Catholic bishop acquitted of raping nun in India | Sexual Assault News

An Indian court has acquitted a Roman Catholic bishop of charges of raping a nun at her rural monastery, amid allegations of sexual harassment.

An Indian court has acquitted a Roman Catholic bishop of charges of raping a nun in her rural monastery, a case that has become a major issue amid allegations of sexual harassment in the church.

Sessions judge J J Gobakumar said in a summary order on Friday that the bishop was not guilty of multiple counts of raping the nun between 2014 and 2016.

Bishop Franco Mullakal was present at the court in Kottayam, a city in southern India. His supporters cheered and chanted “Praise the Lord” as he left the hall.

A detailed ruling is likely to become available later on Friday.

Attorney Sandia Raju said the prosecution representing the nun would appeal the ruling.

Virginia Saldanha, the former executive secretary of the Women’s Committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said she was shocked by the verdict.

“My first thought was that misogyny in the church had triumphed. She said the ruling reinforces the idea that a strong man cannot be brought to justice.

Police accused Mullakal of rape, unlawful confinement and intimidation of the nun. She said she only went to the police after filing a repeated complaint with church authorities. Ultimately, a group of nuns launched unprecedented public protests to demand Mullakal’s arrest in 2018. He was arrested but released on bail a few weeks later.

The nuns had also written to the Vatican asking him to intervene in the matter. Their agitation made national headlines and swears by the small Christian minority in Hindu-majority India, where they make up 2.3 percent of the population according to census figures.

Mullakal was the official patron of the nunnery, the missionaries of Jesus, and had a tremendous impact on their budgets and job assignments.

Mullakal denied the accusations as “baseless and fabricated” and said the accused nun had tried to pressure him to get a better job.

In her complaint, the nun accused Mullakal, who was then the bishop of Jalandhar diocese in the northern state of Punjab, of raping her several times during his visits to her monastery in Kuravilangad, Kerala state.

Kerala is considered the birthplace of Christianity in India, and the Apostle Thomas is believed to have landed there in AD 52.

Sister Anupama, who led the campaign in support of the nun, said she would continue to fight for her colleague.

“We did not get the justice expected from the judiciary,” the Press Trust of India news agency quoted her as saying.

“The prosecution case is very weak and the investigation is very weak,” B Raman Pillai, the bishop’s lawyer, told reporters.

While the Catholic Church has been embroiled in a series of sexual assault scandals around the world, Mullakal was the first Indian priest to be prosecuted.

In February 2019, Pope Francis publicly acknowledged for the first time the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops and promised to address the problem.

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