NEW DELHI, India — Catholic and other leaders have urged that a bishop accused of raping an Indian Catholic nun be removed from his position.
Ucanews.com reported that in a July 12 letter to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, and another of the same date to Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, apostolic nuncio to India, 168 people asked for action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.
The unidentified nun, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, complained to police June 29 of being raped in May 2014 and then sexually abused multiple times over the following two years by Mulakkal, ucanews.com reported. The bishop is patron of the congregation.
The letter asked Diquattro to “advise Pope Francis to relieve the bishop concerned of his pastoral responsibilities so that the Church is seen to actually practice the zero tolerance it professes to observe in abuse cases.”
The signatories include representatives of the Indian Theological Association, a forum of Catholic theologians; the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, an advocacy group for women religious; the Indian Christian Women’s Movement, a national conference of women religious and others; and the interdenominational United Christian Forum for Human Rights.
The accused continuing in his position as bishop of Jalandhar “will erode the faith of the people in the credibility of the Church to implement its policy of zero tolerance and act justly in abuse matters,” both letters said.
Police have begun to investigate the bishop over the alleged assault that was said to have occurred when he visited a convent in the Diocese of Palai in Kerala state, in southwest India.
The nun alleged that the bishop harassed her when she resisted sexual abuse. She and her family claim that Church authorities have ignored their complaints.
Mulakkal told media the accusation arose only after Church authorities began disciplinary action following allegations that the nun was having sexual relations with her cousin’s husband.
The signatories said they are “concerned about the mud-slinging” between the bishop and priests in his diocese and the nun and her family. This has “turned the Church into an object of ridicule,” causing “a lot of harm … to the faith of the people of God” as well as to the “integrity and mission” of the Church, they said.
The letter to Gracias said the representations made by the nun to the bishops “have brought no response, raising issues about the credibility” of the bishops’ guidelines on dealing with sexual harassment.
It asked the cardinal to ensure that dioceses “publicize and create adequate awareness” about the guidelines and “institute the structures and procedures” to address allegations of sexual misconduct without delay.
“Sexual abuse is ultimately not about sexuality or celibacy, but about the gross misuse of the disproportionate power assigned to clergy,” the signatories said.
“Pope Francis has shown the way by holding accused bishops accountable even at risk to the reputation of the Church. We look to our bishops to follow his example,” they said.