since I petitioned the National Commission for Women to inquire into the attempted cover-up and failure of senior leaders of the Catholic Church to report the rape of the 44-year old nun by Bishop Franco Mulakkal to the Kerala Police authorities.

The Nun had reported to matter of sexual abuse to Bishop Vadakkel, Bishop of Ujjain diocese, Archbishop Anil Joseph Couto of the Archdiocese of Delhi, Cardinal Mar George Alencherry – Head of the Syro-Malabar Church and the Vatican Representative of India and Nepal, Reverend Giambattista Diquattro. She even wrote to Pope Francis in Rome.

However, the Catholic Church failed to even initiate an inquiry into her allegations or provide relief from the pressure by the accused Bishop on her and her family; until the Kerala police started investigating the matter, protesters took to the streets and media took up the fight for justice for the nun and #ArrestBishopFranco voice grew louder.

As a citizen of India, I wrote a letter on October 1st, to the Chairperson, Rekha Sharma of the National Commission for Women, in which I had petitioned for an inquiry into the attempted cover-up and failure of senior leaders of the Catholic Church in India to report the crime of rape of the 44-year old Nun by Bishop Franco Mulakkal to the Kerala police authorities.

The chairperson Rekha Sharma in a tweet to me on October 1 stated, “Got your email. Studying the matter and will see how @NCWIndia can take up this matter.”

Rekha Sharma Tweet, NCW

Today is October 9, over a week has passed since the acknowledgement of the petition but there has been no action by NCW on setting up an inquiry into the attempted cover-up or failure of the police to report the heinous crime of rape to the police authorities.

The Catholic Church in India having full-knowledge of the crime did not even set-up its own inquiry, which is normally a procedure that is followed on reported cases of sexual abuse.

The reportedly did nothing. Not even shield her from the accused rapist Bishop.

In my petition to NCW, I, expressed, that the law of the nation has prevailed and currently the accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal is in police custody till October 6, 2018 as ordered by the court in Kerala.

However while the accused rapist has been arrested. The larger question of cover up by the Catholic Church has not be addressed.

I raised this question because the nun since 2017, on finding courage to fight back, turned to the Catholic Church with her complaint of sexual abuse. But shockingly not one of the Church leaders acknowledged or addressed the contents of her complaint or took appropriate action to investigate her case.

In the month of June 2017, the victim nun met Rev. Fr. Joseph Thadathil – the Parish Priest of Kuravilangad Church and also Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt the Bishop of Palai Diocese. She explained to them about the sexual exploitation that she suffered from Bishop Franco from 2014 to 2016 and his continued torture through various means of intimidation because she took the courage to resist his sexual advances.

Under the direction of Bishop Kallarangatt and Bishop Vadakkel, Bishop of Ujjain diocese; she had then given a letter to Cardinal Mar George Alencherry – Head of the Syro-Malabar Church through Bishop Vadakkel by hand, on 11.07.2017.

She had also given the same complaint letter to Bishop Vadakkel explaining her mental agony and sufferings, and that of the other Missionaries of Jesus sisters under Bishop Franco Mulakkal.

On 23.11.2017, she met Cardinal Mar George Alencherry personally and told him all that she had faced from Bishop Franco. He heard her complaint but did nothing to address her grievance. 

And in December 2017, since Bishop Franco was planning to trap her and her companion sister with a police case in Jalandhar; she in a telephonic conversation appealed to the Cardinal to arrange an appointment with the Apostolic Nuncio, so that she could explain her pain and misery. But she did not get any positive response from the Cardinal. He heard her once again but did nothing.

The nun even requested Bishop Vadakell before she asked Cardinal Alencherry for a chance to meet the Vatican Representative of India (Apostolic Nuncio). He assured the nun that he will arrange a chance for her to meet with the Vatican Representative of India when the Nuncio came to Kochi in the month of October 2017. But he did not arrange a meeting.

So in desperation of January 28th, 2018 she wrote a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio directly and in her complaint against Bishop Franco, she clearly mentions about her rape, sexual exploitation, mental torture and police complaint filed against her in the Jalandhar police.

The letter to the Vatican Representative was personally handed over by Bishop Kurian Valiayakandathil – the Bishop of Bhagalpur, who is also one of the witnesses that the Kerala police interrogated.

The nun waited for five months, but she did not receive any reply from the Apostolic Nuncio’s office. 

Therefore on 14.05.2018, she decided to send letters to three Church Officials in Rome by courier and by tracking it, she confirmed that they have received it on 18.05.2018. 

These letters were sent to the following:

  1. Most Rev. Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaia Ferrer SJ. Prefetto Congreegazione Dotrina, Della Fede, 00120C’itta Del Vaticano; 
  1. S. EM.ZA Revemdissima.Ouellet Card. Marc P.S.S,Prefetto Congreegazione Per I Vescovi,00120 C’itta Del vaticano 
  1. Pope Francis 00120 C’itta Del vaticano. 

Thereafter she waited for more than a month but she did receive any reply other than the delivery receipt of the DHL courier. 

She made one more attempt on 22.06.2018 to the State Secretary. Most. Rev. Cardinal Pietro Parolin Segretario di statto 00120 Vatican City, which was received there on 25.06.2018.

On seeing all these police cases against her and her family members by the Jalandhar authorities, she was shocked and frightened . 

She approached and spoke the Archbishop Anil Couto. Metropolitan, Delhi Region during his visit to our community in Kuravilangad in May 2018, and later over the phone, she and another nun narrated their mental agony and struggle. 

But Archbishop Couto deflected the issue and he did nothing.

Like others, he gave her the e-mail ID of Apostolic Nuncio and asked her to write to the Vatican Representative.

On 24.06.2018, the same night itself at 11.45 pm, she sent an urgent mail to the Vatican Representative in India.

Yet again she did not get any response.

Therefore on 28-06-2018, she filed a case against Bishop Franco with the Kerala Police.

I am left wondering, even with the glaring details of the attempted cover-up of the Catholic Church and its failure to report the rape to the police authorities, why is the NCW not acting on my petition?

Is the NCW afraid of the Catholic Church?

Does the NCW not care about the nun anymore since the main accused rapist has been sent to judicial custody?

Does the NCW in its wisdom feel that the other leaders of the Catholic Church have done no wrong in the attempted cover-up and failure of reporting the rape case to the police authorities?

I am shocked, disappointed and at loss of words at the insensitivity of NCW.

The nun in her hope for justice turned to the Catholic Church for justice and relief.  It is these very senior leaders of the Catholic Church that betrayed her and did not even initiate an inquiry into her accusation of rape.

Kerala Crime Branch has booked Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Archdiocese of Jalandhar on charges of rape, sodomy (unnatural sex) and illegal confinement. He is accusing of raping the nun, thirteen times, between 2014 and 2016.

#ArrestedBishopFranco is the first Catholic Bishop in India to be arrested on charges of rape.

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