The family of deceased priest Kuriakose Kattuthara, who deposed against former bishop Franco Mulakkal who is accused of rape, on Tuesday filed a complaint accusing Mulakkal of harassing the 60-year-old. Jose Kattuthara, the priest’s brother, lodged a complaint with Punjab’s Dasuya Police claiming that the prosecution witness was harassed mentally and physically at Mulakkal’s behest, The News Minute reported.
The priest was found dead in his room on the premises of the St Paul’s Convent School in Jalandhar on October 22. He had age-related ailments, but the cause of his death is yet to be ascertained, Mathrubhumi had reported.
Kuriakose Kattuthara had given a statement to the Kerala Police against Mulakkal and had supported the nuns demanding the bishop’s arrest after one of them accused him of raping her several times between 2014 and 2016. Kattuthara had earlier told Mathrubhumi that he was tortured by the Church officials for his stance, and had said he was under threat.
The deceased priest’s brother claimed that the harassment had increased once Mulakkal was released on bail. “One of the senior-most priests of the Jalandhar Diocese, all positions were wrested from him,” Jose Kattuthara said. “I am told his former residence at Bhogpur was attacked the day he deposed against the Bishop before a police team from Kerala.” Jose Kattuthara claimed that a vehicle near his brother’s residence was also attacked and told The News Minute that his brother had asked him to “pray for his life as he was under a lot of pressure” after his statement against Mulakkal.
However, the Bhogpur Police said they had no complaint about the alleged attack on the priest, The Tribune reported. Father Mathew Kokkandum, vicar general of the Jalandhar Diocese, said Kuriakose Kattuthara had requested to be relieved of several duties as he was “engaged in the translation of a prayer book”. The vicar general also refuted the family’s claims that the priest’s stipend was reduced after he deposed against Mulakkal.
The Jalandhar diocese held a prayer ceremony for the deceased priest at St Mary’s Cathedral in Jalandhar Cantonment, where the body was taken, before it is transported to Kerala for the last rites. Mulakkal did not attend the ceremony, The Tribune reported.
Meanwhile, four doctors conducted an autopsy, that was documented on video, at the Civil Hospital in Dasuya on Tuesday. The deceased’s priest’s family had initially demanded that the autopsy be conducted in Kerala, saying that they did not trust the Punjab Police, The News Minute reported. After they were assured of strict compliance with protocol, the family agreed to let the procedure be done in Punjab. They said they may demand a second postmortem in Kerala if they suspected any irregularities.
Dr Jaswinder Singh, a member of the hospital’s medical board, refused to share any details about the autopsy conducted. “We will send samples to the Amritsar Government Medical College for a histopathology report and the Kharar lab for a forensic report. Both will take two to three months,” Singh told The Tribune.
The rape case
In June, police filed charges against Mulakkal after a nun in the Missionaries of Jesus congregation accused him of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016 in Kottayam. The police arrested Mulakkal on September 21 after three days of questioning and almost three months after the first charges were filed in the case.
Mulakkal has repeatedly denied the charges and accused the nun of taking revenge on him for ordering an inquiry into a complaint against her. He filed a complaint against the complainant and five other nuns, accusing them of framing him.