Kerala nun shoots off scathing letter to Vatican against bishop

nun-case-josekutty A nun breaks down during a protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal near the High Court in Kochi on Monday | Josekutty Panackal

A nun who has accused a Roman Catholic Bishop of raping her has petitioned the Vatican representative in India alleging that the clergyman was using "political and money power" to bury the case even as the Kerala government Tuesday assured "justice will be done".

Making a fervent plea for urgent intervention, the nun in a scathing letter also sought to explain her silence before coming out against the bishop and said she had "tremendous fear and shame" and wondered why the church was "closing its eyes towards the truth".

As the issue snowballed with continuing protests seeking action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese in Punjab, senior minister E.P. Jayarajan rejected allegations of attempts to sabotage the case and asserted that the probe was proceeding in the "right direction."

"A very strong investigation is being carried out in the case. It is proceeding in the right direction. No accused would be allowed to escape the clutches of the law," he told reporters in Kannur. The Minister also said there was no pressure on the government in acting against the bishop.

The day also saw "Missionaries of Jesus", a congregation to which the nun belongs, coming out against the nun and five fellow nuns, who are protesting in Kochi seeking justice, accusing them of "spreading blatant lies" against the Bishop.

The protesting nuns rejected the charge and said they will continue their agitation till justice was delivered.

In the lengthy letter to Giambattista Diquattro, Vatican's Apostolic Nuncio (a diplomatic mission), the nun, who has accused Bishop Franco rape and having unnatural sex with her multiple times between 2014 and 2016, said she has turned to the Church authorities for justice.

She demanded removal of the Jalandhar Bishop from the post, alleging that by continuing in the position, Franco and his close associates "are using the wealth of the diocese to divert" the course of the police investigation. "Seeking your urgent intervention in this case as the representative of the Holy See in India," the nun said, knocking at the Vatican.

In the September 8 letter, a copy of which is available with the media Tuesday, she alleged that the Bishop and his associates were luring people to take a stand supportive of them by assuring them properties and other forms of wealth.

"They are arranging people to attack us and Bishop Franco is using his political power and money to get higher authorities of the investigation and the government to bury legal proceedings that I have filed against him," she charged.

Noting that she had filed the complaint against the bishop two months ago, the nun claimed even though the Special Investigation Team probing it was convinced of the proofs, they were not able to arrest him because of his political and economic power.

"I beg the Church authorities to kindly make a speedy enquiry about this case and remove Bishop Franco from his responsibilities as the spiritual leader of the diocese," the nun said.

Noting that she felt the Catholic church was still doubting her over the argument as to why she allowed him to sexually abuse her multiple times, the nun said she had tremendous fear and shame to bring this out into the open. She also feared 'threats' her family members.

The nun wondered why the Church was closing its eyes to the "truth when I have mustered courage...."

"Your highness, I would like to ask: Will the Church authority -who stand to protect Bishop Franco and safeguard the dignity of the Church by hiding his wickedness- be able to give back what I have lost?" she asked in the letter.

Copies of the letter were sent to 21 others, including the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) President Cardinal Oswald Gracias and Delhi Metropolitan Archbishop, Anil Couto.

The letter surfaced as the protest by various Catholic Reform organisations in Kochi seeking justice for the nun entered fourth day Tuesday.

Workers of various organisations continued to visit the protest venue extending their support.

The protesters, including five fellow nuns of the rape survivor, said they would continue their agitation till action was taken against the Bishop.

They have alleged that top police officials were trying to sabotage the probe. The Missionaries of Jesus congregation Tuesday said it was planning to implead itself in the Kerala High Court which is hearing a related matter. In a statement, the congregation questioned the character of the nun and alleged she had illicit relationship with one of her relatives. It said bringing the real truth in the case was their "moral and divine" responsibility. The agitation by the nuns was part of an agenda to destroy the Church and the congregation, it charged. With the police facing heat, a senior official has Monday said the bishop may be summoned to Kerala for interrogation.