The #NunsToo campaign on social media started by aggrieved nuns of the Catholic Church, who were sexually abused by priests, in Europe and the US generated immense sympathy for survivors. It forced the Catholic Church to introspect and compelled the Vatican to order an enquiry and take action on complaints. However, disclosures of sexual abuse of nuns by priests in Catholic Church of India have not generated a similar response, except in a few cases.
That has not discouraged a few nuns of the Catholic Church of India from taking up the cause of victims of sexual abuse here. Sister Lucy Kalappurakkal, a nun who was dismissed from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation after she participated in public protests against rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, is one such who is determined to go ahead with her fight for justice at all costs.
Sister Lucy’s recently launched autobiography Karthavinte Namathil (In the Name of the Lord) which claims to expose widespread sexual abuses in the Catholic Church of India, has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Sister Lucy is now being threatened in the cyber and real world. Amidst these challenges, she remains unfazed. In fact, the threats have only strengthened her resolve to fight for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Sister Lucy told this correspondent in an interview that the attacks against her on social media, which began in September 2018 after she stated her support for the nun who accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of rape, have intensified after the release of her book. Besides, posters and banners put up in public spaces by her supporters have been defaced. Meanwhile, Bishop Franco, who was accused by the nun of raping her multiple times over 2014-16, was granted bail by a Kerala court, with his trial set to resume in January 2020.
“I am being subjected to motivated slanderous abuse on social media,” Sister Lucy said. “When I came to know about the horrendous allegations against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, I put up a few posts on Facebook about it. I was shocked and dejected to hear the Church blaming the survivor, and abandoning her instead of supporting her. I demanded the arrest of Franco. Since then, I was personally attacked. I couldn’t bear such continuous no-holds-barred attacks. So I stopped reading about and reacting to the case,” she added.
According to Sister Lucy, the social media attacks are “a propaganda blitzkrieg” to portray her as “an evil person who violated the sanctity of ascetic life”, all so that she can be discredited. The Church, she said, never accepted that there are problems within the institution. And if somebody does point out these issues, “immediately, the Church attacks them personally and discredits them. The strategy is, a lie told hundred times becomes truth. If at least a section of believers could be misled, the campaign will be a success,” Sister Lucy noted.
The Church’s powers-that-be unite against dissenters and critics, Sister Lucy alleged, pointing out that her dismissal from her congregation was greeted with press releases from Kerala bishops, who welcomed her ouster.
But some people are now seeing through the misinformation and realising the truth, she felt. A group of such individuals have formed a social media group now — ‘Justice for Sister Lucy’ — to support her. The group has also organised an event called “What the Nun has to Say” in Ernakulum on 17 December. An eminent judge and a political analyst are expected to be the special guests at the event. “Now there are many people from all walks of life who support me and my struggle for justice,” Sister Lucy said.
Meanwhile, Sister Lucy is also awaiting a response to an appeal she filed with the Vatican last month, challenging her May 2019 dismissal by the Franciscan Claris Congregation. “I filed an appeal requesting an investigation into the allegations raised against me. I had been dismissed by the FCC without a proper inquiry. But I have not received any reply. The next step as per canon law is to write to an authority further above, as a final step. Perhaps my appeal would be dismissed. But there are well defined procedures to be adhered to. The decision has to be conveyed to me. It has to be delivered to me, but I won’t accept it as I have not been heard,” she said.
Her dismissal by the FCC, Sister Lucy reiterated, was unfounded. “Not a single person had come to me to record my statement, from the date when the inquiry started. The inquiry held by the FCC, Kerala, didn’t involve an independent commission. The Mother Superior or her representatives did not even meet me to take my statement,” Sister Lucy said, adding that mandatory procedures were cleverly manipulated in her case.
As she weathers a particularly turbulent phase in her life, Sister Lucy has an almost wistful recollection of her earlier days: “I was a blessed sister. Everyone loved me and I loved all. It was the life of Jesus Christ that motivated me. I never tried to manipulate anyone or lend my ear to insinuations. I lived as per the ascetic law. From my matriculation days and afterwards, I lived for others. I don’t differentiate among human beings in any manner. For the Church, it is a weakness on my part, but I take pride in my sense of equality.”
Sister Lucy currently teaches at Wayanad Dwaraka Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School and lives in a convent there. She isn’t afraid of being shunted out of the convent, however. “It doesn’t make any difference to a nun who is dedicated to God if she lives within or outside a convent,” she said. “For an ascetic, the whole world is home.”
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Updated Date: Dec 05, 2019 11:08:45 IST