MUMBAI, India — A 28-year-old nun who left a convent in India claiming mental and sexual harassment, is now facing threatening calls, according to her family.
The nun had been living at St. Joseph’s convent in Kerala, the same state where another nun has accused a bishop of sexually assaulting her on several occasions.
The woman has since left her vows, and is planning on getting married.
Kerala is considered the heart of Christianity in India, and Christians make up nearly 20 percent of the population; in India as a whole, Christians make up only around 2.3 percent of the population.
The woman left St Joseph’s – in Pachalam – in May 2019, after 11 years of service.
On Jan. 4, 28 protesters, led by the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation Movement (KCCRM) held protest at the convent, which belongs to the Assisi Sisters of Mary Immaculate Congregation.
They demanded that the convent provide compensation for the services given by the former nun during the past 11 years.
The woman’s family participated in the protest, in part, to help raise funds for her marriage arrangements.
Her father told The News Minute (TNM) that ever since she spoke to the media about her alleged abuse, she has been receiving threatening calls. The woman planned to attend a press event in Kochi on Tuesday but declined at the last moment because of the threats.
According to her father, she was threatened by people who called her and posed as journalists.
“They were blaming the people who were leading the protest, saying they are against the Church and are trying to defame the convent, and that she should not be part of them,” he said.
The woman, who hails from a Dalit Christian family, now works as a teacher in Karnataka.
“I left to become a nun before I wrote my Class 12 exams [equivalent to high school graduation]. After a few years, I realised that the attitude of most superiors inside the convent was not the same. I faced restrictions from all quarters. They expected me to cook all day and every day because I could cook well. I am also a social person. However, they did not let me talk to people or make friends. They had a problem with me being me,” she told TNM.
Speaking about her decision to leave, she said that she received a lot of support from both her family as well as her friends. However, she complained that the Church refused to offer any compensation for her years of service.
In the Indian press, her case is being compared to that surrounding Bishop Franco Mullakal of Jalandhar, who was arrested on Sept. 21, 2018, in Kerala after a months-long investigation into the accusations of a nun claiming he raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. He was released on bail on Oct. 15, 2018.
The nun is a member of the Punjab-based Missionaries of Jesus congregation, but said the attacks happened in Kuravilangad, the location of one of the order’s convents in Kerala.
Another nun, Sister Lucy Kalapura, was kicked out of her order, Franciscan Clarist Congregation, after participating in protests against Mulakkal.
The father of the former nun from St. Joseph’s in Pachalam complained about the attitude of the Church.
“Despite large public support, the Church is still against the survivor nun in the Bishop Franco Mulakkal rape case, and Sister Lucy who came out in support of her. We come from a humble background and after the threat calls, she is afraid of whether we will be left alone in this,” he told TNM.
George Joseph, a member of the executive committee of the Kerala Christian Reformation Movement (KCRM), said the Church owes the former nun for her work at the convent, where she lived from the age of 17 until she was 28.
“Usually, the Church is supposed to ensure a job to the person who has left the institution and offer any kind of support depending on his/her financial position. In this case, not only did the Church not offer any compensation, they even refused to return the patrimony of 30,000 rupees [about $420] that the family had given when the sister joined the convent,” Joseph told TNM.
“We took an appointment with the provincial of the convent and discussed the issue with them. The former nun’s family comes from a very poor financial position. They needed the money, especially when they fixed her wedding. However, the convent authorities asked us not to intervene and promised that they would offer the compensation directly to the nun’s family,” he added.
Despite waiting for over four months, there has been no compensation from the congregation.
“Anyone who has put in work and contributed to an institution deserves to be compensated. A domestic worker who works in your house is compensated on a daily basis. So why is there an exception for those working in the Church? The nun in question and her family deserve to receive her dues from the Church,” George said.
He also said that members of the KCRM were planning on taking the issue to court.
“There seems to be no precedent to this case. We had discussed with a few lawyers on whether it would be a good idea to take the fight to the court. We have decided that, win or lose, we will fight this out legally,” George told TNM.
“We will wait till January 25. If there is no favourable response, we will start a hunger strike from next day,” he said. “It is important that the public stands strong in this protest.”
Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesn’t come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.