Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the man of God, travelled from Kerala to far-North Jalandhar in Punjab to spread the good word. While thus servicing God, he also serviced a couple of nuns following the example set by the Holy Ghost some 33 years before Christ.
Bishop Franco continued having fun for a couple of years – it transpires that the brides of Jesus did not enjoy sharing in the fun. Never having heard of the #MeToo movement yet, the victimized nun complained to the church, and was rebuffed, she went to court. After much dilly-dallying for 86 days, and public demonstrations by the nuns and their well-wishers, CBI interrogated the Bishop, found credible evidence, and charge-sheeted him. After a couple of months of incarceration, mostly in a hospital and then in a Class-A jail and several rejections of bail appeals, the Bishop was released on bail in October 2018. He returned to Jallandhar to deliver sermons on God’s good words and example of celibacy set by Jesus to the vast but scattered Catholic sheep of Northern India.
While he was being brought out of jail in his home state Kerala, where the Bishop, unlike ordinary sinners, was ensconced in comfort, hundreds of pious Catholics stood vigil through the previous day and night, chanting prayers and counting rosaries. The Catholic diocese of Thrissur not only celebrated his release, but published his mugshot on their calendar. Barring a single priest (Father Kuriakose who later died under mysterious circumstances) and a few nuns who are still being harassed by their convent authorities and the Church, almost the entire Catholic community supports the rapist and accuses the rape victim and her few supporters for damaging the ‘good name’ of the Church. The superior general of the Franciscan congregation issued serious threats to one of the supporters of the serial rape victim for disobedience to the constitution of the congregation. The brides of Jesus (for that is what nuns are supposed to be) are expected to keep their mouths shut regardless of all crimes committed on them. That is a divine command – not just for nuns, but for all women – you can find at least fifty ‘keep your mouth shut‘ commands for women in the Bible. Bishop Franco is a man, expected to be obeyed, a Catholic priest who is denied marriage, but not explicitly denied stray sex (as was openly stated by another Bishop). He is also a Franciscan, sworn to poverty as well as the strictest celibacy. Since a Catholic nun is also sworn to celibacy, perhaps he believed that forcing fun on another celibate did not amount to sin. Come to think of it, Catholic jurisprudence is not very different from Islamic jurisprudence or Manu smriti – the woman is the temptress and the devil, she is to blame.
Rape of little girls and sodomy of little boys are not the monopoly of Catholic priests deprived of normal sexual life. Pastor Victor George (40) of a religious charity home in Kottarkkara, Kerala raped an eight-year old girl a couple of years ago and went into hiding. While trying to fly abroad, the God’s beloved agent was caught and arrested by police who probably belonged to a different God or gods. Father (in Kerala, all pastors are called fathers – Catholic or otherwise) Devaraj, 65, of Church of South India (of Protestant veneer, and married) was found fiddling a ten-year old girl who was attending a church session on morality.
Gentleman Joseph Matthew, not a priest, but the founder-director of a charity home in Pampady, Kotayam was caught for raping a twelve-year of girl. The home was established to ‘save’ children of women undergoing prison sentences.The good Samaritan who came from the United States to start the Home is now awaiting sentence.
Pastor Aruldoss of Viriddachalam of the CSI diocese, Chennai (formerly Madras) joined a gang that specialised in catching and raping children. He used to make them watch phonographic videos along with them to spice up what was to follow. Perhaps he was holding a copy of the Holy Bible while at it, the page that has the following dictum open:
She remembered her lover with the penis like a donkey and a flood of semen like a horse.
Not impressed by his talent for hot, titilating videos and special affection for adolescent girls, the judge sentenced the Reverend to 30 years to cool his ambitious donkey’s penis in Jail.
In defence, the pastor-fathers of any church could quote the Holy Book:
” If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.”
(Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT).
What if the pastor was already married? No problem. Bible does not say how many wives a man could have. Moses had two wives, Abraham had a wife and a concubine according to Bible but two wives as per Quran, David, the supposed ancestor of Jesus and the great liberator of Jews before Netanyahu had several wives and at least nine concubines. Solomon, the wise dispenser of justice, had thousand wives, a distant second to Supreme Lord Krishna of Hindus with sixteen Thousands captured wives, and eight whom he married.
Note how kind God is, dictating free early marriage for the poor girl! Her parents might even hope for a dowry discount. Note also that the age of the young girl could be eight, ten or twelve, certainly older than many brides in India which holds the record where most little girls are gifted with a big husband to protect, and to correct if she went wrong. Also, in accordance with the holy book, the priest could pay fifty rupees (500 after inflation) to her starving father and take the girl to be his wife and violate her for the rest of her youth. The Bible does not mention any need for the girl’s consent. Among the several wives of Joseph Smith, the final redeemer and prophet of the Latter Day Saints, had at least twelve wives, some of them 14 and 15, the youngest among them only 12.
If a priest had captured the town where his victim of rape lived, he does not have to marry her. Because,
“As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labour. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the Lord your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.”
Obviously, raping the ‘kept’ children is included in ‘enjoying the spoils’.
If the town of Kottarkkara had disobeyed this God (as all other religionists in that town are wont to do), then
“Thus says the Lord: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbour. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’ “
(2 Samuel 12:11-14)
So, if the girl was not a pious Christian of the same sect as Pastor George, what he had done must have pleased the Lord.
If a girl is betrothed, the way many Indian parents tend to do as soon a girl child is born so as to get a discount on dowry, then she has to be very very careful. The girl should be stoned to death alongside the priest who raped her. Obviously, this will prevent the parents of the child from pressing the charge of rape:
” If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbours (future) wife.”
The victim who did not cry must die. It is a simple enough divine rule. Raped and sodomised children tend to cry about it after they had reached forty or fifty, but that cannot save them from being stoned to death.
Let us skip human punishment, in which the priests sentenced to jail can get the order dismissed or relaxed by tiresome appeals and paying witnesses to turn hostile. Will God punish him?
“The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.”
(2 Samuel 12:11-14)
Goodness gracious, God is merciful!! If a priest is a Catholic and hence not married, he needn’t be afraid for a non-existing son. Protestant pastors can surely marry, but before that they could repent in Jesus Christ and be forgiven. Jesus loves prodigal sons who return to him than the straight ones who are with him anyway, suffering contempt that comes with familiarity. I suppose illegitimate children do not count. In any case, it is the child and his future generations, as happened to the generations after Ham, who would suffer for a married priest’s explorations vor variety in female company in bed..
What if the priest had committed sodomy? That is different. If you go by the example of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. the town where the crime was committed (Sodom) and the neighbouring town (Gomorrah) were burnt down by God, Pastor Victor George’s town Kottarakkara and the next town – Kollam – would burn. However, that’s not bound to happen. God would have forgiven Sodom wholeheartedly, as he promised his favourite son Abraham, even if ten percent of the population was not into sodomy. Sadly, it was found that even children – including the new-borns – were found to be sodomites in the town of Sodom, and hence the whole town, and to set an example the neighbouring town, were set afire. Kottarkkara, I am sure, have less than ten percent sodomites, for I was born close to the place and had never known a sodomite although paedophiles and mouth-organists were aplenty. Many of them were as merciful to children as the great prophet was – practising what is known as alfakhdh aljins (الفخذ الجنس) in Arabic, vulgarised as thighing in English, and thigh-shot in my native Malayalam..
Arch Bishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, Australia, was accused of a sordid series of committing sodomy on children. Australian judges are seldom church-going, so the holy father was sentenced not to burn as God did to the Sodomites and the possibly faultless Gomorrahites, but to undergo one year in jail, of which six months without parole. He spent all those strenuous twelve months in the custody of his sister in her house. Survivors, most of them now adults, were disappointed, but rest of the Catholic fraternity was eminently pleased. I gather that, on appeal, a church-going judge released the Archbishop even from this arduous punishiment.
Not to be outdone, Cardinal George Pell, second or third in line for Papacy after Pope Francis, and Vatican’s de facto finance chief, has been convicted for a similar priestly benediction on little children. His defence lawyer, Robert Richter, said that the Cardinal’s offence was at the lower end of the scale, that he putting his penis into the child’s mouth was “no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case, there was no ejaculation, and the child did not willingly take part, and the Cardinal (then Bishop) was not in his priestly apparel. Like in the case of Bishop Franco where he has the support of a majority of Catholics in Kerala, Cardinal Pell has his Australian diocese behind him, only a few faithless expressing shock or disgust. The cardinal, it would seem, was a serial abuser of children; it’s just that there was this one case which appeared to the judge to be beyond an iota of doubt. Yet most Australian Catholics are keeping their fingers crossed, and praying in churches that the Cardinal be saved, and the accusing children (now mostly adults) be punished.
The best that Pope Francis could do and did was to summon all Bishop leaders of the world for a conference to discuss the sexual appetite of bishops and priests. What came out of it, and how the Pope plans to stem the tide is a cardinal secret. Surely the Pope knows that there are but few among his flocks who could cast the first stone.
The Pope has not defrocked Cardinal Pell; he is awaiting the result of an appeal filed by the Cardinal. He knows that several Bishops and priests had gotten away on appeal after being punished by lower courts for their sordid ways with children. As for George Pell, Pope Francis did what other Popes had done before him – a light rap on the knuckle by removing him from his high official position in the Vatican. A couple of other priests convicted by courts were later let off; the Vatican rarely disrobed a priest even when investigation proved him to be a serial child abuser. The criminal was transferred to another parish and then another to spread the crime wide and thereby thin.
Child abuse by ordinary Catholic priests and Bishops across the world are much documented; also known are the instances of hush money paid by the church to many victims. Archbishop Robert Carlson told an investigation that in 1980s, when he was a priest, he did not know that sex with children was a crime (or a sin?). Now, (in late 2006) he realized it was a crime after wallowing in the dastardly crime in his youth. The Arch Bishop was good at politics; he later claimed that his statement was taken out of context – that he was speaking of the Minnesota laws regarding the reporting of child abuse.
Proselytization of Christian faith – Catholic or different shades of Protestantism – in India radiate from a nucleus centred in Central Travancore. A good number of nuns you would find in convents and monasteries across the world – not excluding Vatican – are from Kerala. Some of them enter the nunnery in the belief that Jesus beckoned them, others because their parents were too poor to pay the hefty dowry amounts for marriage as prevalent in their communities. Younger the postulant, higher her risk in the sacred spaces of the convent. They are subjected to privation as a matter of principle; it is not uncommon that some orders subject the women to physical torture – like clasping pincers on their thighs under their robes, presumably to empathize the torture that their bridegroom, Jesus, went through.
Amen – The Autography of a Nun, written by Sister Jesme, a former principal of a college, throws some light on the goings on in the church and the nunnery. The retired nun does not speak of rapes, only of an instance when a priest in Bangalore disrobed himself and exhibited his wares to tempt the celebate. Rapes and molestations are normally hush-hushed. Nuns who dare to speak out are treated as outcastes, as was sister Jesme, and punished not only by the church, but also by many in the parish including their own relations. A greater crime than a rape or molestation is considered to be bringing the truth out in the open – thereby bringing a bad name to the church.
Most incidents of molestation and rape are pushed under the carpet. Incidents of child abuses – particularly sodomy and forced oral sex on choir chidren and altar boys make gossip mills grind, but are not accepted in the community as serious crimes worthy of investigation or police complaints.. Bishop Franco’s case came out in the open because of a determined victim, helped by a few of her fellow-nuns, and it happened in Punjab from where the stink leaked out long-distance to Kerala.
Even God or his agent could be brought in to help extricate Bishop Franco’s name from the squalid situation he got himself into. Sixty-one-year-old Senior priest Father Kuriakose of the same diocese, who testified against Bishop Franco was found dead in his room near a church in Jalandhar. It was reported that there were no external or internal injuries, hence no murder or foul play was established. Although the sudden death led to suspicions, forensic reports stated natural death by cardiac arrest. The news of the priest’s death gave a new reason for the rape victim and her supporters among nuns to fear for their lives. Yet with the support from a few other nuns and the public, they decided to slog on seeking justice. The funeral ceremony of the dead priest wreaked of hatred; the dead priest’s allegation against the Bishop hung sordidly in the air. Sister Anupama, a nun who led the campaigners against Bishop Franco’s rape of her friend was not allowed at the funeral. The church couldn’t stand two witnesses against the rapist in the same place – one dead, the other still alive.
Will the long arms of law in India fail to shove the Bishop into a lockup for at least three years, which is the punishment specified for the first rape – never mind the rapes were countless? Catholics in Kerala are a powerful lobby. Efforts will be made at the highest level to salvage the name of the Bishop and of the church, dragging the names of the victim and accusers in dirt, and depriving them of their status in the community.
Catholics are a minority despite their density of population in Kottayam and many other part of Kerala and some tribal belts scattered all over the sub-continent, particularly in the North East. Yet they are not a powerful enough force,unlike Hindu devotees of godmen, to cause a riot and try to bring the judiciary to its knees. The only consolation for the victimized nun and her supporters is that, in spite of his huge popularity among Hindu devotees, a godman like Asaram Bapu and his son Narain Sai have been put in jail for life for raping young girls. Not long ago, Asaram used to claim that any criticism directed against him was an insult to Hinduism. It was Asaram who took the celebrated podium of Swami Vivekananda on the centenary event of the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1993. Yet law did catch up with the rapist., and did not spare his collaborating son, another upcoming godman. Thus did the law catch up with Gurmit Singh Ram Rahim, the frothy and flamboyant Guru of Sacha Dera (True Deal), who held sermons, made films with himself as a divine super-hero, and for a good measure raped young girls and murdered a journalist. On his arrest in August 2017 violence broke out, 32 persons were killed, 300 were injured. Neither the government nor the judiciary budged. This godman, too, is in jail for life. The god cried shamelessly when the sentence was read out to him.
In the 1992 murder case of Sister Abhaya, after being given up as a suicide case, was re-investigated twice at the insistence of conscientious judges. It was finally established (despite later alterations in the post-mortem report) that the young nun was murdered for stumbling onto the triple-sex performance of two priests and another nun. Sister Abhaya, only 19 then, was murdered with an axe and thrown into a well. 27 years later, the case keeps being tossed around in courts. In the latest decision, one of the alleged participant in the orgy – Father Poothrikkayil was discharged for want of sufficient evidence. The fate of Father Thomas Kottoor, then Chancellor of Kottayam diocese, and his alleged accomplice, sister Sophy, hang in balance while both, having spent 27 years of their lives in reasonable freedom to praise their Lord and the kindness of an investigating officer – Superintendent of Police KT Michael, who favoured them by destroying evidence. When pronounced not guilty, Father Poothrikkayil, on his acquittal, said: ” There is been a divine intervention in the pronouncement of this verdict. I hope my colleagues are also pronounced not guilty. “
There is little doubt that hectic activities are going on in Jalandhar Diocese as well as in Kerala to destroy evidences against Bishop Franco and to create evidences to pin the rape victim and her supporters. Like Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sophy, Bishop Franco must be hoping for a divine intervention. After all, Jesus had promised redemption for all sinners.
Moral of this story? Keep children – boys or girls – away from places of worship. God’s abodes are dangerous places.