..And the CBCI dithers. The sum total of that reluctance to face a challenge square-on erodes the credibility of the administration of the Catholic Church in India which could actually impact the reputation of the religion itself. Particularly since cracking down on sexual abuse is not a strong point of Pope Francis’ leadership.

The Kerala High Court is monitoring the police investigation into allegations of repeated sexual offence by Archbishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, but an impression persists that the cops are buckling under the pressure of the powerful religious leadership. Mercifully thus far the politicians have steered clear of murky waters, but given the overall denigration of minority communities in the prevailing political turbulence, that kind of snowballing is not unexpected.

For this, the Catholic Church will have to accept the responsibility of bringing all Christian institutions under a cloud ~ it would be craven to underestimate the gravity of the situation. Those who frequently flay minority culture have been provided ammunition, the sacrificial altar being laid out by the failure to perform a sacred duty. It is a well-established principle that when allegations are under investigation the principals in the narrative step aside from office so that an unfettered, influence-free probe is facilitated. Without commenting on the veracity of the charges levelled by a 41-year-old nun, that Franco Mulakkal remains in office is simply unacceptable.

The CBCI (Catholic Bishop Conference of India) should have lost no time in advising him to take a “leave of absence” until the probe was concluded. How fellow Bishops feel comfortable with the raging controversy is intriguing, inexplicable. Peer pressure ought to have been exerted. Mulakkal’s protestations of innocence, claims that he is being persecuted for enforcing discipline etc would have found greater acceptance had he elevated himself above the average criminal who contends that he is being victimised and framed.

The concerted bid to assassinate the character of the nun ~ she has been slammed as a “prostitute” by an MLA ~ only further queers Mulakkal’s pitch. It is both illegal and immoral to descend to such depths of genderabuse. The protest by a handful of nuns attracts much sympathy, particularly since the discipline of the convent is no secret. Even if some of the nuns have been misled they merit salutation for mustering the courage to speak out. This is by no means the first complaint of exploitation: only that seldom before had the “sisters” found the strength to declare “Me Too”.

The Church is capable of having a competent, comprehensive inquiry conducted into a host of issues that might elude the criminal-justice system. There are enough legal experts, Christian and from other faiths. to undertake such an inquiry that will convince the congregation that the Church plays fair. And has the moral fibre to do what is right ~ which goes far beyond the enforcement of criminal law.