After the family of a Kerala-based nun alleged that a priest made a phone call offering "land, building and safety" if she withdrew her rape complaint against a Bishop, the priest has been asked to step down and the police have filed a case against him.
The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) Congregation termed it as an unfortunate incident and clarified that they have nothing to do with the priest's alleged offer of land to nuns.
"Father James has been asked to step down. An enquiry has been initiated," it said.
The audio of the alleged phone call to a nun who has stood by the rape survivor is being investigated by the police.
A 46-year-old nun has alleged that Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mullackal sexually abused her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. She went to the police only after the Bishop filed a complaint against her and five others, accusing them of threatening and blackmailing him.
The Bishop, who has been booked for rape by Kerala police, has claimed innocence and said he is a victim of vendetta for taking disciplinary action against the nun.
In the leaked phone call, one priest after introducing himself to the 30-year-old nun says: "We can buy some land, build a convent and shift you all there safely. This won't happen tomorrow but everything has a time. We can think about it."
He also speaks about threats if the woman doesn't withdraw her complaint.
"If you all are adamant on your stand, this won't happen. If you withdraw your complaint and go to one of your convents in Odisha, Andhra, threats may arise. But if you move independently and go under some other Bishop, there won't be any threats. It will be good if you think about this and if you decide to do this positively, I will help you in any way possible. I can't do everything, but will help in whatever I can do. In the sense that we can buy some land, build a house, shift them. They will support. I suggested this because they have said they will support," he says.
The nun asks who will "support" the family, the Jalandhar Diocese? He answers with a "yes".
"If we have to buy 10 acres of land and build a decent building for everyone, it's not easy. So they will help, but their condition is that this case must be withdrawn," he explains.
The nun refuses the offer and tells him they won't withdraw any case. "We must get justice. We don't desire to lose any life, or sell our dignity," she says.
The priest, who allegedly acted as a mediator, tries to persuade her and says, "I've understood the situation. I respect your feeling. I was just giving my suggestion. So they are actually thinking about buying some land for this in Erumely and Ranni area. So in that case, you can stay in that compound itself."
NDTV has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the leaked audio.
"We have got the audio. We have taken the statement of the nun. We will file a case today after verifying the authenticity of the audio and establishing the identity of the priest," top police sources told NDTV.
Speaking to NDTV, the family of the nun said, "We have been waiting for justice from the church. When the church failed to offer any help, we were forced to go to the police. We are not worried about the lives of our children. When someone becomes a nun or priest, they are willing to lay down everything for Christ. But there are many Judas' in the church, ready to betray Christ and people."
National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma, who recently met the nun, had told NDTV, "The nun claims that the church has not been taking any action despite her complaints because the Bishop is quite influential in Punjab and Kerala.