The case concerns Mgr Franco Mulakkal, the former bishop of Jalandhar now in jail on rape charges. For the bishops, "the faithful should discern those people who, under the cover of this case, try to destabilize the Catholic Church and malign the Bishops."
Kochi (AsiaNews) – The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) released a statement following the arrest of Mgr Franco Mulakkal, former bishop of Jalandhar, in connection with the rape of a nun from the Missionaries of Jesus.
In their statement, the prelates of the Indian state note that if a bishop is accused of rape, it is wrong to blame the whole Church. They ask for an impartial investigation without prejudice or preferences, noting that no one should take a stand for or against the parties until the truth comes out.
The bishops also express their disappointment at what is happening in terms of media coverage, slamming the trial by media that has been unleashed in the country.
According to the statement, after "an accusation of sexual molestation is raised against a bishop of the Catholic Church some with vested interests and some sections of the media have taken it as an occasion to implicate the Church and the bishops as a whole, without even having the investigation completed."
In fact, for several says, the story of the bishop accused of raping a nun between 2014 to 2016 has been front-page news.
Meanwhile, Mgr Mulakkal was remanded into custody yesterday for another 14 days. In order to defend himself from the accusation of sexual abuse, the prelate took a leave of absence from his post as bishop, which Pope Francis accepted.
According to the bishops of Kerala, all this attention has a single purpose: undermine the Church. “The faithful should discern those people who, under the cover of this case, try to destabilize the Catholic Church and malign the Bishops. They are people who oppose the Church or are jealous about the Church, media persons with hidden agenda and with vested interests and some with grievances within the Church.”
In light of this, “We should be vigilant about those who try to put down the Church on account of an accusation against a single individual,” the statement reads.
At the same time, the Council points to what the newspapers do not report, namely that “the Church has been very much active in the public sphere by way of educational, medical and social services, not to mention the Church’s unrelenting involvement in the latest flood relief and in the continued rehabilitation programmes, catering to all without looking into caste and creed.”
Hence, "It is unjust to take the Church as a laughingstock on the basis of an unproved accusation against one of its bishops, while so many of its bishops, priests and nuns are living saintly lives.”
The Council also “let it [be] known that it had requested the Church authorities to act at the earliest possible upon the complaint registered by the nun. Yet as the complaint of the nun was under the consideration of the police and the court, it was not right on the part of the Church authorities to hastily act upon the same matter.
Instead, “without waiting for the conclusion of the police enquiry the Church authority has acted by withholding Bishop Franco Mulakkal from the administration of the diocese of Jalandhar. [. . .] Therefore, the argument that the nun did not get justice from Church does not stand.”
Finally, the bishops want "the truth come to light in the court", that the accused be given sufficient time to defend himself and that, if he is found guilty, he be punished.
Sadly, “the fact that some priests and nuns [are] agitating in the streets, [thus] giving occasion to the enemies of the Church to attack the Church and the Church authorities and to [show] disdain even to the sacraments, has caused much pain to all [those] who love the Church.”
"We hope that the members of the Church and the public will recognize that their action was not in keeping with Christian values, rightful interests of the Catholic Church and even of the statutes of their Religious Congregation."
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)