Kottayam, India, Jan 14, 2022 / 10:22 am (CNA).
A bishop charged with the repeated rape of a nun over the course of two years was acquitted by a court in India’s Kerala state on Friday.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur was cleared of the charges against him Jan. 14 in Kottayam.
The judge in the case found that “the prosecution failed to prove all the charges against the accused.”
Lawyers for the nun say they will appeal to the high court.
Bishop Mulakkal, 57, has consistently denied the accusations, and claims he was falsely accused after he questioned alleged financial irregularities at the accuser’s convent.
The bishop was arrested in September 2018 amid protests calling for a police investigation of the allegation. He was subsequently released on bail. The bishop was charged in April 2019 with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation.
He was temporarily removed from the administration of his diocese shortly before his arrest.
The bishop’s charges stemmed from a member of the Missionaries of Jesus who has said he raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed in June 2018, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.
The Missionaries of Jesus is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.
The bishop has also claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin’s husband.
A witness in the case against the bishop, who is also a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, told investigators Sept. 9, 2018 that from 2015 to 2017 she participated in sexual video chats with the bishop, having been pressured by him, and that he groped and kissed her April 30, 2017, at a convent in Kannur.
This second alleged victim did not wish to press charges, but there have been calls for police in Kerala to bring a suo motu case against Bishop Mulakkal.
The bishop asked in several venues that the charges be dismissed before trial, but in July 2020 the Kerala High Court found there was enough evidence to proceed.