A Roman Catholic bishop was acquitted of raping a nun at her rural convent by an Indian court on Friday, in a case that became a big issue amid allegations of sexual harassment in the church.
Sessions In a brief judgment, Judge G. Gopakumar found the bishop not guilty of claims that he repeatedly raped the nun between 2014 and 2016.
In the southern Indian city of Kottayam, Bishop Franco Mulakkal was present at the court. As he walked off the court, fans celebrated and screamed “Praise the Lord.”
The full ruling is expected to be released later on Friday.
According to lawyer Sandhya Raju, who represents the nun, the prosecution will appeal the ruling.
The verdict startled Virginia Saldanha, former executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India’s Commission for Women. “My immediate instinct was that ecclesiastical misogyny had triumphed.” “The verdict just serves to perpetuate the notion that a strong guy cannot be brought to justice,” she remarked.
Mulakkal was charged with rape, illegal imprisonment, and intimidation of the nun by the police. She claimed she finally went to the cops after constantly complaining to church officials. Mulakkal’s arrest was eventually demanded by a group of nuns who staged unprecedented public demonstrations in 2018. He was arrested and held for a few weeks before being freed on bond.
Mulakkal was the formal patron of the Missionaries of Jesus nuns’ community, with enormous power over their money and task assignments.
Mulakkal refuted the allegations, calling them “baseless and contrived,” and alleging that the accused nun attempted to coerce him into taking a better job.
Mulakkal, who was bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese in the northern state of Punjab at the time, was accused by the nun of rapping her many times during his visits to her convent in Kuravilangad, Kerala.
Sister Anupama, who spearheaded the nun’s support campaign, stated that she will continue to fight for her colleague.
“We did not receive the desired justice from the judiciary,” she told the Press Trust of India news agency.
The bishop’s counsel, B. Raman Pillai, told reporters that “the prosecution case was very weak and the investigation was very inadequate.”
In February 2019, Pope Francis openly addressed the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops for the first time and promised to address the issue.