KOTTAYAM: Allegations against different Christian denominations have put the communities in a tight spot in the state. The Roman Catholic Church plunged into unprecedented crisis after a nun filed a complaint alleging rape against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese. The complainant, who belongs to the Missionaries of Jesus, a congregation under the Jalandhar diocese, alleged the bishop raped her 13 times at the congregation’s mission house at Kuruvilangad in Kottayam.
This sensational revelation came close on the heels of media reports four priests of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church (MSOC) misused confession details to sexually exploit a married woman. These allegations surfaced shortly after the Syro-Malabar Church was rocked by a controversial land deal involving head Cardinal Mar George Alenchery.
Though investigating authorities have started their probe and the churches have promised strict action against those found guilty, many clergymen and a large number of laity are worried over the development. “I am not desperate, but am deeply worried over the developments. Howsoever big the individual may be, whether a king, apostle or a great man, he is bound to fall and perish once he leaves God,” said Fr Paul Thelakkat, former spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. “The light house is supposed to give light, it is now providing darkness to all,” he said.
According to Sebastian Vattappara, a writer and critic of the Church, the crisis is not regional but is part of the global crisis faced by the Church. “The issue cannot be resolved unless the Church comes forth to accept Indian Law instead of Canon law. As per the circular issued the Pope in 2001, sexual allegations being raised against priests should not be revealed to the public as it is a pontifical secret. Strict action will be taken against those who break this direction. Why should Bishop Franco Mulakkal respond when he has such a direction from Vatican?” he asked.
Taking the sexual allegation against priests with due seriousness, the Orthodox Church has removed all the five priests from discharging their duties. “The Church won’t protect the accused and won’t provide any legal assistance to them. At the same time, these isolated incidents will not affect the Church at large. The real followers of the Church are aware of the importance of confession and Mass and they won’t have any doubts about them,” said Fr M O John, priest trustee, MOSC.