By Matters India Reporter
Kochi: The Catholic bishops in Kerala on July 26 lambasted the National Commission for Women’s call for abolishing the practice of confessions in Christian Churches.
The media reports about the commission’s recommendation have shocked not only Christians but all those who stand for religious freedom, the bishop’s press release says.
“The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council strongly protests the women commission’s recommendations done for some hidden political agenda,” it adds.
The commission, a statutory body concerned with advising the Indian government on policy matters affecting women, reportedly recommended confession’s abolition saying the practice could lead to blackmailing of women.
Commission chairperson Rekha Sharma says priests pressure women into telling their secrets. “We have one such case in front of us, there must be many more such cases and what we have right now is just a tip of the iceberg,” she said.
The recommendations come in the backdrop of a rape case against four priests of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church accused of sexually exploiting a married woman belonging to their church.
The issue came to the fore after the victim’s husband wrote to the Church, alleging that the priests blackmailed and abused his wife, a school teacher.
The commission constituted an inquiry committee to look into alleged sexual assaults against women in churches, and sent its findings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and the heads of police departments in Kerala and Punjab.
The Kerala bishops say they find the commission’s recommendations “based on one isolated case” as “irresponsible” and done with “ulterior motives.” The commission did not bother to consider the theological, religious and psychological reasons for confession, consult responsible persons or hear the Churches before deciding on a matter that it had no jurisdiction, the council asserted.
“Confession for Christian Churches is a Sacrament. It is the path for spiritual growth and eternal salvation. Confession has been in vogue in Christian Churches for centuries,” explains the press release issued by Father Varghese Vallikkatt, the official spokesperson of the bishops’ council.
The priest also points out that hundreds of thousands of people – both men and women — have confessed to thousands of priests over the past centuries. “There are cases where priests have sacrificed their lives to keep the confessional seal,” adds Father Vallikkatt, who is also the council’s deputy secretary general.
The press release says the commission chairperson has no idea about confession or its purpose and her recommendations violate the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. “They are part of attempts to create religious animosity and spread tension and violence in society,” the press release alleges.
Meanwhile, the Tellicherry unit of the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement organized a candlelight protest against the women commission’s recommendation. “Commission chairperson Rekha Sharma has crossed all limits by ridiculing confession and hurting the religious faith of Christians,” said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Pamplany of Tellicherry, who led the protest on July 26 evening.