The ongoing case of the Kerala priests charged with the rape of a nun and several other minors is causing a lot of uproar in India. And why not – the details are horrifying. This is not a single one-off case we are talking about. Several priests have been indicted and arrested for the sexual assault of minors and married women and impregnating them. The latest being the rape of a nun inside the convent itself.
A nun at the Catholic Church’s Kuravilangad convent in Kottayam district has accused the Bishop of the church of sexual abuse as many as 13 times. The Bishop, Franco Mulakkal has denied the allegations, and the Church is of course in a great hurry to sweep this case under the carpet. The church in fact likened the accused to ‘Jesus’, even as the High Court refused to grant him bail – rightly so. The bishop has written to the highest authority, Pope Francis to grant him leave to temporarily step aside from his administrative duties to the diocese, while he fends off the rape charges. It waits to be seen if he will be stripped off his title and his powers. Thanks to the unprecedented support from other nuns, priests and laypersons involved with the Save Our Sisters campaign, the arrest of such a high ranking bishop of the church was actually made possible.
Of course, none of this is of any consolation to the victims, who have obviously suffered and gone through severe hardship to come out with their stories. It is in severe contrast to the world of Bollywood where the casting couch is well-known and no one is beyond reproach. The church is supposed to be a place of trust and faith, and no one should approach it with trepidation. To a child, or a nun who has dedicated her life to the institution, this is a severe breach in conduct and faith. And to top it all off, we have politicians who, for their own advancement and a few minutes in the limelight choose to besmirch the name of the victim instead. One Kerala MLA called the nun a prostitute and demanded a virginity test. One must then wonder what the difference is between Boko Haram and Catholic priests. One group has no shame in admitting that what they are doing is in the name of religion, but the other abuses its religious power and uses it to cover up wrongdoings.
I personally believe that going to any extremes in anything, especially religion cannot bode well for any of the parties involved. As we saw in the movie ‘Spotlight’, too much restraint and too many rules make for a very suffocating situation. My 2 cents – priests too should be allowed a normal life, with marriage and children, so they are not distracted by such matters – at least in a repressed society such as India. The very suggestion would of course, create a lot of backlash in the community, but I say for men of the cloth, it is perhaps better to focus their energies on their parish and improvement of their people than their own perverse desires, that lead to unfortunate circumstances for both the victim and the accused. Such is the hope that one day these restrictions will be lifted and things will change. Meanwhile the victims either have a choice to come out, face the music and be subject to shame and derision of their community and country, or else quietly suffer and bury the misdemeanors of the higher powers.
What a world we live in if these are the only choices available to women. Sad indeed.