Thiruvananthapuram: The troubles of Kerala’s Catholic Church multiplied over the weekend with a priest caught on tape attempting to influence a nun to withdraw the ongoing case pertaining to sexual abuse by the Jalandhar bishop, Franco Mulakkal.
A nun at the church’s convent in Kuravilangad in Kottayam district had accused the bishop of sexually abusing her as many as 13 times. Bishop Mulakkal has denied the allegation and police are yet to question the bishop.
Following the nun’s accusation, a number of other nuns and even a few priests raised allegations against the bishop and the manner in which such complaints are swept under the carpet by the church authorities.
In the latest twist to the case, a Catholic priest, James Aerthayil has been caught on tape speaking to one of the nuns supporting the victim, asking her to withdraw the case against the bishop.
In the telephonic conversation, Aerthayil is heard to be advising, pressurising and even issuing veiled threats in an attempt to coerce the nuns to withdraw the case.
During his conversation with one of the nuns, he says the church is “willing to purchase a 10-acre site and establish a convent in which you can be secure”, and says the location could most likely be in Erumely or Ranni, falling under the diocese of Kanjirapally.
The priest even reminds the nun of a Malayalam saying that “you can jump into a well in anger, but nothing can get you out of there”.
However, the nun is heard curtly telling the priest that she and her colleagues had no intention of withdrawing the charges against bishop Mulakkal.
Reports indicate that Aerthayil, who had not been associated with the convent in Kuravilangad where the aggrieved nuns are, has been to the convent thrice in the last few days.
In another case of sexual abuse, the crime branch has charged four priests from the Orthodox Church in Kerala of sexually abusing a married woman. The victim said the priests had misused information from her confessional to blackmail and sexually abuse her.
The sex abuse allegations in Kerala churches coincide with a call by Boston cardinal Sean O’Malley to the Vatican to “swiftly and decisively” adopt strict policies for cases of sexual abuses by clergymen.