An audio recording of a conversation between a Catholic cardinal in India and a nun who has accused a bishop of rape seems to verify the cleric knew of the alleged sexual assault earlier than he later claimed to the authorities.
The 4-minute recording was broadcast by an Indian television station on Thursday, and in it Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, can be heard conversing with the 43-year-old nun.
She has accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Latin rite Diocese of Jalandhar of sexually assaulting her several times, which the bishop has vehemently denied.
The nun went to the police on June 29 with her accusations and submitted a 72-page statement. According to police reports, the nun produced documentation and other evidence for her case. Police authorities said she provided details of 13 instances when she was allegedly abused by the accused from 2014-2016.
She also said she told Alencherry about the abuse six months ago.
Jalandhar is in India’s northwestern Punjab state. Alencherry and the nun making the accusation are from the southern state of Kerala, a center of Indian Christianity.
The nun is a member of the Punjab-based Missionaries of Jesus religious congregation.
In the recording, the cardinal can be heard saying, “If she was abused then it’s really bad” and “if she has been subjected to this, then it’s not correct.”
Alencherry also seems to tell the nun that he will deny that he was told anything about the matter if approached by the police and advised her to approach the Vatican ambassador to India and Bombay Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who is the the president of the Catholic Bishop’s Council of India. (There is no evidence she approached either of them.)
The cardinal had been interviewed by the police on Wednesday, and the nun’s brother – who is also a priest – said the family released the recording to the media because Alencherry “wasn’t speaking the truth.”
“She had met the cardinal and given her complaint in writing, but no action was taken. It was then that we decided to record the telephone conversation. We have more evidence and will release that also,” he told local reporters.
Earlier this week, the Times of India obtained a copy of the letter the nun sent the cardinal on July 11, 2017.
Local police superintendent K. Subhash is the officer who interviewed Alencherry on Wednesday.
“The cardinal had informed us that the nun had told him about some issues at her convent. However, he did not receive any complaint of sexual assault,” said Subhash.
Church authorities admitted the recording was authentic but said it had been heavily edited to put the cardinal in a bad light. They also reiterated the tape never mentions “sexual abuse” or “rape.”
“The telephonic conversation is real. The religious sister speaks about the difficulties she faced in her congregation. She does not mention about the sexual abuse she had faced at any time during the talk,” said Church spokesperson Father Jimmy Poochakkatt.
The release of the tape is the latest scandal to hit the Syro-Malabar Church leader.
Last year, Alencherry, two senior priests and a real estate agent were accused of selling several plots of land belonging to the cardinal’s Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, incurring a loss of more than $10 million.
Although India’s courts later dismissed the case, the Vatican appointed Bishop Jacob Manathodath of the Syro-Malabar Diocese as Apostolic Administrator “Sede Plena” of the archdiocese.
Alencherry remains Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church and the Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, is in control of “administrative matters” of his archdiocese.