In an earlier blog of mine, I had written how I maintain a safe distance with religion. I enjoy festivals and do follow some practices which I find interesting. But it is never a norm or an obligation, it is never a love for a particular God and it is in no way something that I consider above humanity and people’s love for each other. Sadly, that is not how religion is interpreted by people right? It never was. Religion, just like politics, or maybe one notch higher too, is essentially a blinding bondage that majority of the people accept happily. Any question on their religion is taken as a question on their beliefs and their very existence and those who raise questions are, with an uncompromising vigour, shot down and trampled on.
Jihadist killers, self-styled Godmen who turn out to be conmen, molesters and murderers, homophobes and fake moralists who put down and attack others in the name of God – the list of religion-based atrocities is long and so is the list of followers who decide they can do anything they want to protect their idea of religion. I haven’t seen a more insensitive example of this in recent times like the reactions on social media and otherwise from a horde of extremely fanatic followers to the multiple incidents of sexual abuse by Christian priests in Kerala. It has been disturbing to see the kind of overwhelming support for wrongs and culprits, and the kind of pathetic victim-shaming in the name of religion. Over the years, the number of such cases that have come out in Kerala itself is so bad that you would think followers would demand an internal cleansing to get such bad apples (quite a lot of them that it is no longer shocking to hear such news) out of the Church and ensure justice for the victims. But after every case I watched in horror as these sexual predators kept getting more and more support from not only the Church, but also legions of religious maniacs who would kill or die in their fight to prove that the Church or its members can never be wrong, leaving the other section of churchgoers helpless in their support for justice.
It was somewhere in early 2018 that a shocking case where a 16-year-old was raped and impregnated by a priest came to light. The girl gave birth and the baby was immediately taken away by some nuns and put in an orphanage. When the incident was finally exposed after an anonymous tip-off, the case took horrifying and rather disgusting turns, with the girl’s father at one point taking up the blame of raping and impregnating his own daughter in order to save the priest. The Church was more or less open in trying to save the culprit with Church-backed magazines putting the blame on the girl. The girl and her family were actively coerced to change their statements and get the priest off the hook, with the latest twist being the girl trying to prove (wrongly) that she was not a minor at the time of the incident and had consensual sex with the priest.
From the time this incident became hot topic for the media, there has been an active campaign on social media with so many putting up posts about how the Church is not going to fall before media campaigns and how we should be talking about the good that priests are doing instead of focusing on the evil done by some. I would have agreed with that argument had this not been an evil that has existed in the Church from before anyone can remember. There has always been a hush-hush cover-up or blatant victim-shaming done by the Church itself, which is why that argument no longer makes sense. While the Church does its share of goods for sure, an evil of this gravity that has almost become a normalized one over decades or more is more than enough to tip the balance towards evil. It was disheartening to see even extremely well-educated people, including friends (ex-friends now, of course) falling prey to fanaticism and sharing unbelievable posts to support the Church and even the culprit, directly or indirectly, and accusing a 16-year-old girl of seducing a priest. Their primary concern was the media attention that the incident received and how it would affect the image of the Church, and not really the seriousness of the crime, as is evident by how the crime was portrayed as an ‘innocent crime’ or a ‘rare accident’ that does not have to be made a big deal.
Ever since, I have seen this happen so many times – sometimes subtly, sometimes openly. The latest superhuman ‘hero’, Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is accused of raping a nun in Kerala 13 times over a period of two years and also various other nuns, roams freely with the Church, elected representatives, senior officials, and a huge section of churchgoers all set to prove him innocent and hail him as a saint. Hardly a month of being in prison after major media and public backlash, he got out on bail and has been actively pulling strings to delay the trial and bully his opponents out of the battle. The nun who was raped and five other nuns who have stayed by her through thick and thin are isolated and intimidated in a convent, with no work, no friends, no supporters visiting them and no real hope of a future that is anything but bleak. One of the priests from Punjab who testified against Mulakkal was found dead only a few days after Mulakkal got out on bail – coincidence, maybe. And we have MLAs and so-called devotees calling the nun a prostitute for not complaining about the rape the first time and enduring it for two years. The backlash and aggression she had to face only for speaking out and finally facing her fears is reply enough for these jerks who ask why she didn’t speak up before. For standing by one of them in her pain, the other five nuns have been labelled rebels, whores and whatnot.
If this is not a satisfactory answer to these saints, the crucifixion of Sr. Lucy who has been continuing her lone fight against the Church for the way nuns are reduced to mere objects and not humans of any value should tell them what is wrong with the Church and its system of not only dealing with sexual abuse within, but also its way of enforcing patriarchy and misogyny with renewed spirit two decades into the 21st century. I see long critiques analysing in detail why Sr. Lucy and any nun who opens her mouth in public for that matter is a shame to the Church and the world in general. In a world where priests are seen in news debates across channels, giving their expert opinion on relevant and irrelevant topics, a nun who appears on news is an attention-seeker. In a world where priests own bikes, cars, expensive smartphones and so much more, a nun who learned how to drive a car at the age of 53 and bought a car from her earnings is prodigal. According to them, a nun is supposed to give all her earnings from her job to the Church and take 500 rupees per month for personal expenses – wow! In a world where priests wear shirts and t-shirts and trousers or anything they please when they are not performing religious services, a nun wearing a Churidar to a public event is a loose woman who is interested in inviting attention to her body. In a world where priests are bestowed with so much authority within and outside the Church, some nuns openly saying that there are issues in the system and calling for reforms, after all their pleas for better treatment fell on deaf ears, makes them outcasts who should be shunned and humiliated, their spirits broken in every way so that they never dare to stand up again. Now after Sr. Lucy has refused to bow down and has fearlessly come forward to say that she doesn’t need funeral services or rites after her death from the same people who have strived to crush her very existence and that she will happily donate her body to a medical college, I see people mocking her, abusing her and telling her that it will be a “good riddance” moment for them when she dies.
And to see that it is a huge crowd of ‘Godfearing’ devotees throwing more stones at Sr. Lucy and every other nun who has come out is disheartening because they feel it is okay to indulge in cruel character assassination for the sake of what they think is the right interpretation of God and his religion. Every single one of these critiques and speeches is laden with ‘lessons’ about decency, good living, purity and sticking to morals. I wish these people had read through or listened to their own words once before going against every word they were preaching and getting into scathing attacks of a group of women who are indeed helpless, but determined to make a change. I am pretty sure that God is sitting up there shaking his head in disapproval and waiting to throw these jerks in hell, if it does exist.
The only consolation is that for every one of these pathetic beings ready to protect priests who are sexual predators and shatter the hopes of these nuns for justice and equality, there is another Christian who believes in God, but is not blinded by religion and its twisted rules. I am privileged to know a number of them. They are the ones who keep me hopeful that someday things will change, because they aren’t scared or egoistic to admit that there is a problem and it has to be fixed. Trust me dear friends, your persistence, your fight is what matters ultimately, for if change has to happen, it has to happen from within. You guys prove the point that every religion has its flaws and it is up to the followers to not embrace those flaws, but to be the change. You will, no doubt, serve as an inspiration to not only fellow-Christians, but also others in making progressive changes in their respective religions and realizing that humanity should always be above religion!