React to Valson Thampu’s article!
Note: Valson Thampu is the former principal of St. Stephens’ College, Delhi, regular columnist in secular dailies, a priest of the Church of South India and a forceful regular columnist on religious and spiritual topics in our CCV.
In this piece he is dealing with the expulsion of Sr. Lucy from her convent apparently for defending highly Christian principles. What is happening in the Syromalabar Church in India, one is forced to wonder.
Listen to Pope
Listen also to the words of Pope Francis; abuse of nuns is widespread in the church and that a vast majority of them endure outrages in silence for ‘fear of reprisal’. If the viability of crying out for justice against priestly and episcopal sex predators is proved, God help the church!
Accopany Rev. Valson on his meditative discussion on what is happening to Sr. Lucy and share your own thoughts on how to help her. james kottoor, editor CCV
Please read below Valson Thampu’s Article on Sr. Lucy’s expulsion from Convent:
Sr. Lucy Kalapurakkal of Mananthavady Diocese (Wynad) of the Roman Catholic Church – also of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) – is expelled from the order.
Her ‘misconduct’ warranting this punitive measure -in gravity, tantamount to capital punishment in the secular context – includes ‘lifestyle’ sins like publishing poems, learning driving and owning a car, and heretical excesses like supporting the sisters who clamoured for justice for a rape-victim. As a Christian, Sr. Lucy is duty-bound to seek justice, which is basic to biblical spirituality. But, should she stretch her Christianity far enough to hurt the interests of an influential bishop? That’s the question.
For the church hierarchy, this is not a matter merely of a nun being party to embarrassing a bishop who is in the dock. If the gravity of the problem, and the urgency for making a public example of Sr. Lucy, are to be gauged aright, we should heed the words of Pope Francis. The Pope said with exemplary candour that the abuse of nuns is widespread in the church and that a vast majority of them endure outrages in silence for ‘fear of reprisal’. If the viability of crying out for justice against priestly and episcopal sex predators is proved, God help the church! There could be a deluge of protests tomorrow. This is a nightmare for the custodians and hangers-on of the church.
It looks as though Superior General of FCC, Ann Joseph, who has, under the authority of the Congregation for the Oriental Congregations (Vatican) issued the letter of dismissal to Sr. Lucy, is out to prove the Pope right. The day of ‘reprisal’ has come for the ‘defiant’ nun. Its covert purpose is to serve as a warning to the nuns who are witnesses against Franco Mulakkal. So, two birds could be killed with this one stone: save Francis, if possible, and forestall the likely eruption of scandals that could devastate the church.
Sr Ann’s letter dated 5 August 2019 does a favour to Sr. Lucy. She ‘frees’ Lucy from the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. But the rape accused bishop still remains bound by these vows, which is inexplicable! It is an ecclesiastic riddle how a rape accused still remains, even as he is tried for rape and other forms of unnatural sex, virginly celibate. At least, in fairness to the bishop these vows should be revoked. The bishop could be, for aught we know, wholly innocent; but, even so, being tried for rape, while still staggering under the yoke of chastity, is far too much for flesh and blood to endure. And there is a thorn even pricklier than this: the vow of poverty. It was this that made my heart bleed for the rape accused as he splashed his wealth in eye-blinding radiance in Cochin, extending five-star hospitality to those who mattered splurging, if reports are anything to go by, a poor man’s dole of Rs. 5000000 in all. Common sense tells us that stretching anything is painful. It is doubtful if the vow of poverty can be stretched beyond its excruciating breaking point further than this.
The vow of obedience too must be a source of torment for Franco. The ‘obedience’ envisaged in the vow is obedience to Jesus Christ, who defined himself as ‘the Truth’. The dissonance between obedience to the pure essence of Truth, and being tried for a major crime in which one may have to defend oneself by the power of falsehood can be unbearable. On all these counts, it is unfair to Franco to keep him still bound by vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The favour of ‘freedom’ extended to Sr. Lucy is more urgently needed and certainly more appropriate to the predicament of the rape accused. He can be re-bound by these vows, and he can rebound, if and when he is acquitted by the court.
There is, beyond these kindergarten technicalities, a general issue that merits the attention of all Christians. That issue involves the balance between canon law and the law of the land. Put differently, it involves the harmony between the duties of the religious and the duties of citizens. Article 51A, for example, outlines certain fundamental duties for citizens. A nun or a priest cannot exit the ambit of these responsibilities under the alibi of canon law. Even more fundamentally, canon law cannot suppress the biblical law, which is to seek justice, unmindful of the cost.
Two things are quite clear: canon laws that conflict with Christian spiritual duties are indefensible. Secondly, canon laws that militate against the law of the land is untenable. No canon law can be invoked to snuff out the fundamental rights of a citizen. Sr. Lucy is an Indian citizen. She enjoys the right to freedom of conscience, which cannot be snatched away from her invoking any law or rules exclusive to religious orders.
Out of the preceding, an issue of much gravity emerges for the Kerala Christian community. The plight of the beleaguered Kashmiris is an illustrative background to this. If religious rules, obligations and angularities that neither make sense in the public domain nor harmonize with the spirit of the Constitution of India are invoked in public -especially to defend the indefensible – or are seen to be imposed on individuals who are perceived as humane and honourable, the Christian community as a whole gets discredited. It leads to a total erosion of good will in the public sphere. The fact that the misery of 15 million Kashmiris in the Valley evokes very little concern or sympathy from the rest of the country today is a warning that should not go unheeded. Christians have a duty to ensure that a handful of people -no matter who they are- do not bear false witness to their faith, drunk with power and emboldened by the docility of believers.