The Church nowadays is surrounded by dirty nauseating controversies like land scams, sex scandals and a baby selling racket. Recently, the Supreme Court also expressed concerns over the rising number of rape cases involving priests from the churches of Kerala. The SC bench comprising of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said, “What is happening in Kerala, priests are becoming accused in rape cases.”
As if the aforementioned crimes were not enough, this time the church authorities in Kerala have taken a significant leapfrog and went to the extent of trying to bury the case of rape against the bishop. The church is trying to buy the silence of a nun who had filed a police complain that the bishop of Missionaries of Jesus had raped and had unnatural sex with her. The 44-year-old nun accused the bishop Franco Mulakkal of raping her 13 times from 2014 onwards. According to Swarjaya report, the nun has been presented with the offer of 10 acres land and a new convent. The report further states that Nun’s brother has alleged that her sister was offered Rs. Five crore to take back the case.
Local media groups also released an audio tape in which a Father James Erthayil is trying to reach a ‘settlement’. The audio is the conversation between James Erthayil and sister Anupama, she was one of the nuns who are in support of the 44-year-old rape victim. According to The News Minute, Father James tells sister Anupama, “I am the priest you met yesterday during the mass. I have tried to meet you twice but was not able to meet you. I have gotten information, not that anyone directly spoke to me, that ‘they’ would buy some ten acres of land and build a convent to accommodate some eight-ten nuns.”
Then Sister Anupama asks, “Who would build the convent?” James replied the Jalandhar diocese and a benefactor. He says that ‘the Jalandhar diocese will help on the condition that you will withdraw the case’.
To which sister Anupama replies, “None of us will withdraw the case. We are all standing together strongly and want justice. We will not sell our pride and abandon one among us. They targeted us first”.
Father James goes on to say that the families of the nun would not accept them. He also issued a subtle threat stating, “If you go to any of the convents in Orissa or Assam, you can get threats. But instead if you move away from all this and go to another convent headed by an independent Bishop, then there won’t be threats.”
However, sister Anupama’s brother said their family wholeheartedly supports and accepts the nuns. He also expressed disappointment over Church’s attitude. He said, “The attitude of the Church is indeed disappointing, rather than taking action against the accused priests they are trying to force the complainants to withdraw their case. It has a big impact on people like me. If the Church had taken a clear stand we could at least get some solace. Cases of harassment have been hushed up. Now it’s like there is no one to trust other than God.” Speaking to the The News Minute, Sister Anumapa’s brother Josy alleges that the conversation reveals the attempt to threaten and silence the nuns with a bribe.
It’s not an isolate incident, earlier also when a priest in Jaipur was booked under POCSO Act for allegedly sending indecent messages to a class 9th student at an Alwar school. Instead of condemning his actions and excommunicating him, the Bishop of Jaipur, Oswald J Lewis, had asked people to ‘fast and pray’ for the accused Georgish Britto.
As far as Kerala Church authorities’ effort to bury the case of sexual harassment is concerned, it is quite appalling to see that instead of punishing the alleged rapist, the Church is trying to brush the crime under the carpet. It raises a serious question over the Church’s credibility and it also shows how seriously the church takes crime against women. Such an attitude is unacceptable. It is a high time the government should step in and crack down hard on the church’s activities. Numerous instances of clergymen from the various churches being involved in crimes against women have come to light from Kerala and this is exactly why the central government needs to hand over the investigation to elite central agencies.
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