Colonial Christianity had ushered in modernity by setting up some of the best schools, colleges, hospitals and charity institutions that India continues to cherish. An independent judiciary, the greatest contribution of the British, had enshrined a value system that had distinct elements of the Christian moral universe in it. Yet, the Church, particularly the Catholic Church, has been in the dock for its un-Christian conduct of standing with rapists and murderers in cassocks than those sinned against — the helpless, meek victims of power and lust. The Jalandhar bishop, Franco Mulakkal, is accused of raping a nun and is facing trial; but that has not stopped the Church from celebrating him in an official calendar issued by a diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Worse, when a CBI court in Kerala this week concluded the trial in a 28-year-old case of murder of a nun and pronounced the verdict of guilty against a priest and a nun, the Church responded claiming that the charges against the priest and nun were “unbelievable”. One of its own was killed and the court, after several hurdles thrown at it by the accused, has delivered its much-delayed judgment, yet all that the Church has to say is that it is unbelievable. Also for the Church, the priest and the nun are still merely the “accused”, not convicts, despite the sentences of double life imprisonment in one case and life imprisonment in another. Instead of hailing the verdict as divine justice to a miserably poor 21-year-old bride of Christ, the Church reaffirms the right of the convicts to appeal against the trial court’s order.
The Sister Abhaya verdict is a Christmas gift to believers and non-believers alike; a testament to the divinity of truth against the evil of lustful untruth, upheld by the patriarchal priestly class over three decades. Be it Asaram, Ram Rahim, Franco Mulakkal or the murderers of Sister Abhaya, believers should not allow religious leaders to manipulate them to defend the unspeakable sins of the soulless men in saintly garb nor should the laity fund their expensive litigation.