Home Church & Society Indian nun expelled after rape protest sees appeal rejected

Indian nun expelled after rape protest sees appeal rejected

An Indian Catholic nun, dismissed from her congregation in southern Kerala after protesting against a bishop accused of rape, has had her appeal against the expulsion rejected by the Vatican.

Sister Lucy Kalapura was dismissed Aug. 5 for failing to show the “needed remorse” for what congregation officials called a lifestyle that violated congregation norms and infringed on the vow of poverty.

Sister Kalapura, a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, challenged the decision, saying officials only moved after she publicly urged action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun multiple times between 2014 and 2016.

But the Vatican has now rejected the appeal filed to its Congregation for Oriental Churches. 

The 54-year-old nun, informed of the decision in a letter, said she has been denied justice, alleging church officials did not contact her to get her side of the story.

“I am not going to leave the convent. The lifestyle I lead is as per the rules and regulations,” she told the BBC.

“I am allowed a second appeal, but I don’t see any point in doing that since they have made up their mind. I will now go to court on behalf of all the people who are being suppressed and facing illegal behavior from authorities of the congregation.”

Sister Kalapura joined protests organized by nuns from another order and dozens of their supporters in 2018 seeking action against the bishop, in a rare show of dissent against the Church.

Other nuns have accused the Church in Kerala as well as Vatican officials of turning a blind eye to the allegations against the bishop.

The bishop was charged in April this year with wrongful confinement, rape of a woman incapable of giving consent, causing grievous bodily harm during rape, unnatural offense and criminal intimidation. He denies any wrongdoing.

Church sources have maintained that Sister Kalapura’s dismissal was not a case of vindictive action. She was dismissed for defiantly breaking the congregation’s rules, including spending her salary on buying a car and other personal items. She teaches in a government-aided school.

She also spent $1,000 to publish a book against the advice of her superiors and ignored warnings against appearing in media and giving interviews explaining her support for the protesting nuns.

She received a canonical warning letter in January over her actions, but had previously received other warnings, urging her to change her ways in order to stay living in the congregation.

Christians — mostly Catholic — are the third largest religious group in India, after Hindus and Muslims.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by scandals of sexual abuse by clergy across the world in recent years. Pope Francis publicly addressed the issue of sexual abuse of nuns by clerics for the first time in February, saying reports of wrongdoing are taken seriously.

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