The Kerala police will question Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of raping a nun. The Roman Catholic Bishop of the Punjab city has denied all accusations against him. However, the Kerala police, headed by DySp AT Subhash, is travelling to Jalandhar after having picked up preliminary evidence against the bishop.
The Kerala nun had raised sexual assault complaint against the bishop in June. The nun had said that Bishop Mulakkal, who is a member of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, abused her on many occasions during his stay in a convent near Kottayam district in Kerala between 2014 and 2016.
The latest developments
- The arrest of Bishop Franco had loomed large ever since the nun made a submission in front of a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC.
- However, the Kerala probe team had been moving with caution after the allegation was raised against the senior clergy in a highly influential church denomination in the state. At times the police and the government were accused of trying to protect the bishop.
- The nun had said she was raped by the Bishop 13 times between 2014 and 2016. The nun also said she was subjected to unnatural sex multiple times.
- Police then lodged an FIR against the bishop and a 114-page statement was taken from the nun.
- Kerala media leaked a conversation between the assaulted nun and the senior most bishop in the Church, which purportedly revealed that the top hierarchy had the knowledge that the nun had been assaulted.
- The church denied thee allegation, saying that the information was twisted.
- Meanwhile, in a move that backfired, a senior priest from the church telephoned a nun involved in the case and offered land and money if they withdrew the complaint against Bishop Franco Mulakkal.
- With the audio tape finding its way out, the Kerala police detained the priest. The incident put Mulakkal on the back foot as it hinted at admission of wrongdoing.
- In the aftermath Mulakkal and the Jalandhar diocese denied any links with the priest who made the bribe offer to the nun. The bishop reiterated the stand that the nun was making false allegations after he launched an investigation into her alleged affair with a married man.
Is church trying to bribe its way out of the mess?
The latest audio tape that was leaked points at robust efforts from the part of the church to cover up the scandal. Fr James Earthayil is heard telling the nun that it was in her interest to withdraw the case against the bishop. There was also a veiled threat. He cautions the nuns that they would face difficulties if they wanted to go ahead with the case.
"We can buy some land, build a convent and shift you all there safely. This won't happen tomorrow but everything has a time. We can think about it ... If we have to buy 10 acres of land and build a decent building for everyone, it's not easy. So they will help, but their condition is that this case must be withdrawn," the priest is heard saying.
Who is Franco Mulakkal?
Bishop Franco is a high-ranking clergyman from the Syro-Malabar church in Kerala, an independent Catholic church that is affiliated to the Church in Rome. He was born in Kerala in 1964 and was ordained priest in 1990. Franco was made an Auxiliary Bishop in 2009 and he served in Delhi, according to Catholic Hierarchy website. Pope Francis made him a bishop in 2013 and was moved to Jalandhar. Bishop Franco has a PhD in theology and an MA degree from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.