'Plenty of evidence for invisible patriarchal power priests hold over nuns': Sister Lucy Kalappurakkal claims in autobiography

Editor’s note: Sister Lucy Kalappurakkal came to national attention when she participated in a street protest against disgraced priest Bishop Franco Mulakkal in September 2018. Mulakkal, the head of the Jalandhar diocese had been accused of rape by a nun in June that year. The nun filed a complaint with the Kerala police which stated that Mulakkal had raped her on numerous occasions between the years 2014-16, and the trial for the suspended Bishop, currently out on bail, will commence on 6 January 2019.

Since September 2018, Sister Lucy has been in the news for continuing to speak out against sexual harassment in the church, as also abuses of power. In light of her vocal protests, she was dismissed from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, which cited several alleged infractions on Sister Lucy’s part, including owning (and driving) a car, publishing a book, and giving interviews to the press.

Sister Lucy’s latest salvo against the church is her autobiography, Karthavinte Namathil (In the Name of Christ), set to be released on 10 December. Written in Malayalam, Karthavinte Namathil is about her “life experiences, and sexual abuse and harassment of nuns by priests and bishops — a fact everybody knows but is silent about,” Sister Lucy told ANI.

Firstpost has received permission to reproduce the following excerpts from Sister Lucy's autobiography by her publishers, DC Books. The excerpts have been translated from the Malayalam by Hari Krishnan.

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A vast majority of nuns shared an intimacy with priests that is against the basic morality of Christianity. The main reasons for the growth of such relations is the power and positions priests hold in convents, and asceticism in general. So many of my fellow sisters have indulged in such relationships. And they do foster it in their private moments. They chat for hours on the phone. There is plenty of evidence for the invisible patriarchal power that priests hold over the nuns. I have heard stories about how they regularly engage in sexual intercourse.

Rampant abuse of power:

A priest who is also a college lecturer used to rest at the nearest convent after his working hours. He even has a separate room at the convent. His regular speeches used to be about the precautions you should take before sexual intercourse. The destiny of the sisters at this convent wasn’t just limited to listening. A nun who got fed up of the practical training revealed the details to a male friend. Unfortunately, he did little with that information. This priest, who gave thorough training to almost all the nuns in the convent, continued his acts until he retired.

Once, a friend’s daughter, who was pursuing post-graduation, approached me to clear some academic doubts. I pointed her towards a priest who had expertise in the subject. She met him in the company of my friend (her mother) and me. I had to leave early due to some urgency related to the church. In the meantime, the young girl got her doubts cleared and thanked me after returning home.

The very next day the priest phoned the girl, asking, “Are you doing well?” She answered quite innocently, "Yes". Meanwhile, at the other end, the priest began conversing in a sexually explicit manner. He told her that he wanted to kiss her at three places beneath her neck. The girl was stunned at the sheer vulgarity of his words. She shouted out to her mother and handed over the phone to her. This incident shook the entire family. They complained to me. It was only after days of talks that they compromised and calmed down. The priest was directly called to inform about their protest. That episode ended with an apology from him.

 Plenty of evidence for invisible patriarchal power priests hold over nuns: Sister Lucy Kalappurakkal claims in autobiography

Cover for Sister Lucy Kalappurakkal's autobiography, Karthavinte Namathil. Courtesy DC Books

I remember a nun telling me about how she was sexually exploited by a priest on church premises. She had started sisterhood along with me. But in this case, she wasn’t shocked and she actually enjoyed it. So this story can be shelved as a tale of satisfactory exploitation.

Once, a young man angrily complained to me about the ongoing relationship between his aunt (who was a nun) and a priest. Ironically, this same priest used to advise him to live his bachelor life in a morally correct way!

A predatory system:

During the days of penance, there used to be sessions for special confessions. A nun painfully shared the story of a priest who touched the private parts of a novice during this session. Some of these priests approach nuns with lust even during the times of holy service.

I am aware about the system that exists in some convents, where they push young nuns towards the priests. The perversions these sisters have to endure at the parish are extraordinary. They were made to stand naked in front of the priest for hours just for their amusement. Some of them are such lustful demons that they won’t stop even when the sisters beg.

I know stories about how senior nuns use the younger ones to satisfy their desires as well. The counselling that is given to reduce the self-conflict ends up being a burden for the sisters: The priests who are counselling experts tend to chase these particular nuns.

The experience of a very young girl who came to the parish with a senior nun was extremely unpleasant. A priest…made her sit on his lap for hours, while enjoying himself. The girl revealed this unpleasant experience to me.

The story of a brother who was mentally destroyed after undergoing sexual abuse at the seminary also deserves sympathy. He had to endure this abuse for almost a year, and abandoned ascetism after returning home severely disturbed. There was another seminary student who revealed a similar experience. One of the priests in charge of the seminary forced him to engage in homosexuality. When he resisted, the priest tied him down to a bed and raped the student. The student was too afraid to share the experience with his family and hence had to shift seminaries to escape from this monster.

The tyranny of hypocrisy:

Along with the Syro-Malabar church in Kerala, most other seminaries and convents are centres of sexual anarchy. Sexual exploitation and immoral lifestyles are celebrated there. The grand churches and structures, built by using funds from India and outside, are just a symbol of dishonesty and hypocrisy. Priests are milking believers in the name of Consecration and in turn increasing the wealth of the church.

The main job of the priests is to acquire money for every church-related ceremony like the Holy Mass, Novenas, funeral prayers, blessings etc.

The spiritual discourses from the priests too are actually generating disgust among the believers… There are plenty of instances where immature priests cross the line of decency with their speech. A perfect example for this would be the speech given by the vicar of Karakkamala Church. It was something like this:

“I have been blessing the houses in this diocese in the past few days. I thank you for the respect and cleanliness you give me. But one of the houses I visited recently was so untidy that I am sure it has been days since they cleaned it. There was food waste in every room. I had to hold my nose to complete the blessing procedure."

Arrogance was written all over his words. I was convinced from his insulting words towards that house and family that it was not a blessing he completed. Instead of letting them know about the importance of cleanliness, he insulted that family in the presence of fellow diocese members.

In another instance, the personal experience shared by a priest during an event held for children, was against basic morality. He was describing the attempts made by a priest to patch up the troubled relationship between a young couple. The priest enquired about their issues in a conversation with the lady first. She replied that she cannot share the bed with an alcoholic who stinks. The husband interjected and told the priest: “Father, first you tell her to change that stinking night gown at least once in a while, I cannot sleep with her due to the bad odour.” He was describing this and laughing about it with kids at the diocese whose ages ranged from 3.5 to 17 years.

On cover ups and complicity:

The mysterious plans priests make up to enter convents under the cover of darkness are plenty. They come under the disguise of visiting a nun who is a friend. They enjoy an amazing stay at the visitor’s room of the convent and get a luxurious treat, including food. Then hours of safe sex with the friend follows. Everything ends well when the priest returns early morning after presenting the Mother Superior with a framed photo of the Holy Spirit. “Oh father, that’s a fantastic photo frame, where did you get this from? We are lucky! We will keep this here forever,” they blabber.

There are plenty of similar stories that I have heard from others as well as accounts that have been shared directly with me. The story of a sister from the Thalassery diocese is one amongst them. Her colleagues were priests. Once she was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pain. There she was taken straight to the labour room. After her delivery, the church handed over her responsibility to the family. Meanwhile, the priest who was responsible for this is still continuing his tenure without any roadblocks.

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Updated Date: Dec 04, 2019 14:27:24 IST