F C Convent
Karakkamala (P O)
HIS EMINENCE DOMINIQUE
FRANCOIS JOSEPH NAMBERTI
PALAZZO DELLA CONCELLERIA
PIAZZA DELLA CANCELLERIA 1
Seeking of Hierarchical Recourse against the
Decree of Rejection from the Congregation For The Oriental Churches
1. Prot N.3037 by Apostolic Nuncio dated 11.10.2019
2. Prot N. 93/2002 by Congregation for the Oriental Churches
3.Un authentic English translation of the Decree of Rejection in Latin given by Superior General of FCC Aluva 22.10.2019
I. Preliminary submissions
It is submitted, as an overarching principle, that my calling as a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), and the discipline immanent therein must be deemed as harmonious with my rights and liberties as a human being for the reason that one cannot be a Catholic or a nun without being human. Secondly, it is pleaded that they may also be read, interpreted and applied to my case, as harmonious with my fundamental rights as an Indian citizen as provided for in the Constitution of India. Fundamental rights –that include the right to freedom of movement, freedom of conscience and right to equality of treatment and not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender as well as the right to life with dignity are inalienable. No law enunciated by any authority shall prevail in contravention to fundamental rights for the reason that they are inalienable. In law, they cannot even be renounced permanently by the individual.
It is further urged that the Kerala society is undergoing an unprecedented churning. In part this is due to growing public awareness. In part this is also due to the growing disenchantment with religion, often associated with irrationality, regressive advocacies, and obscurantism. A series of major scandals, including sex and land mafia deals involving church authorities have rocked Kerala in the recent past. In such a context, I do feel, as one committed firmly to the way of Jesus Christ, to play a proactive role, rather than avail myself of the easier option to live ‘peacefully’ behind the curtains of escapism, like the Priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. An impartial and contextually sensitive view of the ill-conceived action initiated against me, bypassing the requirements of natural justice, will convince anyone that old assumptions and posturing will not meet the needs of the present. It is this that has challenged me to respond to my situation as I have in the last couple of years. I hope very fervently that the following submissions I make would be seen and appreciated in this light.
I make bold to hint the aforesaid for the reason that at a distance this context is unlikely to be either noted or reckoned aright. It is a basic dictum in interpretation that everything, to be judged aright, be seen in its context. This is all the more critical in the present instance as the action against me flows directly out of the murky and embarrassing situation that prevails. It doesn’t have to be emphasized that far too often in history that defensive measures that desirable in the short-term prove harmful in the long-term. This comes about from ignoring the specifics of the given context.
I submit therefore that a final decision on my case be undertaken after a commission to study the underlying issues is formed and its report studied in relation to the submissions I make. Anything less, is sure to fall far short of the bottom-line requirements of justice.
Above all, I have to point out that in considering my case by F C C, only rules and regulations have been cited against me. There is not a single reference in this long and detailed document to any biblical principle that I could be alleged to have violated. If I have not incurred any spiritual indiscipline, instead have acted in consonance with my Christian calling, it is most unfortunate that extreme punishment, comparable to capital punishment in the secular context, is sought to be imposed on me. The question that comes up is this: is it possible for one to be a nun and a follower of Jesus Christ at the same time? The concerned authorities will be answering this question one way or another in the way my appeal is dealt with.
II. Specific submissions
It is respectfully submitted that there is a distinction between measures meant to uphold and maintain discipline and those meant to target a member of the Congregation. The latter applies to my case, which is evident from the fact that the charges leveled against me varied from time to time and newer charges as after thoughts were heaped against me. What makes this process strikingly mala fide is that discipline is selectively and arbitrarily imposed on me. Surely, there are nuns and priests in the Catholic Church, for example, who own and drive cars, interact with the media. Nothing in my vocation as a nun of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation prevents me from expressing my God-given gift of creative writing, given that Jesus himself was the sanctified embodiment of creativity. It is reiterated, with utmost clarity of conscience and with God as my witness that I have remained, till date, unwaveringly committed to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. It is submitted, at the same time, that obedience to such laws as are in force in the Congregation needs to harmonize with my duty to obey God most of all, especially in matters that pertain to the right of the oppressed and the violated for justice, without which no spiritual vocation can be imagined or sustained.
Procedural improprieties abound in the punitive action initiated against me. I am aggrieved that none of my explanations/submissions has been given the attention or consideration they deserved and my explanations have been treated with prejudice, as though the punitive decision against was pre-determined and the mere process of providing me an opportunity to state my case gone through without any intent to give my views any regard. This process of going through with the notion of serving a show cause notice and inviting my explanation has been conducted as a mere formality, without any intention to hear me or to treat me fairly, which smacks of, sad to say, bias and vindictiveness. It is strongly urged that the Provincial General, who initiated this procedure and disciplinary action against me is vitiated by bias, given her proximity and abject loyalty to Bishop Franco Mulakkal. This disqualifies her to be the disciplining authority, as justice and partisanship are incompatible. As a result, a miscarriage of justice was writ large over the entire process to which I have been subjected in this case, as is widely known in Kerala.
(a) It is not denied that I have interacted with non-Catholics. Insistence that a nun should limit her contacts or cooperation to Catholics alone is, in my Christian conscience, tantamount to practicing untouchability which is an offence both against the biblical faith and the Indian Constitution.
(b) It is admitted that I have published poems. I did apply to the Province for permission, which was denied to me without any valid reasons. The Province should have had the magnanimity to encourage the development of a God-given gift and not suppressed it in the name of ‘discipline’. It is submitted that there have been outstanding poets, scientists, thinkers and artists among the Catholic religious. The notion that creativity is sinful is alien to the Catholic vision. So, the suppression of this gift in me seems to me to be only a sign of hostility and prejudice, submitting to which is slavery, not obedience. I insist that I am not guilty of disobedience in this or any other respect.
(c) As regards my income through salaries, it is submitted that every rupee of it used to be deposited with the Province till the end of 2017. Thereafter a change was thrust upon me, when my application for permission (this is my first request for 10000 rupees in 33 years of religious life) to help a near relative of mine, who was in dire need, was made in writing by me to the Province. My application was kept pending, without consideration, for months. Unable to brook the delay without causing serious harm to my relative in distress, I decided to extend financial support. I needed money, again, to pay for my driving license fee. My application in this regard was rejected arbitrarily. There are several nuns who have driving licenses, but none of them has been acted against. I sought permission also to buy a small car, which was envisaged not as a personal facility but as open to other members of the Convent also to use. This being, and finding this facility a bare necessity, given my professional work as a teacher and other circumstances, I had to meet the cost out of my salary. Support from the Province for this purpose was sure to be withheld. I was thus coerced to deviate from my customary practice of letting the Province have my income in toto. It is submitted that I am willing hereon to let the Province have my salary.
(d) The decision of the Province that I should not have a driving license was blatantly arbitrary, as I know several nuns with driving licenses. Arbitrariness of treatment, vitiated by personal animosity, is not ‘disciplinary action’. It is unbecoming of an institution or authority that bears the title ‘Christian’. Disciplinary action needs to be taken against such authorities and individuals. Not reinforcing arbitrariness is, on the other hand, basic to discipline. I have been true to my discipline as a religious in this aspect as well.
(e) Regarding the avoidable controversy about ‘habit and veil’, I have to submit that cloth cannot be more important than character or health. It is spiritually superfluous to be obsessed with ‘what we shall wear’ –as Jesus said- to the detriment of the body. Cotton is, without an argument, more appropriate to the humid climate of Kerala. At any rate synthetic material is allergic to me. It is disappointing that a big issue is made out of this. This makes me worry that ‘habit and veil’ is made to symbolize the subjugation of a nun, than serve as a spiritual aid to the person concerned. As the tragedies of several nuns in Kerala in the recent past prove, habit and veil do not protect them from extreme peril even within the convent.
As regards the various provisions cited in this paragraph, I have to submit that rules and regulations –like religion itself, as Jesus said- are made for human beings, not vice versa. The spiritual mission of Jesus Christ involved the supersession of many laws which were considered sacrosanct by the Jews. If and when rules, formulated in the past, are found to be inimical to the spiritual welfare of believers and the religious, the right thing to do is to review them with the guiding light provided by Jesus himself, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Jesus too faced the ire of the Jews for not complying with rules. The simple fact remains, humanity progresses not by holding on to archaic rules and regulations, but by honouring the freedom of the spirit and personal liberty as given and guaranteed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, it is common knowledge that rules and regulations are mere tools. Much depends on with what purpose they are wielded. It is obvious that in my case they are being invoked as means for justifying a decision taken quite apart from them. They are invoked only for purposes of creating a semblance of legitimacy. Christianity is not a religion of rules, but of grace. It is the spirit, not the letter of the law that should govern. If this bottom-line spiritual sensitivity was practised in my case, I would not have had to defend myself for upholding my faith as I have to in the present case.
It does not behoove the majesty of the appellate authority to condemn me for dishonouring polyester and preferring cotton, instead; and that too for health grounds! This is illustrative of the grievance-hunting attitude that dealt with my appeal in the first place. In doing so, the appellate body and the authority against whose action I have appealed are proved to be one in mind. It is not surprising, therefore, that justice has not been done to me; the reason why this further appeal is preferred.
It is submitted that I have not arrogated to myself to interpret rules arbitrarily. The only stable point in an ever-changing world is the Word of God. No rule or law that militates against the essence of the Word should stand or be deemed binding on a nun or a lay person. Whenever a church deemed its rubrics of rules to be sovereign and superior to the Bible, it has erred from the path of righteousness. My spiritual vocation as a nun does not entail that I give up the right to have a Christian conscience. Jesus has made it amply clear that no system in the world is given the right to suppress the spiritual integrity or freedom of a human being. The message of the Cross is that there should be no compromise on this core principle. I have done no more than caring to be faithful to the role-model of the Lord Jesus Christ to whom I am bound, by my vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, to be loyal. My vows bind me to obey Jesus Christ, whose bride I am. I have never been told to be unfaithful in this regard and so have conducted myself accordingly.
I do not maintain that I am not obliged to obey my superiors in the order. But I wish to submit and urge that obedience is a well-defined concept; especially in the spiritual context, where it is clearly distinguished from slavery. “Obedience to God is perfect freedom”, we believe. If so, the litmus test of true obedience is whether or not it makes one free spiritually. If obedience is invoked to suppress the soul of individuals and curb their legitimate freedom or personal dignity, it is an abuse of the idea of obedience. Those who indulge in this abuse, and not those who refuse to be complicit in it, are guilty of violating the vow of obedience. I have to vehemently refute the charge of disobedience levelled against me as false and baseless.
As regards the lifestyle offences alleged against me, I have to submit that my concern is with life and not with lifestyle. As a nun I have nothing to do with ‘style’. Writing poems, or driving, or owning a small car, are not offences. It is puerile to allege that these things violate the vow of poverty. Bishops, arch bishops, cardinals and superiors of the women _ men congregations’ too are under vows of poverty. Do they use public transport or walk to their destinations? I am not the only nun in the Catholic Church who drives! But I am the only nun singled out for special adverse treatment! I have to point out that a serious issue is involved here. By imposing these unnecessary restrictions on nuns, an inferior status is created for them. This plays a major role in keeping them helpless and vulnerable against physical exploitation, which is happening, as Pope Francis has pointed out. Meekness imposed on nuns is increasingly turning out to be an arrangement hostile to their spiritual integrity and even personal safety. It is to be noted, further, that this paranoid obsession with my lifestyle is, if anything, a greater spiritual aberration that my request for minimal freedom to wear clothes more conducive to my health.
The misleading allegation in this instance pertains to my having allowed a young unmarried lady journalist to stay with me overnight in the month of January 2018. I was obliged to do so both because she came late for unavoidable reasons and it was unsafe for her to be sent out at that hour of the night. The guest room of the Convent was found locked up at 9.30 when I checked. That this lady visitor was with me was known to the Superior; for she inquired of me about it at 7 pm. Given the atmosphere of hostility towards me that prevailed in the Convent, everyone else had given up normal conversations with me with effect from the 23rd of September 2018, perhaps under instruction from the authorities. Naturally, therefore, no one else interacted with this lady journalist, which is reflective of the cruelly inhospitable atmosphere that prevailed at that time. I do not regret, nor am I apologetic, for accommodating this person with me. I am sure that St. Francis would have done no less. I was only following the role-model of the one after whom my order is founded. It is ironic that it is turned into a serious offence! I remembered, on that occasion, an instance from the life of the Saint of Assisi. A thief broke into his small house. Suspecting he was noticed and could be apprehended, he panicked and fled from the scene. The saint pursued him, prevailed upon him to return, and insisting on his having what he came to steal. This touched him deeply and it led to his repenting and beginning a new life. I am sure the Saint would have been inspired in doing this by the words of Jesus in the 25th chapter of St. Matthew, “I was a stranger, and you received me.” Rather than hide behind iron-curtains of impersonal rules so as to dodge the duty to respond to human needs, Convents need to incarnate the law of love in the service of life, if need be beyond a mechanical or bureaucratic adherence to regulations. Anything less is sinful, no matter how assertively it is justified. It was my inescapable duty to have given shelter to the young girl, rather than send her out to face the perils of the night. Surely, I cannot be expected to be apologetic about this! It is embarrassing, on the other hand, this is seen as an offence, as the Pharisees did in their times.
While the dignity and well-being of the church matters a great deal to me, it happens to be the case that my understanding of its scope and substance varies from what seems to be implied by the disciplining authority. It is hard for me to believe that keeping quiet in the face of the alleged violation and brutal ill-treatment of a fellow nun, as in the Bishop Franco Mulakkal case, is conducive to the dignity and well-being of the church. It is my ardent conviction that there are festering wounds in the body of the church; they need to be dressed and healed, not plastered over. It is for the sake of the dignity and well-being of the church that I have taken a stand in this issue as also in other matters. Regrettably, my decisions and actions have been viewed prejudicially, which does not further the dignity and well-being of the church. It is my dream that my church would become more accommodative of the dignity and well-being of the religious, especially of nuns. It is regrettable that the two are seen as mutually exclusive.
Over and above the submissions made above, I plead and urge as follows. A serious crisis stares the Catholic Church in Kerala and the various religious orders under its ecclesial umbrella. This cannot be wished away. What needs to be done is to approach the duties and challenges this poses with an open mind, untrammeled by habitual imposition of outdated principles. Suppressing creative talents and punishing those who carry this divine obligation was not acceptable even five centuries ago. Valuing the texture of a nun’s habit, rather than the spiritual authenticity of her vocation, to the extent of making it a mentionable ground for expulsion from the order is sure to attract public ridicule. Treating a nun’s ability to drive a car as satanic, or her owning a small car, bought from her own hard-earned income, as an unpardonable sin when priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals own or use cars is, except to the biased, an indefensible measure. Participating in TV discussion, entirely to publicly affirm core Christian values, so that aberrations do not get embedded in public consciousness in the name of the Catholic Church, needs to be encouraged, not punished. It is certainly self-derogatory to treat cooperating with all people, especially in the service of godly causes, as rebelliousness or anti-Church amounts to practicing untouchability, which defames the name of Jesus.
Freedom of thought, action and conscience is God’s gift to humankind. Jesus came to set the captives free. Captives are those who are denied the above. It is an avoidable irony that the suppression of these basic human rights in the name of the Church is not only prescribed but also imposed with extreme rigour.
Furthermore, it is submitted earnestly that in choosing to act I am alleged to have, I have kept the larger picture, and not my personal convenience, in mind. I do not wish to conceal or dilute my ardent personal conviction that acting in a short-sighted and partial manner, that hurts the cause of justice will stymie the character of the Church in the eye of the public. It will, besides, discourage young Catholic girls from entering religious orders; as no parent would want to have daughters treated as arbitrarily, insensitively and summarily as I am. It is not late, even at this late hour, to control the damage and to remedy the situation. To that I end, I affirm my full and wholehearted cooperation, with the sole provision that the idea of ‘discipline’ as imposed on nuns in Kerala be re-examined to make it harmonize with biblical spirituality and bottom-line human rights norms. I am a devoted and ardent daughter of the Church and I have the right to expect justice to be available to me. My track-record of devoted and zealous service, in loyal adherence to the spiritual discipline of my vocation, is my only defence and it is difficult for me to believe that it would not count for the authorities who address this appeal.
The Bishop Franco Mulakkal rape case has attained unprecedented public attention. The facts in this matter are widely known. So also the role I played in standing with the sisters who agitated for justice to the rape victim. The general public knows that the ‘disciplinary action’ against me is directly related to this case, which is subjudice. In a year’s time, the judgment is likely to be pronounced in this matter. Then we shall know if the accused bishop is innocent or guilty.
Apropos of the dismissal order served on me, I submit the following options to the honourable members of the Tribunal for their kind consideration in light of the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi and the spiritual values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
1. The dismissal order served on me, based on misconstrued grounds, without having due regard to the specific contexts to the allegations made against me, may please be withdrawn and I be allowed to continue as a member of the FCC order.
2. Alternately, the FCC order may please be directed to provide me with a suitable house where I may continue to live true and faithful to my vocation for the rest of my life, without inconveniencing the members of the convent in any way but still in spiritual fellowship with them. The Convent may be directed additionally to provide an adequate monthly allowance for my sustenance. This facility shall cease/revert to the convent after my decease.
3. Should the aforesaid proposal under clause 2 not find favour with the Tribunal, the FCC order may please be directed to reimburse to me my lifetimes earnings from my employment as a teacher, all of which was given to the convent till 2018. It is only too obvious that a nun, with her earning life nearly behind her, cannot be expected to live in a state of destitution; her spiritual vocation and her lifetime’s work and earnings expropriated from her. It is a cruelty that the FCC order can avoid to inflict on anyone.
It is emphasized that of the three possibilities stated above, my absolute preference is for the first, as my calling as a nun in the Franciscan order is the most deeply cherished aspect of my life and destiny.
Sr.Lucy Kalapura, 04.11.2019
Copy to send:
1.Congregation for the Oriental Churches
3.Superior General of FCC
4.Provincial Superior Mananthavady
5.Cardinal George Alancherry
6.Bishop of Mananthavady
7.C I Vellamunda
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