Franco Mulakkal, the rape accused bishop of Jalandhar diocese, stepped down from his position in the church amid growing outrage over lack of action against him even after over 7o days since a 44-year-old nun accused him of raping her.
Mulakkal will hand over charges of the diocese as the police indicated that it could move court for his custodial interrogation. According to reports, the decision was taken with the church’s consent after Mulakkal faced severe media backlash for questioning the character of the survivor. The TV channel, quoting sources, said that Mulakkal would move court to obtain an anticipatory bail.
Mulakkal also released a statement seeking prayers for himself, the nun and her supporters and said that perhaps only a divine intervention could bring out the truth now. He said that he was ready for a death sentence even if he was found one percent guilty.
Mulakkal had earlier refused to step down from his post stating that he would not step down because that was what those behind the allegations wanted, why should he play into their hands.
Meanwhile, social activist Indulekha Joseph said that the move was a case of too little, too late but she welcomed it nonetheless. She said that the next logical step should be that Mulakkal cooperates with the investigating authorities.
A group of nuns supporting the survivor had been protesting in Kerala demanding Mulakkal’s arrest and that he steps down from his position.
Mulakkal’s decision to quit came days after the survivor sought urgent intervention of the Vatican for justice and demanded the former’s removal as the head of the Jalandhar diocese.
The nun had questioned why the church was “closing its eyes to the truth” when she mustered courage to make public her sufferings even as a section of the religious Catholic organisations indulged in victim-shaming and sided with Mulakkal.
In a scathing letter to the Vatican that was made available to the media Tuesday, the nun also asked if the church would be able to give back what she hds lost. She alleged that Mulakkal was using “political and money power” to bury the case against him. She had accused the clergyman of sexually assaulting her repeatedly between 2014 and 2016.
The bishop had, however, dismissed the allegations as “baseless and concocted”, insisting she leveled those charges as he had ordered action against her and the Catholic order had rejected her demand for favours.
He said that the nun had an illicit relationship with one of her relatives following which he had ordered an internal probe against her. He alleged that the nun even considered leaving the congregation and getting married.
However, supporters of the nun have termed this episode an attempt to shame the victim.
The Kerala Police had registered a case earlier, in a separate but related development, against Missionaries of Jesus, the congregation to which the survivor belonged, for releasing her photograph to the media. The congregation, which had been firmly supporting Mulakkal, put out the photograph in a release issued to the media to publish the findings of its enquiry commission, which looked into the nun’s allegations.
It claimed that the photograph was taken on 23 May, 2015, when the nun was attending a private function along with Mulakkal. They claimed that the nun had attended several such functions with Mulakkal.
In a press release, the congregation accused the victim, her five fellow nuns and four others of conspiring against the bishop. It alleged that the nuns had “violated the discipline of the congregation” several times and even refused to renew their vows, a very important step in the life of a nun in a convent.
Framing charges against the nuns, the enquiry commission said the congregation was convinced that they were under the influence of “atheists” and their thoughts.
It claimed that the visitors’ register, a key evidence for establishing Mulakkal’s presence in the convent in Kuravilangad where the victim nun lived, was handled by a nun very close to her and they might have tampered with it.
It also accused the victim and her fellow nuns of forcibly shifting to their room the control system of the CCTV cameras from that of Mother Superior. This, the release said, was done to destroy evidence that could reveal their role in the “conspiracy” against the bishop.
The enquiry report was released two days after Kerala police asked Mulakkal to appear before the probe team on 19 September.