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Young Bites. Dated: 9/13/2018 12:33:21 PM

Delay of due process is taking a toll

An allegation of rape brought by a nun against the Roman Catholic bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal, has pitted reformist sections of the church against the state, and the church against its high priesthood. A protest by the victim’s sisters from a convent in Kottayam continues, a radical act in an order which is founded on the vow of obedience. It has been supported by reformists, who allege that the Kerala police are going slow on the matter, and that delaying the custodial interrogation and physical tests which follow immediately in such matters would dilute the evidence. The charge immediately points the finger at the state home ministry, which the police are answerable to, and the implication is that the accused bishop enjoys political protection. It is a charge that Pinarayi Vijayan’s Left Democratic Front government can parry only by fast-tracking the investigation. Sexual abuse within the church has become a pressing political issue internationally, and even the Pope has had to weigh in. But the lower clergy in India have generally not broken ranks until now, when it is alleged that a bishop used his position to rape a nun repeatedly over a span of three years. In 1990, two nuns were raped in the course of a robbery at a church in Gajraula, Uttar Pradesh, the case received international attention, but the trial turned into a travesty of justice when the police tried to establish that the suspects were in custody at the time when the crime was committed. Now, the case involving the bishop of Jalandhar also threatens to garner infamy. These is, of course, a vital difference between the first case and the latest, between a crime incidental to a robbery and the allegedly systematic use of power to exploit subordinates, which could be a pointer to the fact that the church is under attack from within. But in both cases, the police, and therefore the government, were perceived to be acting in bad faith in order to let off the accused. Before the protests, which have been unfolding for two days, take on a life and velocity of their own, the Kerala government should hasten the due process in the matter. Any further delay in the processes of justice could create a rift within the church that would not heal easily.


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