Dissenting sisters in rape case say they are church 'outcasts'

Five Missionaries of Jesus sisters protested the alleged rape of their former superior by a bishop at their Kuravilangad convent in Kerala. Front row, from left, are Josephine Villoonnickal, Ancitta Urumbil and Neena Rose. Second row, from left, are Anupama Kelamangalathuveli and Alphy Pallasseril. (Saji Thomas)

Kochi, India — As the Vatican grapples to devise stronger protocols and responses following a historic summit focused on clergy sex abuse of minors, five nuns in India complain of church repression for their support of a former superior general who was allegedly raped by a bishop.

"The Catholic Church leadership has been treating us as outcasts after we went public against Bishop Franco Mulakkal [of Jalandhar]. Even the Vatican has not bothered to acknowledge our complaints," says Sr. Anupama Kelamangalathuveli, the spokesperson for five Missionaries of Jesus nuns who in September last year staged a sit-in for the bishop's arrest.

The sisters seek attention from the Vatican to the plight of women religious abused by clergy, with clearer protocols and more protection. For now, the five sisters are living with the victim in a convent in Kerala, refusing orders to return to their own communities while the case is ongoing. They are caught in a wrangle between a bishop who supports their refusal and their congregational leadership. Meanwhile, they endure the rancor of sisters in their community who ridicule them and discount the victim's allegations.

The five sisters rallied behind their former superior general who on June 28 complained to the police in Kerala, southern India, that Mulakkal had sexually abused her multiple times from 2014 to 2016. Kelamangalathuveli says the victim first wrote to church authorities in January 2017, the apostolic nuncio in India in January 2018, and then to the pope on May 14, seeking church action against Mulakkal. She copied prefects of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation of Bishops, and later sent reminders before going to the police. She has gotten no response, Kelamangalathuveli says.

Read the full story at Global Sisters Report

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