Indian police arrested a Catholic Bishop Friday in the state of Kerala on charges of allegedly raping a nun 13 times over two years.
Police arrested Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of Jalandhar, after questioning him for three days. A 44-year-old nun of the Missionaries of Jesus filed a complaint to the police concerning Mulakkal on June 29, claiming that the Catholic Church had done nothing to address her repeated reports of the bishop’s sexual assaults during his visits to her convent. (RELATED: Indian Christian Murdered In Caste-Motivated ‘Honor Killing’)
Other nuns in the region, outraged by the sister’s June accusations, staged massive protests for two weeks in support of her, demanding the arrest of Mulakkal.
“Sexual abuse is a crime and should be dealt with by the law. The arrest is a good thing at the moment for the church to come out clean,” said Father Frederick D’Souza, former director of Caritas India, according to Crux Now.
“The approach of the church is to follow the law of the land and cooperate with legal systems and face legal mechanism. The church is law-abiding, and not avoiding,” he added.
Pope Francis accepted Mulakkal’s request Thursday to be relieved of his duties during the legal proceedings. The nun who filed the claim against the bishop asserted, however, that she addressed four letters to the Vatican concerning local priests’ and bishops’ neglect of their duties and their abuse and neglect of her order of nuns, whom she said local priests view as enemies of the church, but that the church has turned a deaf ear to them.
“We experience neglect from every side. We feel the Catholic Church is having concern only for the bishops and priests. We would like to know if there is any provision in the Canon Law for justice for nuns and women,” she wrote in her fourth letter.
Indian officials said that the investigation into the bishop’s alleged crimes will be thorough and that they support the nuns who have come out to protest on behalf of their sister.
“The government is with the victim [and] the nuns staging the protest. Certainly, the government will take all necessary steps to identify the culprits and bring the guilty to book,” said E.P Jayarajan, the Minister for Industries and Sport.
The protesting nuns lauded the government’s support and the arrest of Mulakkal, but said that the struggle for justice on behalf of abuse victims in the church is not over.
“We have won the first round of our struggle,” Sister Anupama, who led protests near the Kerala High Court, told the BBC. “Our struggle is for many such sisters suffering in silence, and we will continue our campaign until all our sisters get justice.”
The nuns have allegedly received death threats and the threat of church discipline for protesting, though the local parish later backtracked on punishing nuns for protesting.
A Kerala court denied Mulakkal’s bail application and sentenced him to remain in judicial custody for 14 days, to end October 6.
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