MUMBAI, India – A nun who has accused a bishop in India of raping her multiple times now says an attempt has been made on her life.
The Kerala-born nun lodged a complaint with the police last week after someone disabled the brakes on her motorbike at her Kuravilangad, Kerala convent.
The accused is a migrant worker from the northeastern state of Assam, who was allegedly acting under the suggestion of a supporter of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar in India’s Punjab state.
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting the sister, who belongs to the Punjab-based Missionaries of Jesus religious congregation. The alleged assaults took place on 13 different occasions between 2014-2016 at the nun’s order’s convent in the state of Kerala.
The nun went to the police in Kerala on June 29, and the authorities have since then been investigating the charges.
The bishop has vehemently denied the charges, and says the nun is retaliating against him for investigating a complaint she had an affair with a married man.
In her latest complaint, the nun also said she has received several death threats over the phone since lodging her complaint against the bishop.
She added that the brother of a priest close to the bishop asked to be informed whenever she or any other nun ventures out of the convent. The brother reportedly asked the accused day laborer to damage her motorbike.
The nun also alleged that the same man had also threatened her sister in Kalady, which is also in Kerala.
“We have received a complaint and are verifying it,” said Hari Sankar, the Kottayam district police chief.
The nun is a member of the Syro-Malabar Church, which is based in Kerala, a center of Christianity in India. Priests and nuns from the state can often be found serving in other parts of the country.
The sexual assaults allegedly occurred in a room in a convent set aside for Kerala-born priests of the Jalandhar Diocese visiting home.
Kerala police traveled to Punjab to interview Mulakkal on Aug. 13, but no arrest was made.
According to reports in The New Indian Express, Kerala police held a high-level meeting on Saturday to decide whether Mulakkal will be called to Kerala for additional questioning.
“The further course of the investigation will be decided after the evidence is reviewed,” Sankar said.
Sources told the Goa Chronicle the police also discussed whether to call Mulakkal to Kerala for further questioning.
The newspaper also reported that there were discrepancies in the bishop’s testimony over when he stayed at the convent where the rapes were said to have happened.
Meanwhile, Father James Erthayil admitted last week that he tried to intervene on the diocese’s behalf to get the nun to withdraw the complaint.
On July 30, Kerala police filed charges against the priest, claiming he telephoned the nun offering her land, a building and “safety” if she dropped the case against Mulakkal.
The nun recorded the conversation and immediately gave the tape to the authorities.
In a statement given to the police on Wednesday, Erthayil said the bishop contacted him through a close associate. He added that he had “no direct contact” with Mulakkal.
Since the recording was released, Erthayil’s congregation – the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate – have asked the priest to step down as superior of their house in Kurianadu.
Mulakkal told Crux he has not authorized anyone to mediate on his behalf, or on behalf of his diocese.
The case is just one of several scandals affecting Christians in Kerala state, which has the largest Christian population in India.
Tax authorities in India have interviewed Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, in connection with a series of suspicious land deals that caused the Vatican to send a special administrator into his archdiocese.
Last year, the cardinal was accused along with two senior priests and a real estate agent of selling several plots of land illegally, leading to a loss of over $10 million.
Critics said the deal violated both canon and civil law, since the land was sold for well below market value – Indian law forbids the irregular transfer of funds between charitable or religious trusts.
Meanwhile several priests of the Kerala-based Malankara Orthodox Church have been accused of raping a teacher working at a church-affiliated school.
They are accused of blackmailing the woman for sexual favors. One of them had allegedly filmed a sexual encounter with the woman in the 1990s and threatened her with exposure if she didn’t submit.