NEW DELHI — A Catholic bishop who was accused of repeatedly raping a nun in southern India over a two-year interval was acquitted on Friday, bringing an finish for now to what gave the impression to be the nation’s first case of its type.
The bishop, Franco Mulakkal, who had been on trial since 2020, had persistently stated he was harmless. “Reward the Lord,” he stated after the decision within the metropolis of Kottayam in Kerala State.
The decide overseeing the trial, G. Gopakumar, said prosecutors had failed to show their case, in response to information experiences. Investigating officers in Kerala stated the ruling can be appealed to a better court docket.
The case, believed to be the primary in India during which a bishop was charged with raping a nun, highlighted deep divisions inside the Catholic Church within the nation. The church was sluggish to react to the nun’s accusations in opposition to Bishop Mulakkal, and it did so solely after five of her fellow nuns protested publicly in help of her.
Father Augustine Vattoly, who helped arrange a gaggle concerned within the protests in Kerala, stated the nuns had not given up.
“The decision is an enormous, huge shock for us,” Father Vattoly stated. “However we’ll proceed the struggle in opposition to the infamous system of the church, which throws its weight behind perpetrators of injustice like Franco Mulakkal.”
The nun, who belongs to the Missionaries of Jesus non secular order, first introduced her accusations to the church authorities in January 2017. She approached practically a dozen church officers, together with bishops, a cardinal and representatives of the Vatican.
In official police complaints, the nun’s household stated the assaults occurred at her convent, the St. Francis Mission Dwelling, in Kerala, which is house to lots of India’s 20 million Catholics.
Simply earlier than Bishop Mulakkal was arrested and briefly detained in September 2018, the church eliminated him from his administrative duties within the northern Indian metropolis of Jalandhar, the place he had been serving. Formal prices had been introduced in opposition to him in April 2019, weeks after Pope Francis acknowledged that the sexual abuse of nuns by clergymen was a seamless downside inside the church.
The bishop was charged with raping the nun 9 instances between 2014 and 2016, throughout visits he made to Kerala. He was additionally charged below legal guidelines in opposition to intimidation, unlawful confinement and unnatural intercourse.