In an endeavor to get voices heard of women in Church-related affairs, 100 women met under the banner of India Christian Women’s Movement in Pune recently. The movement demands that the Church strip Bishop Mullakal of pastoral duties and conduct an impartial probe into the allegations of the nun accusing the Bishop of rape.
A press release sent to media on the Christian women’s movement also stated, “We cutting across age, region and Christian denomination, expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of voice, role and decision making power for women in Church structures.”
The women movement also resolved to struggle for justice, equality, dignity and rights of women, children, Dalits, tribals, transgenders and other minorities, the press release further stated.
Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a lay woman and theologian, told Christian news agency portal – ucanews.com – that they were very upset over the silence and inaction of the Indian bishops’ conference after conference member Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar was accused of raping a nun.
The nun, a member of a diocesan congregation under the bishop, complained to police on June 28 that the 54-year-old prelate raped her 13 times from 2014-16 in a convent in Kerala state.
Police investigations are continuing. The bishop remains in his position, which women leaders fear will stop most nuns in the congregation from giving true testimony for fear of a backlash from authorities.
“We want the church leadership to strip the prelate of all pastoral duties to pave the way for an impartial probe into the allegation against him,” Gajiwala told ucanews.com after the meeting.
The women also extended full support to the nun, who is under great trauma, Gajiwala said.
Bishop Mulakkal claims that the nun began making baseless allegations when church authorities started disciplinary action against her for violations of her religious vows.
A series of clergy sex abuse cases has rocked Indian Christians in recent months. Among them was an accusation that four Malankara Orthodox Church priests had sex with a parishioner by using her confessional secrets to blackmail her.
Proper representation of women could end sex abuse, including of nuns, and exploitation of all sorts, said Joycia Thorat, a participant and women’s leader of the Methodist Church of India.
She said that women should get at least 50 percent representation on church bodies including as bishops and priests in denominations that allow women’s ordination.
“Women do maximum work for the smooth running of any church,” she said, citing Catholic nuns as an example.
Sister Noella de Souza, national coordinator of the movement, said female religious workers are the backbone of the Catholic Church but not represented on decision-making bodies.