Sister Lucy needs a fair hearing

Sister Lucy needs a fair hearing

While only time will tell the outcome of this controversial case, it is pertinent to place some facts and put things in perspective

Representative image. Credit: iStock Photo

The dismissal of Sister Lucy Kalappura by the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), Kerala, ordering the nun to leave the convent has caused a flutter in the dovecote, raising a lot of questions.

It is unfortunate that Sr. Lucy’s appeals to legal forums within the Catholic Church against her dismissal on “disciplinary grounds” were rejected without hearing her side of the story.

The Vatican’s Apostalica Signatura, the supreme judicial authority in the Catholic Church, in May this year rejected Sr. Lucy’s third appeal, the FCC said in a letter, according to several media reports. Sr. Lucy has challenged her dismissal. A court in Wayanad has stayed her eviction from the convent.

While only time will tell the outcome of this controversial case, it is pertinent to place some facts and put things in perspective as the case has now gained national attention.

Read more: Vatican rejects Sister Lucy Kalapura's appeal, confirms dismissal

The FCC is categorical that the nun’s dismissal comes in the wake of several warning letters by the congregation accusing her of disobedience and breaking the vow of poverty, among other wrong-doings that include publishing a book, participating in TV channel discussions, buying a car and learning to drive without the permission of her Superior-General.

It is a fact that Sr. Lucy published her autobiography Karthavinte Namthil (In the Name of Christ) in which, among other things, she has alleged that sexual abuse and assaults take place in convents and seminaries and called for institutional reforms. The book had ruffled many feathers in the Church and Sr. Lucy claimed that her harassment increased after her book was released.

It is also true that Sr. Lucy bought a car and participated in TV channel discussions.

All this is not uncommon because there are priests and nuns who write articles regularly, even books; take part in TV discussions, and ride two-wheelers or drive cars. Some also have the luxury of drivers. Hence, to single out Sr. Lucy for such reasons seems odd.

One cannot recall any instance in recent times where a priest or nun has been dismissed by the Church for reasons such as those stated above.

It must be pointed out that Sr. Lucy had participated in protests against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of raping a fellow nun several times between 2014 and 2016. The bishop was arrested in 2018 but was later released on bail. The case against the bishop is still ongoing.

Many, including Sr. Lucy herself, are of the view that she is being victimised because of what she has said in her book and because she supported the agitation for the arrest of Bishop Mulakkal. As Sr. Lucy told the media, “Justice is being denied because I spoke the truth.”

Is this the price one pays for speaking the truth and taking on the might of the Church, something that is unprecedented? This is a question that many are asking who believe that the Church should protect those who speak the truth and not punish them.

It appears that the FCC couldn’t wait for Sr. Lucy’s ouster. The letter sent by the Superior-General to the sisters of the Convent about Sr. Lucy’s dismissal after her appeal was rejected, says: “Let us raise our hearts praising the Almighty for his unspeakable gift.”

Reacting to the letter, Advocate A M Sodder of the Association of Concerned Catholics asked, “Is this what Christianity is all about? The Superior-General is rejoicing at Sr. Lucy’s dismissal.”

Even retired Karnataka High Court Judge Michael Saldanha has slammed the dismissal, writing to the FCC that ordering Sr. Lucy to leave the convent is a matter of national shame. The nun’s case is sub-judice and she has the right to appeal, said Saldanha, who is determined to fight the legal battle for Sr. Lucy.

In fact, no less a person than the Pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church, stated publicly in 2019 that the sexual abuse of nuns was widespread in the Catholic Church and that the victims, numbering in thousands, endured the outrage silently for ‘fear of reprisal’ from their powerful tormentors. The Pope also exhorted Catholics to stand by the nuns languishing in sexual slavery.

Should not the Church protect and stand by victims and the likes of Sr. Lucy for speaking up for defenceless nuns? Or at least give her a fair hearing?

The Church, given its stance, is only precipitating the situation because there will now be a judicial examination of the validity of the Canon law and the rules of the convent vis-à-vis the Indian Constitution. This has never happened before and the outcome of Sr. Lucy’s case, that many are closely watching, will shed light on this grey area of the Church laws and convent rules versus the law of the land.

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