PETITION FOR REMOVAL OF FRANCO MULAKKAL
Archbishop Anil Couto
Metropolitan for the Delhi Ecclesiastical Region
Sub: REMOVAL OF BP FRANCO MULAKKAL OF JALANDHAR DIOCESE FROM EPISCOPAL OFFICE
I write to you in your capacity as the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Delhi ecclesiastical region. This is regarding one of your suffragan bishops, Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese. This is as per provisions of Article 8:1 of Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (VELM) dated 1/6/2019, wherein a complaint against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue by a bishop of the Latin Rite is to be submitted to the Metropolitan as also the Holy See. Hence this petition.
It is common knowledge that a former Superior General of a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar diocese had accused Franco of multiple rapes between 2014-16. The judgement in the case was delivered recently by a court in Kerala, where the alleged crimes occurred. It acquitted Franco of all criminal charges. Several legal luminaries who have studied the judgement have described it as being seriously flawed; hence it is likely to be appealed in the High Court very shortly.
I have written a detailed article on the judgement “Somebody raped Nobody – Madness” that has since been published in various journals. A copy of the same is attached herewith for your kind perusal. The judge has rejected the charges on the grounds that,
ii. Initially she had not claimed penile penetration
iii. There was a delay, as well as some inconsistencies in her complaint. I have addressed these points in my aforementioned article. The appellate court will now decide on the criminality of the case. But it is for the ecclesiastical authorities to adjudicate on the morality of the matter. Hence this petition.
While the Indian Penal Code is very clear that consent cannot be presumed in a fiduciary relationship as existed between the nun victim and the accused bishop; Canon Law, which now concerns us, is even more explicit. Permit me to draw your attention to the Revised Book VI of the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope Francis on 1/6/2021 with the title “Pascite gregem Dei”. I quote:
– In the case of the victim no penal action may be taken against those who “acted under physical force, or under the impetus of a chance occurrence which the person could not foresee, or if foreseen could not avoid” (Can1323:3). This aptly describes the fiduciary relationship that existed between the victim and the aggressor.
– The same would apply if the victim “acted under the compulsion of grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience” (Can 1323:4).
– A judge must inflict a more serious punishment when “A person who is established in some position of dignity, or who, in order to commit a crime, has abused a position of authority or an office” (Can 1326:2).
-A competent authority “can also impose the expiatory penalties it considers necessary to restore justice or repair scandal” (Can 1335:1).
-A person who “abuses ecclesiastical power, office or function, is to be punished according to the gravity of the act or the omission, not excluding by deprivation of power or office” (Can 1378:1).
The above references in the revised Code of Canon Law pertaining to sexual acts by ecclesiastical authorities are crystal clear. Such persons must be punished and dismissed. Whether or not an appellate court determines criminality in the repeated sexual acts between the victim and the aggressor, what remains undisputed is that such acts did take place. Bearing in mind the fiduciary relationship, consent cannot be presumed. Assuming, without admitting, that the sexual acts were consensual, even then they go against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, are grievously scandalous in nature, and therefore attract the penal provisions of Canon Law quoted herein above.
Permit me to also draw your kind attention to the letter No Prot. N. 2019 1193 DTD: 24/10/2019 from Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect, Congregatio Pro Clericis addressed to Abp Filipe Neri Ferrao, President of the CCBI (Latin Rite). He states that “On 30/1/2009 Pope Benedict XVI had granted three Special Faculties to the Congregation for cases of dismissal from the clerical state through an Administrative Process, not a judicial process. The First Special Faculty is for sins and delicts against the Sixth Commandment – for example attempting marriage or concubinage”. Surely Franco’s repeated sexual predations fall in this category and merit dismissal through an Administrative Process alone.
I now revert to the Motu Proprio on sexual abuse by clerics (VELM). I quote:
* The crimes of sexual abuse offend the Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful (Preamble).
* It applies to “delicts against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue consisting of: forcing someone, by violence or threat or through abuse of authority, to perform or submit to sexual acts” (Art 1:i), and “performing sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person” (Art 1:ii).
* “Vulnerable person means any person in a state of … deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits the ability to understand or to want to otherwise resist the offence” (Art 2:6).
* The ecclesiastical authorities shall commit themselves to ensure that those who state that they have been harmed, together with their families, are to be treated with dignity and respect” (Art 5:1).
From the above, it is abundantly clear that, as Pope Francis has often asserted, the Church must have zero tolerance of sexual abuse, especially by persons in a fiduciary relationship. It simultaneously calls for the protection of the victims. I receive six Catholic daily news bulletins and various journals. Nowhere have I read about the Church taking proactive steps to repair harm and scandal, and to provide dignity and protection to the victim, her family and community of supporters. To the contrary, there is a concerted attempt to re-crucify the victim nun. I see this as a gross failure, robbing the Church of its credibility. It calls for immediate proactive measures.
MISUSE OF DIOCESAN FUNDS:
From the way that Franco has been spending money for top lawyers, 5-star accommodation etc, it is glaringly obvious that he is dipping into funds that are not personally his. One may recall how in March 2019, when the Model Code of Conduct for Elections was in force, a priest of Jalandhar diocese, Rev Madassery, admitted to cash transactions of Rupees Thirty Crores (Three Hundred Million) from various commercial activities. What is even more shocking is that Bp Agnelo Gracias, the Apostolic Administrator, justified this huge cache of cash. He issued an “Important Clarification” in April 2019 where he unequivocally stated that this “commercial activity” was approved by the diocese, thereby seeking to legitimize a patently illegal act. All this lends credence to the belief that Franco is flush with funds, and is using community assets for his personal defence. This must stop forthwith.
To my knowledge, the first case of action against a bishop for sexual misdemeanours was that of Bp William Gomes of Poona (now Pune), for fathering a child from his mistress. He was “honourably discharged” and packed off to America! Hardly a punishment.
A more recent instance is that of Bp Isidore Fernandes of Allahabad in 2012/13. Here it was a matter of ecclesiastical indiscipline; in that, he had participated in the consecration of a Protestant bishop. It was neither a crime nor an immoral act. Yet stringent action was taken against him. He was removed from the episcopacy and even debarred from the public celebration of any of the sacraments, including the Holy Eucharist. He had to seek refuge in a neighbouring diocese where his uncle was the bishop. The “punishment’ seemed grossly disproportionate to the “offence”.
The third instance is of Bp Gallela Prasad of the Cuddapah diocese. Facing grave charges of concubinage and financial misappropriation, he was removed from the episcopal office. He now resides in a school in Tamilnadu, and not in his parent diocese. This action was taken even before any judicial pronouncement. Bearing in mind the above precedences one wonders why the Church has soft-pedalled on the Franco case?
In the light of incontrovertible Church teachings, the credibility crisis in the Church and the enduring scandal that the inaction is causing, it is most respectfully prayed as under:
1. That Franco Mulakkal be removed from episcopal office and the clerical state.
2. That he be immediately removed from the territorial jurisdiction of Jalandhar diocese.
3. That he may not be allowed access to diocesan funds, or that of its institutions/ commercial enterprises for fighting his personal legal battles.
4. That he be directed to reimburse to the diocese whatever funds he may have already taken for fighting his personal legal battles.
This letter is written out of my love for the Holy Catholic Church and is without prejudice to anybody.
Yours in synodal fraternity.
INDIAN CATHOLIC FORUM
Abp Leopoldo Girelli. Papal Nuncio to India nuntius@
Colleagues in the Indian Catholic Forum
The Catholic Media