MUMBAI, India – A retired judge and India’s National Commission for Women are calling for the reversal of a Vatican decision confirming the expulsion of a nun for her order.
Sister Lucy Kalappura, a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in Kerala, has been an outspoken advocate for a nun who has accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar of rape.
In September 2018, she participated in a public demonstration against the bishop against the order of her religious congregation.
She was dismissed from the order in 2019 and told to leave the convent. The congregation said it dismissed the 54-year-old for defiance, violating the norms of the congregation and infringing on the vow of poverty. Kalappura had been given the required canonical warnings but failed to show “needed remorse” and an explanation for her lifestyle in violation of the regulations of the congregation, said the letter signed by Sister Anne Joseph, superior general.
She refused and appealed her decision to the Vatican.
She was informed June 13 that the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, had upheld her dismissal.
“There are only three chances for appeal to the Supreme Tribunal. In all these they have rejected my appeal in an unjust manner … without listening to my part. They have taken a decision without trial. They have targeted me,” Kalappura told NDTV.
“Everybody knows the congregation has taken this decision to dismiss me only because I joined protests against Franco Mulakkal, who allegedly sexually abused a simple, humble, poor nun. The support I gave the oppressed one is the particular reason for my dismissal,” she continued.
Justice Michael F. Saldanha, a former judge in Karnataka and Bombay, on Thursday wrote both the Vatican court and the Vatican embassy calling on for a “fair” hearing for Kalappura “in keeping with the rules of natural justice which apply to every law.”
“I am prepared to represent her/assist her at the hearing as I happen to be a qualified and experienced lawyer and not one who can be bought over by Church funds or intimidated,” his letter, reported in The Telegraph, an Indian newspaper.
Mulakkal was arrested on Sept. 21, 2018, in Kerala after a months-long investigation into the accusations of the nun, unnamed in accordance with Indian law, who claimed he raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. The trial against the judge is in its final stages but has suffered numerous delays attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bishop vehemently denies the charges, and claims the nun is retaliating because he initiated an investigation against her for an affair she allegedly had with a married man.
The nun making the accusation 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.
Kalappura participated in a protest calling for the bishop’s arrest shortly before it happened.
The Mulakkal case has divided the Church in the state of Kerala, the heart of Christianity in India. Most religious leaders – including the superiors of the women’s religious congregations involved – have supported the bishop; while protesters have said it shines a light on the poor conditions of nuns in the Church.
Kalappura has garnered support by even non-Catholics in India, with the National Commission for Women (NCW) calling on the state of Kerala to assist the nun.
“National Commission for Women is distressed with the continuous harassment of Sr Lucy. Chairperson Rekha Sharma has written to Chief Secretary, Kerala to provide all possible assistance to Sr Lucy. NCW has also sought an explanation from Sr Ann Joseph, Superior General, FCC on the matter,” the NCW tweeted on Friday.
Saldanha’s letter also questioned the Franciscan Clarist Congregation’s telling Kalappura to turn over her habit and other property of the convent – which as a vowed religious could include all her possessions – and to leave the house or face charges of “criminal house trespass.”
Saldanha’s said such regulations are “illegal and unconstitutional, ostensibly based on Canon Law which cannot override the Constitution of India and the laws of this country.”
Speaking to The Telegraph, Kalappura said she has a hearing scheduled in the Indian civil court on June 26.
“The next hearing is on June 26. I have complete faith in our judiciary,” she said.
She said he was treated poorly by the congregation.
“I’m forced to cook my own food since the convent doesn’t provide me anything. Neither am I allowed to use the chapel, library or any other facility. I enter my room through a side door as I’m not allowed to use the main entrance,” she said.
Kalappura told The Telegraph she won’t leave the convent, since she has nowhere else to go.