Indian nun accuses bishop of raping, abusing her; cleric denies charges

A woman prays at the Holy Family Church in Srinagar, India, Dec. 25, 2017. A Missionaries of Jesus nun accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur of raping her four years ago and then sexually abusing her multiple times over the following two years. (CNS/Farooq Khan, EPA)

An Indian Catholic nun accused a bishop of raping her four years ago and then sexually abusing her multiple times over the following two years.

But it was not until June 29 that the unidentified nun, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, complained to police of being raped in May 2014 by Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur, ucanews.com reported.

The alleged assault was said to have occurred when the bishop visited a convent in the Diocese of Palai in Kerala state in southwest India, where the order has a convent.

The nun alleged that the bishop harassed her when she resisted sexual abuse.

Mulakkal maintained, however, that the allegation came in retaliation after he acted against the nun for sexual misconduct.

The bishop told ucanews.com the accusation arose only after church authorities began disciplinary action following allegations by the nun's cousin that she was having sexual relations with her husband.

"She threatened to quit the order," Mulakkal said.

Instead, the nun applied for dispensation so that she could lead a married life.

"However, she withdrew the application and continued to threaten me with sex allegations," the bishop said.

"When I finally took action against the nun, her brother threatened to kill me. He sent me a letter saying that he would cut me into pieces if I dared to land in Kerala," he added.

Fr. Peter Kavumkal, Jullundur diocesan vicar general, said the nun's congregation was planning to dismiss her July 2.

"It is all planned and timed to blackmail the bishop from taking punitive action against her," Kavumkal said.

The nun was not available for comment.

A police official investigating the case said the nun was standing by her allegations. Medical tests were planned to establish whether she was sexually assaulted.

Police from Kerala planned to travel to Jullundur in Punjab state in northern India to question the bishop and other women religious, the official said.

In the meantime, the church is facing allegations of a cover-up.

A lay organization said Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, failed to act despite the nun's complaints to him.

John Jacob, convener of the Movement for Transparency, filed a police complaint saying the cardinal received the nun's complaint six months ago but failed to report it to the police.

Regional bishops' council spokesman Fr. Varghese Vallikkatt said it would be premature to comment in detail while police continued looking into the claims and counterclaims.

"We will wait for the investigation to be completed. We want the truth to be found out," he told ucanews.com.

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