Denied food, water, other basic amenities by Catholic convent, nun Lucy rebels again

Lucy was expelled after she defended a nun who accused a bishop of rape, and wrote an autobiography exposing scandals in the Church.

ByK A Shaji

Published Sep 30, 2022 | 1:00 PMUpdatedSep 30, 2022 | 1:00 PM

Sister Lucy

Rebel nun Lucy Kalappura has begun an indefinite fast alleging ill-treatment at the convent in Karakkamala in Wayanad district, where she stays.

Despite being expelled from the Church she belongs to on grounds of indiscipline in July last year by the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority of the Catholic Church globally outside the Pope, Lucy had managed to retain her lodgings in the Karakkamala convent on the basis of a local court order.

However, she now alleges she is being subjected to ill-treatment by the convent authorities, which includes denial of food and water for ablutions, and preventing others from speaking to her.

A senior nun of the convent, however, has denied Lucy’s charges.

Requesting anonymity, she said Lucy had broken rules, and the convent’s nuns did not find it necessary to communicate with her.

“It’s not true that we are not giving her food and water,” she said.

Of humiliation & CCTVs

Describing her experience at the convent as “extremely humiliating”, Lucy told South First over phone that she was now being denied access to the kitchen, prayer hall and other common facilities, and also being deprived of food.

Sister Lucy Kalappura

Lucy Kalappura on an indefinite fast in front of her convent on Wednesday. (Supplied)

“They even restricted the water supply to my bathroom,” she said. “CCTVs have been installed around my room. Fellow nuns are barred from interacting with me, and as a result, I am facing extreme suffocation and depression.”

On Thursday, 22 September, hours after she launched her protest fast, two men barged into the convent complex, and abused and threatened her; the duo were arrested after Lucy lodged a complaint with the police.

Also, she said that one day, when she returned to her room, she found it empty. She had to buy a temporary bed and other basic necessities. “Now I am left with a room devoid of furniture or utensils. They are punishing me for speaking the truth and standing up for justice,” said Lucy, who is now 58.

Until a few years ago, Lucy worked as a teacher at a government-aided higher secondary school managed by the Church in Mananthavady.

“The Congregation took the whole salary and other benefits from the service. I lived at a bare minimum even while performing my best as a school teacher,” she said.

Star status and expulsion

For people in and outside Kerala, Lucy has been a symbol of resistance to corrupt practices within the Church ever since she openly criticised it in 2018 for supporting a rape accused clergyman, Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.

Her fame spread even further when, in 2019, she wrote her autobiography that claimed to lift the veil on the sexual practices involving priests and nuns at convents, monasteries and other parish establishments of the Church.

Titled “Karthavinte Namathil”, roughly meaning “In the Name of Christ”, the 203-page autobiography in Malayalam created a sensation after its release. The book has also faced its share of controversy.

She was expelled in the same year by the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) at Karakkamala — the order Lucy belonged to — said her lifestyle did not conform with the Church rules.

Litany of charges

The charges included unauthorised publication of the autobiography; taking part in panel discussions on television, questioning the authority of the Church; buying and registering a car in her name; availing of a vehicle loan without seeking permission of higher-ups; and regularly publishing articles in non-Christian weeklies and dailies.

karthavinte Namathil

Kathavinte Namathil, the autobiography of Sister Lucy. (Supplied)

In July last year, the Apostolic Signatura rejected her appeal and expelled her from the Church for, among other things, indiscipline and her claims of sexual practices involving priests and nuns in her autobiography.

Despite her expulsion, Lucy continued to reside in the same convent under the administrative control of the FCC, thanks to a court order that permitted her to do so until the final verdict in a pending case on her expulsion.

Lucy says that besides receiving a letter from FCC’s superior general in Kerala informing her about her expulsion by the Apostolic Signatura, she did not get any official communication from the Vatican.

Her attempts to go in appeal also failed when the Italian lawyer deputed to her informed her that the body remained dysfunctional from the days of Corona virus-induced lockdown.

Nun’s defence and counter-charge

Lucy dismisses the charges levelled against her. The actual reason behind her expulsion, she told South First, was her support of a nun from a different congregation in Kerala who in in 2018 had accused the then bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal, of raping her repeatedly at a convent in Kuravilangad, near Kottayam.

Kalappura was among the few nuns and priests who led the protests in Kerala and Jalandhar demanding Bishop Mulakkal be arrested and tried.

The Church maintained that Franco was falsely implicated out of personal vendetta.

Bishop Mulakkal was arrested in September 2018 and tried in a special court in Kottayam, which acquitted him in January this year, on the ground that the testimonies were either unreliable or motivated.

Lucy  said she had taken a “bold stand” against Bishop Mulakkal, and this was the real reason behind the expulsion.

“When they attempted to throw me out of the convent last year, I obtained an injunction order from the sub-court in Mananthavady,” she said.

“If they throw me out now, I have no place to go to.”