Police in India's Kerala state are investigating the actions of a Catholic priest and five women religious after a complaint by a nun who was dismissed from her congregation. The nun accused the six of defaming and harassing her through social media.
Sister Lucy Kalapura, a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, complained to police that Father Noble Thomas Parackal and five women religious of the congregation collaborated to share closed-circuit TV footage of her entering her convent with two male journalists on social media with the intention of defaming her, UCA News reported.
The religious congregation dismissed Sister Kalapura, 54, with Vatican approval, citing several instances of indiscipline and disobedience. However, she appealed to the Vatican against the dismissal and continues to live in the convent.
Along with the video, Father Parackal posted comments that the dismissed nun had used the back door of the convent to invite two men inside. The 54-year-old nun claimed the tone of the comments seemed to question her character.
Sister Kalapura complained to the local police chief in the community where the convent is based.
"These posts are clearly meant to defame and annihilate my reputation in society," Sister Kalapura told UCA News.
However, Father Parackal, a member of the media commission of the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church to which the nun also belongs, denied the allegations.
"What you see is what has been captured by the camera. I have not added or deleted anything. And I have not said anything to defame anyone," he said.
The federal government's National Commission for Women has written to Kerala's director general of police seeking action against the priest for an alleged attempt to defame a woman, media reports said.
Investigators are weighing whether to charge the priest and the women religious with criminal intimidation threatening to injure reputation, making sexually-coloured remarks against a person and outraging the modesty of a woman, said George K. Jose, a law professor based in Bangalore.
He said the priest also could be charged with violating several clauses of India's information technology laws.
The media and Sister Kalapura identified the two men in the video as journalists who had come to discuss the publication of her autobiography. She told media that the front door of her convent is usually kept closed for security reasons and residents generally use a side entrance, which she also used to take the journalists inside.
The nun claimed that several church leaders "ganged up" against her after she supported five nuns who publicly protested in September 2018 in Cochin to demand the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar after he was accused of raping a nun.
"This is an organised move. Most churchmen are behind me because I did not heed them and took a stand for justice," said Sister Kalapura, who teaches in a Kerala school.
However, documents from her congregation show that Sister Kalapura's superiors had issued warnings and corrections to her for more than five years.
The documents alleged owned a car, published a book, bought other personal items, disobeyed her religious superiors and violated the norms of her congregation.
Police charged Bishop Mulakkal in April with raping a nun multiple times. A 2,000-page report listed charges of wrongful confinement, rape of a woman incapable of giving consent, causing grievous bodily harm during rape, unnatural offense and criminal intimidation.
If found guilty, the bishop faces imprisonment of between 10 years and life in jail.
Sister Kalapura said she will fight her dismissal in civil court, although she did not elaborate.