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Impulse, rage, abuse—a nun tells the story of life in Kerala church

A 2019 bestseller in Malayalam, 'In the Name of the Lord' is a harrowing, moving account of Sister Lucy Kalapura's life as a Catholic nun.

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A young man had once remonstrated to me about a liaison between his aunt, who was a nun, and the parish priest. He told me that this very priest used to advise him constantly to be virtuous and celibate and not stray as he was a bachelor. During the special confession sessions at the silent retreat, her voice filled with pain, a nun confessed to me about fondling a novice. During the Sacrament of Penance, too, some of the priests have a lecherous approach to the nuns who come to them to confess their sins to God. I can say on the basis of what has been revealed to me from time to time that what appears in the press about the goings-on in convents is unfortunately true and correct.

I know of convents where nubile nuns are sent to the priests. The kind of depravity these young nuns are subjected to in the vicarage is horrendous. This includes having to remain naked for hours together as the libidinous priests have their way with them. Some of the priests are such sex maniacs they do not stop even when the exhausted nuns plead with them that they cannot go on anymore. These incidents have been narrated to me by some of the victims. From many sources, I also know of senior nuns who use the young ones for sex. Often, the counselling that the victims choose to undergo to alleviate the mental trauma caused by such incidents becomes another cross they have to bear.

The counsellors, who are mostly male priests, also constantly pursue these nuns for their own sexual gratification. A young nun who accompanied a senior nun to the vicarage once had a bizarre experience. The priest lifted the girl onto his lap and fondled her for many hours. She confessed to me that this seduction made her also lustful, and it ended in carnal relations. The experience of a brother too, who was abused by homosexual priests in the seminary and lost his mental balance, is tragic. For a whole year, he had to suffer through the depravity. Clinically depressed, he returned home and gave up monastic life. Another seminarian, too, has confessed to me that he had a similar experience. This young man, just out of his childhood, was set upon by the priest in charge of the seminary; the priest had wanted to sodomize him. When the boy resisted, the priest tied him to the bed and had his way. Fearful and unable to tell his family of this trauma, the boy asked for a transfer out of that seminary and moved to another one.

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It would be wrong to think that only monastic orders under the Syro-Malabar Church have these ills. As can be seen from reports and other witness accounts, Christian monastic orders more often than not have pockets of licentiousness and degeneracy. Sexual exploitation and immorality are rampant. The mansions and cathedrals built with money collected within the country and abroad are monuments of hypocrisy. By collecting money from believers for consecrations and sacraments, the priests keep accumulating funds for the Church. The primary purpose of the priests’ apostolic activities is to collect money—in the name of sacraments, funeral rites, novenas and saints’ days, and for house-warming, consecration, and the like—whereas they should be serving the faithful without any pecuniary considerations.

The sermons given by these very priests turn off the audience. Their audience is suffering in silence, cursing the imposition on them, unable to respond. There are many instances of immature priests’ fulminations—masquerading as gospel—breaching the limits of decency. A sermon given by the vicar at Karakkamala is an example of this: ‘I have been consecrating homes in our parish … I am thankful for the affection, hospitality, cleanliness and respect you have given me. However, one of the homes I visited recently hadn’t been swept for days. Scraps of food were lying around in every room. I had to consecrate the home while keeping my nose covered…’ I thought that those words came out of overflowing insensitivity and arrogance. It was evident from his humiliating words that this was no consecration to bless that family. Instead of instructing the family on the importance of cleanliness, what he had done was to denigrate it in front of the whole parish.

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One of the priests, during a youth retreat, similarly gave a talk that was prurient. He was talking about his putative efforts to bring together a warring couple who had stopped talking to each other. After reaching their home, he said, he chose first to quiz the woman. ‘Father,’ she protested, ‘must I share my body with that drunkard? He stinks so much; I won’t do it.’ The man had a different version. ‘Father, tell her to wash her nightie once in a while … I can’t sleep with her because of the odour.’ This ‘revelation’ was made in a group that consisted of children whose ages ranged between three and a half and seventeen years. Priests use many stratagems to sneak into convents under the cover of darkness. The ostensible reason for the visit is to meet one of their acquaintances. They have a merry time in the convent’s guest room. Food, and everything else, is served as if to royalty. Then starts the hours-long safe and secure sex with the chosen friend.

Everything reaches a happy conclusion when early in the morning before departure he hands over a framed photo of the Holy Ghost to Mother Superior. ‘Father … What a beautiful, uplifting image … Where did you get this from? We are lucky! We shall be mounting it here for keeps,’ the ecstatic nuns will prattle on. Many more have confessed to me first-hand accounts along these lines; others who have had people tell them these things have also told me of similar instances. The experience of a nun from another order is a prime example. She was working in an institution managed by one of the archdioceses. Her colleagues were priests. After a while, she reached the Provincial House claiming to suffer from severe stomach pain. At the hospital, after the initial assessment, she was taken straight to the labour room. After she delivered the child, the Church asked the family members to take her back. The priest, the father of that child, still continues with his priestly duties with impunity.

This excerpt from ‘In the Name of the Lord: A Nun’s Tell-All,’ written by Sister Lucy Kalapura and translated from the Malayalam by Nandakumar K., has been published with permission from Harper Collins India.

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