Jalandhar, India, Dec 11, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The religious sister who says she was serially raped by an Indian bishop claims she made a police report only after written complaints to Church authorities went unheeded.
“I was scrambling for support and initially I found almost none,” the 44-year-old sister based in Kerala, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, told Scroll.in, in reference to the two-year period in which she claims to have been repeatedly sexually assaulted by Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.
The sister was not named in the Scroll.in interview.
The sister claims that Mulakkal sexually assaulted her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. She said that after telling members of her religious community about the assaults in early 2017, she wrote to several Indian Catholic leaders, including Cardinal George Alencherry.
Eventually, the sister claims, she sent letters to India’s Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, to Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and to Pope Francis.
She claims those letters went unacknowledged. In June 2018, she filed a police report in Kerala. After several public demonstrations in support of the sister’s claim, Mulakkal was arrested on Sept. 21. He has since been released on bail, although he is temporarily removed from his responsibilities as Bishop of Jalandhar.
The bishop has claimed that the sister made false reports against him because he censured her for engaging in a romantic affair. A police investigation is ongoing.
The sister told Scroll.in that she had wanted to enter religious life since childhood. She became a novice in the Missionaries of Jesus at age 20.
She said that since she initially reported the sexual assault, she has faced serious difficulties. In November 2017, Mulakkal reportedly pressured her to recant her allegation, holding her in a room for nearly eight hours while trying to convince her to retract the claim.
“I had several moments when I asked God, why me?” the sister told Scroll.in.
“But, after a while, I realized God had chosen me as an instrument to ensure that nuns do not suffer this way in future.”
The sister, along with five other sisters who have publicly supported her, have been the subject of criticism and threats, Scroll.in reported.
On Oct. 22, Fr. Kuriakose Kattuthara, who testified in support of the sister’s claims, was found dead under mysterious circumstances. Foul play has been alleged by members of the priest’s family, but a final autopsy report has not yet been reported.
Nevertheless, the sister and her supporters say that making public the claim of sexual assault is an important part of their vocation.
“Even now, I maintain there should be an internal mechanism within the Church where we can complain,” the sister said. “That will ensure the Church does not face public humiliation.”
“If your husband is ill, would you leave him to die?” a sister asked Scroll.in.
“We are married to the Church that way, we know it has major illnesses and we are hoping to help it cure itself.”