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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Black Christmas: Rising number of rapes and killings of nuns in churches is worrisome for Christian community.

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Father Thomas Kottor was spreading the message of Jesus Christ—Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Forgive others who have harmed you. Love your enemies—after he had taken oath of practicing celibacy at the time he was ordained. Sister Sephy had devoted her life as bride of Jesus Christ to serve after she took a vow of chastity, which means she cannot get married or have sexual or romantic relationships with anyone.  

Until Father Thomas Kottor was caught making love with Sister Sephy by another Sister Abhaya, who was 19, barely adult. What did, messenger of love, Father Thomas Kottor do? He strangulated Abhaya, while his bed partner Sister Sephy brutally hit her with an axe. Together, they dropped the body of Abhaya in a well within the compound of Pious Xth Convent Hostel on 27 March 1992. After 28 years of the fateful night, Father Thomas Kottor, 69 now, and Sister Sephy 55 now, were charged under section 302 (murder) and section 201 (destruction of evidence) of the IPC by special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram. 

What can be more rotten than this in a church that a Father, who is said to be custodian of Christianity is sleeping with nun, bride of Jesus! Like a criminal, Father Thomas Kottor doesn’t hesitate to brutally murder another nun. How can the Church allow this to happen? It took 28 years to prove the crime in the court. One can imagine influence of such criminals within the Church on Investigating Authority, as the local police registered it as an unnatural death, while Crime Branch wing of Kerala probed and submitted the final report that Abhaya had committed suicide. It was 65 nuns led by Sister Banicassia, Mother Superior, who had demanded CBI investigation from then Chief Minister K Karunakaran that CBI stepped in. 

Degeneration within system of Church touched a new low, when a Bishop (much higher rank than a Father) turned a sexual predator allegedly raping a nun. A 45 years old, senior nun alleged that she was raped by Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the head of the Latin diocese of Jalandhar. The survivor nun, who belongs to Kuravilangad Convent of the Missionaries of Jesus, had filed the complaint in 2018 that she was sexually exploited by Bishop Franco Mulakkal 14 times during his official visits to Kerala between 2014 and 2016. Since then the survivor nun has been subjected to trials and tribulation as well as mental torture for demanding justice.   

When the law of land was invoked to catch the rape accused, Bishop Franco Mulakkal used all his might to suppress the rape charges against him. The Bishop had tuned to International Christian Media “English Christian Times channel” to raise suspicion over the integrity of Indian Judiciary. Nuns, who dared to lead protest against Bishop Franco, were transferred en mass to different parts of the country. 

A special investigation team of the Kerala Police had arrested Bishop Franco in September 2018 after several rounds of questioning. However, he was given bail after 40 days. 

Some disturbing questions arise. Why do victim nuns get hardly any support, while rape accused like Bishop Franco Mulakkal is able to threaten to the victim at every stage? Why does it take 28 years to prove the crime that a nun was murdered by a Father and his accomplice? While the Christian community continue to remain mute spectator to atrocity of vulnerable nuns at the hands of Fathers and Bishops in churches, very few Samaritan like Savio Rodrigues, Editor In Chief of Goa Chronical fought for justice for the nuns who were victimized by the church after their complaint against Bishop Franco Mulakkal. 

It is an uphill battle for rape survivor nuns and murdered nun to demand justice. Murder of Sister Abhaya and rape charges against Bishop Franco have seen the light of the day. What about exploitation of nuns in the hinterland, where such cases of atrocities on nuns are not even reported? Are the nuns, bride of Jesus Christ cursed to be killed or raped? When would Churches take action against such guilty Fathers and Bishops? More critical question; when would Vatican acknowledge persecution of nuns?

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